Last Night: The Thermals, Cymbals Eat Guitars and The Coathangers at the Granada Theater

The Thermals, Cymbals Eat Guitars, The Coathangers
Granada Theater
October 24, 2010

Better than: sitting at home, drumming my fingers and waiting for the World Series to start.

Considering that it was a Sunday night, last night's vibe at the Granada Theater was surprising.

Only some 250 people turned out to see Portland's smart power-pop trio The Thermals, with New York's Cymbals Eat Guitars and Atlanta's The Coathangers booked as openers, but it was a night filled with optimism and possibilities.

It felt like a Friday, really.

Credit the Thermals for that. On a stage that was elegant in its spare simplicity, the trio of Hutch Harris, Kathy Foster and Westin Glass cranked out a string of songs with minimal pause and commentary, placing emphasis, instead, on their three-chord, cracking wise power punk songs that rarely clock in at over three minutes.  .

Kicking things off with "Here's Your Future" from The Body, The Blood, The Machine, the band set the stage for its night off well.

Frontman Harris may be the archetypal long and lean punk, but he smacks, too, of being intensely smart. He plays with the ferocity of conviction, and he sings the articulate lyrics you expect of Portland punks with a social conscience. With Foster and Glass laying down a very solid rhythmic foundation for Harris to work from, the Thermals are able to make what may have seemed like thudding repetition from lesser bands interesting.

And there were plenty interested--the crowd immediately in front of Harris was particularly enthusiastic, pogoing wildly and swinging tees picked up at the merc tables. But further back, while clearly enjoying the music, the audience was a little more subdued.

Maybe the band was too: After not quite an hour of songs, things ended its with "Now We Can See" and skipped an encore performance, despite an enthusiastic call from the appreciative audience.

Earlier in the night, The Coathhangers, a girl band designed to deliver punchy fun, kicked things off with a pretty energetic set. With most of the audience not yet on the scene, the girls worked hard to amp up the energy level with moderate success. And it set the table nicely for second openers, Cymbals Eat Guitars, a four-piece band that garnered more than a little buzz with their debut album Why There Are Mountains last year. Frontman Joesph D'Agostino led his band through songs of sonic squall, with vocals hopelessly lost in a horrible sound mix.

Critics Notebook
Personal Bias:
I really admire the art of delivering a message in a cracking song that lasts no more than three minutes, and The Thermals do that better than just about any band going.  Watching them, I was reminded of the intelligent and equally intense music of The Buzzcocks.

By The Way: The Thermals played New Orleans on Friday and Austin on Saturday. My guess is that their dismissal of an encore wasn't anything bitter, but rather that, like some members of the audience, they were just a little spent on this Sunday evening.

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