By Olivia Feldman
Seeing a band play its hometown -- especially at a venue the members used to frequent -- gives a cool glimpse into its past. Especially, when the bouncer at said venue tells you he remembers throwing the members out multiple times eight or ten years ago.
Now that's pretty revelatory.
This weekend, Respectable Street Café welcomed home one of its own, Surfer Blood, to a packed house Friday night. You could feel the West Palm love emitting from clubgoers. With Surfer Blood's imminent arrival, we saw quite the colorful crowd of spectators -- guys in Hawaiian shirts bopped their heads to house music next to girls in high-waisted shorts and crop tops and a man with a yellow flower in his hair. There was a dude in a Nike swoosh shirt and sneakers at the same show as a college kids lighting up bowls. This is not something you see at just any old rock show.
Around midnight, just about an hour after two other of South Florida's heavy hitters, Suede Dudes and the Band in Heaven, finished playing, Surfer Blood walked on stage. The group was wearing comfortable, lightweight shirts, jeans, and sneakers. Even without the bouncer's anecdote, it was clear that these guys were in their element.
Guitarist and lead singer John Paul Pitts greeted everyone shortly before the band immediately launched into an old favorite from their debut album, Astro Coast, "Floating Vibes." The audience up front immediately got into the groove, swaying around and banging heads.
It became immediately apparent that if you were looking for a good time, you needed to be up front. Most of the crowd didn't even sing along to the words; I was surprised many of them were even here to see a band play.
Tyler Schwarz's clean drumming shone during "Weird Shapes," off the band's latest album, Pythons. This record's more polished sounds could be clearly heard through guitarist Thomas Fekete's melodic chords and the beats of bassist Kevin Williams.
While singing "Miranda," Surfer Blood resembled a modern-day Beach Boys, all their instruments angled the exact same way, crooning about love lost, while the intimate, colored lighting made for a captivating scene on stage. The song wove beautifully into "Voyager Reprise," just like it did on the band's 2011 EP, Tarot Classics.
"We're Surfer Blood, we're from West Palm Beach. It's good to be back," Pitts said after finishing the song. That was easy to see, especially when Pitts let local friend Jesse, a long-haired dude wearing a denim vest with pins galore, play guitar for him during "Take It Easy" while he took the microphone and jumped off stage. Walking through the crowd, Pitts hugged random people, making this homecoming show even more enjoyable.
During "Catholic Pagans," Fekete sat down on the stage, and his guitar sounded a little bit like it was out of tune. It seemed he was having some technical trouble. Curious, we craned our necks along with several others in the front to see that, no, he wasn't having difficulties: He was just, oh, you know, playing the instrument with his empty bottle of Yuengling.
Pitts joined in a few seconds later with his beer bottle, and Williams sat down, playing with his back to the stage. At this point, the crowd may as well have been peeking in on a Friday night jam session at a buddy's house. As if that weren't enough, Fekete then nonchalantly brought the guitar to his mouth and began playing with his teeth.
Since we saw on the band's Facebook page earlier that a new song was coming online Tuesday, we were delighted to hear Surfer Blood premiere a new tune, "Islands."
Later in the night, the crowd whooped and cheered as the opening guitar notes and echo-y vocals of "Swim," one of the band's first hits, came over the speakers. At first it seemed like the final song, "Drinking Problem," was a bit low-key for a closer. But the band quickly quashed that notion and went all out with its instruments toward the end, making sure we remembered them after the show ended.
Once finished, Pitts politely thanked everyone for coming, and Surfer Blood walked off stage, immediately going over to old friends and catching up. And just like that, the house music came back on, and Respectable Street Café quietly settled back into its usual Friday night routine, as if a show had never taken place that hot summer night.
"Take It Easy"
"I'm Not Ready"
"Say Yes to Me"