:: Article

The Thermals Live

The Thermals at Water Rats, London 10/06/2007

The Thermals‘ performance at Water Rats was the fourth time I have seen them in about six months. The first three occasions were shows in New York. For those who have never been to shows in New York, they cannot understand how sterile live music can feel there. Even the most energetic of performances tend to suffer from the unresponsive crowds on the New York scene. When the Thermals, natives of Portland, Oregon, come to New York, there might be a stage diver or a
crowd surfer, sometimes there are mass singalongs of songs, but for the most part, they are subject to the same apathy that any other band of the same indie status would be subject to.

To see the Thermals in London, however, is quite a different experience. Lorin Coleman’s drum kit sports the same American flag with the Thermals’ logo repeated in the stripes as it did on their American tour. In America, there is a notable irony to this detail, and in the UK there is no mistaking this tongue-in-cheek display for an earnest patriotism.


Whereas it is a rarity in New York to see someone stage dive, it was an attempt made by several in attendance at Water Rats, despite the fact that the stage was barely two feet off the floor. Everyone sang along, slammed their bodies about with reckless abandon, and repeatedly spilled forward onto the stage. From the first chords of opener “Here’s Your Future,” the floor shook under the impact of the feet that repeatedly crashed upon them. Bodies toppled forward, back, and to the sides, feeble attempts were made to steady themselves on walls, speaker cabinets, and other people.


The band were in top form, and played more of their back catalogue, rather than just breaking up a run through of their recent record, The Body, The Blood, The Machine with an older single. It was also interesting to see bassist Kathy Foster provide backing vocals, which I have not seen, even in performances as recent as a month ago. It’s quite fitting; Foster provided the vocals on the cover “Ballad Of Big Nothing” the band did for an Elliott Smith tribute album last year. She has a lovely voice, and there is something added to the songs with her subtle harmonies.


The Thermals closed with “It’s Trivia,” off of their first record, More Parts Per Million; a song they refused to sell to Hummer, even to the tune of £25,000. And everyone sang along until the last notes and the band slunk off stage, covered in sweat and grinning appreciatively.


Amanda Farah is a writer and photographer from New York who has resettled herself in London. She writes about music and other things and is a regular contributor to CMJ.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Saturday, June 23rd, 2007.