Surf rock veterans The Drums made fall feel like summer at Emo’s on Dec. 9, playing songs from their new album “Abysmal Thoughts” while sharing scandalous revelations and lessons of vulnerability.
Story by Zoe Judilla
Photos by Andres Garcia
The line that streamed past the corner of Emo’s was quite an interesting sight for a chilly December evening. Fans shared cigarettes, cradled their soon-to-be-signed albums and were giddy at the thought of seeing their favorite band grace the stage, now consisting solely of frontman Jonny Pierce.
Austin-native band Duncan Fellows served as the first opening act of the night. With wide grins and feel-good indie rock, the locals pumped the crowd up with impressive harmonies and light tunes. They superbly set the mood for the rest of the evening, making the chill audience feel at home and at ease.
Up next were Indiana-natives the Hoops, known for their blunt, yet oddly charming interactions with the crowd. They filled the room with ambient dream-pop sounds, along with notably impressive solos from guitarist Drew Auscherman. The guys coolly closed their set with the light-hearted melody of “La La La” while the audience braced themselves for what was to come.
The crowd quickly became antsy, as they waited for The Dums to come on. The chill vibe that had previously washed over Emo’s was soon replaced with nervous excitement and the band’s dedicated cult following became more apparent as time passed. Suddenly, the lights dimmed.
As the touring band came onstage one by one, the audience seemingly held their breath in anticipation for the ever-charismatic Jonny Pierce, and finally, he emerged.
The platinum blond-haired singer coolly strutted towards the microphone, clad in vintage mechanic overalls with his name embroidered in red on the front and “Abysmal Thoughts” in Rocky Horror-esque lettering on the back. Pierce smiled subtly as the audience called out maniacally for him, and “The Drums” began to glow in white letters against the background of the stage. The first beats of their classic “What You Were” began and the crowd immediately erupted in cheers.
As a performer, it was clear to both newer and die-hard fans that Pierce had a distinct, incomparable aura about him. He was never still, often gliding around the stage and toying with the microphone stand or dancing aimlessly in circles with a groovy shimmy.
The set was a mixture of popular, newer songs such as “Heart Basel” along with classically famous tracks, such as “Days” and “Let’s Go Surfing.” The audience soon forgot about the chill in the air, when the band’s surf rock reminisced a time of the summer sun, as the audience chanting along with the charming and playful Pierce.
It was not until The Drums played “Blood Under My Belt,” the single off their newest album, that the connection between audience and performer solidified. The anthem of a lost love had such an overwhelming impact that it seemed as if the crowd and Pierce were simply singing the words in response to each other. The band reprised the chorus an additional three times.
Following the end of the wonderfully energetic, mutual lovefest, The Drums came back to play a five-song encore, much to the audience’s delight. “Austin,” Pierce remarked, nearly breathless, “We’ve given you a lot tonight.”
It turned out Pierce had more than just music to share. In an unexpected turn of events, all sound had ceased as Pierce returned the microphone he had previously been swinging around back to its rightful stand. He began to share a personal story of one of the earliest memories he had of Austin at South by Southwest, around 2010-2012 “Portamento” era.
Pierce then revealed he had been madly in love with the drummer of the band at the time. This is presumably former member Connor Hanwick, though the name was never specified, who left The Drums around 2012. “I’ve never really talked about this,” Pierce said. “Vulnerability is important, okay?”
He then continued to detail the excitement he had in spending the week of South by Southwest with him, as they had been seeing each other for some time. He revealed that as soon as the band got off the plane, the drummer went into a car and spent the day with a girl. In response to the audience’s cries, Pierce just shook his head and reassured the crowd that it was alright, that he knew he had to figure things out. “Austin has always been marked with some sadness for me,” Pierce admitted, “But it’s okay! Because tonight, tonight you guys have paved away all of the bullsh*t.”
With that, that crowd cheered louder than ever before and Pierce grinned from ear to ear. He then closed the set with newer single “Mirror,” and the more somber “If He Likes It Let Him Do It.”
After the show, the audience lingered inside of Emo’s, as Pierce had a meet-and-greet with fans. Many stayed to meet the charming artist. Others just stood for a little longer to admire the special night and the touching moments of vulnerability that came with it.