The Thermals | 03.02.07

While the Thermals seemed fairly shocked to be receiving such an enthusiastic response from the D.C. crowd, it was no mystery to those present.


The Black Cat, Washington, D.C.

"Sold out?! What the fuck, D.C.?!" exclaimed Hutch Harris, lead singer of Portland punk outfit the Thermals, in a bashful exclamation of disbelief. The bashfulness was short-lived as the band—the once trio, then duo, and now quartet—tore into "Here's Your Future," the first song off of their latest album, the brilliant The Body, the Blood, and the Machine. Harris is definitely the most compelling figure on the Thermals' stage, alternately ecstatic and angry, nerdy and twitchy. Bassist Kathy Foster bounced continuously throughout the show as though there was some sort of hidden trampoline in the floor of the stage, her curly tendrils flopping up and down all the while. Meanwhile, guitarist Joel Burrows was glued to his spot onstage after hobbling up with crutches—the circumstances that resulted in his broken leg never explained. Admittedly, the procedure for encores has always struck me as ridiculous, but watching Burrows hobble off and then back on the stage has made me even more committed to putting an end to the practice. Yet ultimately, it was just bloody refreshing to see a band having so much unadulterated, screw-the-rest-of-the-world fun as they plowed through their set with furious, end-of-all-things, apocalypse energy.

The Thermals' latest album manages to accomplish the improbable feat of both demonstrating a tighter and even more mature sound, while transforming everyone that listens to it into a pissed off, hyperactive, and hyperpolitical 16-year-old. Running through the songs from their earlier releases such as "Our Trip" and "How It Goes," the band drew hollers of welcome recognition and appreciation from the crowd. Yet, as strong as those songs are, the newer material received the most enthusiastic response. Harris guided the audience through the minimal chord varying whirlwind "A Pillar of Salt" by occasionally playing charades with the lyrics, alternately "carrying a baby" and building "too many walls," while "St. Rosa and the Swallows" and "Returning to the Fold" found their sound at its tightest, demonstrating the consciousness, intelligence, and playfulness at the heart of the band.

While the Thermals seemed fairly shocked to be receiving such an enthusiastic response from the D.C. crowd, it was no mystery to those present, even the obnoxious kid standing adjacent to me with Karate Kid bandana tied around his head in an ever so Ralph Macchio as Daniel LaRusso kind of way, frequently rock high-fiving his buddies, or the girl who—one can only imagine—got into a fight with her boyfriend and then proceeded to shove aside a whole sequence of people in the crowd, yours truly included. The hostility of the crowd aside, the show finished with Foster slapping the hands of the fans in the front row while reverb poured out from her bass; Burrows hobbled off stage with his crutches, and drummer Lorin Coleman gave an appreciative little wave. The D.C. crowd might not love each other, but apparently, they love the Thermals. | Leslie Wilson

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