The Thermals / Cymbals Eat Guitars - live in Bloomington (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

The Thermals / Cymbals Eat Guitars

live in Bloomington (2010)

live show

I've wanted to see the Thermals for years. Cymbals Eat Guitars took my #1 spot for 2009 and I had missed them in Indianapolis once before. I'll go to almost any show Good Luck are a part of because I never get sick of ‘em. Somehow the stars aligned for me on October 4th, 2010 when they all played Rhino's Youth Club in Bloomington on my dream bill. Spirit of '68 Productions made it happen.

Good Luck began with guitarist Matt Tobey saying something cute, like usual: "Hi, we're Good Luck, we're a local band." They launched into a dazzling set as is their custom, with Tobey shredding without breaking a sweat, drummer Mike Harpring balancing intricacy with power and bassist/singer Ginger Alford wailing perfect melodies over-top. They played a couple from their newest release, this year's Demonstration 2010 EP, with the instantly sing-able, "whoa"-filled tune "Decider" morphing into their biggest Into Lake Griffey hit, "The Stars Were Exploding," by way of a new intro. Tobey's fretwork was jaw-dropping as usual, so much so that Cymbals' Joseph D'Agostino (who is no slouch himself) had to give props for Tobey's flawless finger-tapping while singing. "The Others" was the only previously-unheard song for me in their set, but the short tune left little impression. However, the set ended strong and they effortlessly warmed up the sizable all-ages crowd.

Set list:

  1. Public Radio
  2. Come Home
  3. Pajammin
  4. Decider
  5. Stars Were Exploding
  6. Novel Figure
  7. The Others (new)
  8. How to Live Here
  9. West Wind Ride

Cymbals Eat mother-fuckin' Guitars, baby! I'll be the first to admit I'm their #1 fanboy. Growing up on the northwest sound of Modest Mouse and (to a lesser extent) Built to Spill made me an instant fan, but the quality of songwriting on Why There Are Mountains elevated my status to super-fan. As they sound-checked, singer/guitarist D'Agostino asked if that was all the vocals they could get, and was cool about the venue's lack of power unlike so many other bands I've seen there. The vocals didn't seem too buried to me, but that's perhaps because I know them so well they were already in my ear. Besides, D'Agostino's lyrics are so cryptic they are not the main point anyway.

The band is 50% different than on their debut album with new keyboardist Brian Hamilton coming on board shortly after and bassist Matt Whipple joining after their original bassist decided the touring life was not for him. Both new guys covered the album's parts perfectly and the whole band brought the rock with D'Agostino feelin' it with his frequent freak-out solos and lead lines. Matthew Miller was solid behind the kit and kept a lot of the album's auxiliary percussion parts intact with a whole music stand full of toys next to him. Cymbals played all of my favorites from Mountains, including my absolute faves "Wind Phoenix" and "Indiana," an obvious selection here.

With Kathy from the Thermals standing right behind us (oh my god oh my god) they played about half new material, but that's if you count Mountains B-side "Tunguska" as a new track (I don't, 'cause I'm so cool). Truly new tune "Definite Darkness" starts off bouncy with a nice electric piano countermelody, slows down, then revs back up. D'Agostino is a master at tempo/meter/dynamic shifts and these new songs are no different. "Plainclothes" is memorable right off the bat with its first line, "There was man who killed a state trooper / Drove his pickup truck to Belmar" and it has a sweet disco spazz-out at the end. You can hear all of these new tunes from their BBC 6 recording session at their site or their MySpace.

Set list:
  1. And the Hazy Sea
  2. Some Trees
  3. Definite Darkness (new)
  4. Tunguska (album B-side)
  5. Cold Spring
  6. Indiana
  7. Plainclothes (new)
  8. Wavelength (new)
  9. Wind Phoenix

After the set, D'Agostino and Whipple were at their merch table so I went over to see if they would clarify the names of the new tunes for me. They were super nice (which is always an added bonus) and D'Agostino totally encouraged my geeking-out as we discussed their future recording plans (March) and the producer (he wouldn't tell me). He even frickin' high-fived me when I told him Mountains was my #1 album on Punknews last year. Ha! Love it.

Sadly, I did not have the guts to talk to any of the Thermals, but their set was enough to make me a happy man. They played more than half of Personal Life and the live energy took those slower album tracks to a new level; "Power Lies" was a big pleaser. Their set was arranged with chunks of album tracks rather than jumping around their catalogue every song. For example, they started the set with the first two songs off The Body, The Blood, The Machine and since they naturally go together it makes sense. Later, they played three Personal songs in a row. Then two more TBTBTM songs in a row, with Kathy Foster coaxing some awesome bass feedback on "St. Rosa and the Swallows." New-ish drummer Westin Glass kept the crowd pumped up by frequently standing up during drum-less sections and getting everyone clapping or singing along. I kept cracking up watching Hutch Harris rock out, ‘cause when he would turn away from the mic to check his frets or something he would give this grimace. Don't know if it was an intentional "rock face" or not, but it was awesome.

The only downside to the set was the lack of Fuckin' A songs--they only played one! I would have killed to hear "A Stare Like Yours" or "Remember Today." They also didn't play my favorite Now We Can See song, "When I Died," but they did play a bunch off that album. Then they closed with "Pillar of Salt," which was incredible. No encore, but a long and satisfying set. I went in with unbelievably high expectations and they were met. Show of the year, baby.

Set list:
  1. Here's Your Future
  2. I Might Need You to Kill
  3. unknown (B-side?)
  4. I Don't Believe You
  5. We Were Sick
  6. It's Trivia
  7. When We Were Alive
  8. Never Listen to Me
  9. Not Like Any Other Feeling
  10. Power Lies
  11. Returning to the Fold
  12. St. Rosa and the Swallows
  13. Only for You
  14. Your Love Is So Strong
  15. How We Know
  16. Back to Gray
  17. When I Was Afraid
  18. No Culture Icons
  19. Now We Can See
  20. A Pillar of Salt