And not just those comfy thermals you can wear underneath your favorite ratty t-shirt to keep warm this time of year, either. I’m talking about the band The Thermals, who played their final show of 2007 on their home turf here in Portland last night at a teeny-tiny little venue called Backspace.
It was a free, all-ages show, so we made sure to show up a hour or so early, as to avoid having to stand in line in the bitter cold with a bunch of teenagers.
Unfortunately for both of us, we were hungry, and while we were waiting for the show to start, a nice sandwich or something was just what we were looking for. See, Backspace does have a kitchen, but it’s a vegetarian kitchen, which is fine if you’re into that kind of thing. We, however, crave meat, so we were shit out of luck. Still, it’s a cool place. We grabbed ourselves some sodas, sat down and played a little chess while we waited for the show to start.
The opener was local band Yacht, which I think is just one dude singing along to bastardized 80′s techno beats, but due to the density of the crowd, the low-set stage and our relative disinterest, I guess we’ll never know. I’ll just chalk it up as another thing that the kids these days are into that I totally do not get. There’s nothing quite like looking around and realizing that you’re nearly twice as old as the people around you. Gotta love those all-ages venues.
By the time The Thermals took the stage, we had worked our way up to the mid-point of the crowd. The kids around us were slowly transitioning from their techno grooves to full-bore mosh-pitting, which, a few songs in, had moved us from the far left to the center of the room. Eventually, we bounced our way to the front.
The band sounded great, even though we could barely see the tops of their heads. They ripped through “Top of the Earth” and “St. Rosa of the Swallows” as we made our way towards the front right of the room, closer to the open door and the refreshing breeze it offered. We had both forgotten how much energy it took to keep up with a mosh pit and were drenched in sweat.
It was just a few years ago that going to shows like these were the norm for us. We both knew a decent amount of local bands, thanks mostly to me managing a restaurant. Everyone that works in the service industry in Portland is in a band. I’m pretty sure it’s a pre-requisite. But, as we’ve gotten older, the bands we knew broke up or moved away or blew up and started playing bigger venues. Thankfully, we still have bands like The Thermals here in town, who could sell out a 2500 seat venue without breaking a sweat, but still chose to play free, all-ages shows.
They sounded great, by the way. Having toured extensively over the past year and a half since they released The Body, The Blood, The Machine was released, they were at the top of their game and tighter than a drum. The crowd surged repeatedly against the low riser that passed for a stage, knocking over microphones and occasionally bumping into Kathy or Hutch as they played. But there was never animosity between the band and the crowd. We were all in this together and one fed off of the other as the night wore on.
One of the things that always holds me back from writing concert reviews is that I get caught up in the show and the event that I forget to keep track of individual songs that were played. When people read a review of a show, they want to know the setlist and they want to know how each song sounded. You’re not going to get that from me. I’ll remember a few songs here and there, but for the most part what sticks with me is the vibe and the feeling that the show had.
So, I know that the last song The Thermals played during their set was “Everything Thermals.” I know that they played blistering renditions “No Culture Icons” and “A Passing Feeling” from their More Parts Per Million album. As for the encore, I’m pretty sure that the first song was “Top Of The Earth” and that they ended the night with “Here’s Your Future,” which was fitting.
See you next year, guys.