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Beach Fossils played MHOW w/ Craft Spells & The Drums (who play Knitting Factory tonight)

by Rachel Kowal

Beach Fossils @ MHOW – April 8, 2011 (photo by Kemet Dugue)
Beach Fossils

The line outside Music Hall of Williamsburg Friday night extended farther down the block than I had ever seen it stretch, so far in fact, that like many people, I spent the entirety of Crinkles‘ set standing outside, waiting to get in. But by the time Craft Spells began to play, the room was packed, which proved to be a welcome treat for the wide-eyed openers.

“What the fuck are we doing here?!” lead singer Justin Vallestero asked incredulously as he stepped up to the mic. “We’ve never even been to the East coast before!” And with that, they launched into their set.

It’s not hard to see why Craft Spells have been generating a fair amount of buzz recently. They exhibit the same kind of easy-going, sun-tinged rock that seems to be all the rage these days, and their candid enthusiasm and wild dancing are pretty charming. But for as bouncy as the music tends to be, Vallestero’s steady baritone and the surprisingly mellow backing vocals help temper the band’s sound and prevent it from becoming (gasp!) too twee for general consumption.

Following Craft Spells’ energetic set, the drummer jumped out from behind his kit and snapped a photo of the audience before walking off stage. That will certainly be one for the scrap book.

The ‘secret’ special guest of the evening elicited a wide range of responses upon taking the stage. “Oh my God! It’s The Drums!” exclaimed one guy excitedly to his unimpressed female companion. “How many opening bands are there?” another concert-goer asked in exasperation. Still others couldn’t seem to get past lead singer Jonathan Pierce’s little-kid-like appearance. (“That shirt is just atrocious. I think I had one like it when I was like 7 in 1993.”) Between his clean-cut look and wild intensity onstage, Pierce resembles a manic Zack Morris on speed.

Say what you will about their shtick or their lyrics. The Drums have come a long way since I first saw them about two years ago, and the crowd responded enthusiastically to their frenzied performance. Even the guy behind me who had initially groaned at the sight of The Drums quickly admitted to his buddies that he was into them upon witnessing just a few minutes of their set.

Following a quick intermission, Beach Fossils kicked off their set with “What a Pleasure,” which features a deceptively mellow intro before giving way to a rush of guitars and drums. (Watching bass player John Pena start to twitch as he geared up for the sudden shift was pretty amusing.)

Beach Fossils may not benefit from having such a distinctive front man in their midst, but their energy was anything but lacking. Though just four members strong, they made sure to take full advantage of the spacious stage by cavorting around with wild abandon. Incidentally, they also had no trouble getting the crowd to join in on their dancing. Throughout their set, random members from the audience would leap on stage and boogie down before being ushered back into the crowd by a bouncer. Soon to my disbelief (and at lead singer Dustin Payseur’s suggestion), an indie kid mosh pit broke out near the foot of the stage, at which point the guy next to me leaned in. “You’re writing that down, right? People are actually moshing to a band called Beach Fossils.”

Absurdities aside, I was surprised by how polished Beach Fossils sounded, especially considering their inability to stay still for more than a few seconds.

After powering through their brief set, the boys from Beach Fossils came back for a quick one-song encore (“Youth”), during which time Korvette hastily put down his guitar and wildly leapt off stage for a quick round of crowd surfing before snatching up his guitar once again as the song died out.

Catch the Drums again tonight, 4/11, with Matthew Dear at Knitting Factory in Brooklyn (the show is now sold out). It’s their last show before they head west to play Coachella.

A live Beach Fossils video from SXSW, and one of Craft Spells playing earlier this month in Seattle, below…

Beach Fossils – SXSW 2011

Craft Spells – Scandinavian Crush – live in Seattle

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