Live: The Drums @ Koko

There was a lot of hype surrounding The Drums a few years ago, but having watched them tonight they are the epitome of New York cool. Even the way they interact on stage has a certain something about it. Frontman Jonny Pierce, every inch the extrovert dressed in a sparkling palm tree jacket, dashing around the stage on new batteries, whilst his bandmate Jacob Graham plays a more sedate role, occasionally breaking into ballet like hand movements, almost as a calming antidote to Jonny’s energy. And then coupled with that is the paradoxical music; upbeat melodies which overlay the twisted and often dark emotions of the lyrics. They’re definitely a band of contrasts!

American band The Drums at Koko (Andy Sampson)

American band The Drums at Koko (Andy Sampson)

It’s slightly unusual therefore that they were supported by DMA’s, a band who could never be described as arty. They are gritty, fuelled by a wall of guitars, and very much in the Oasis mould of looking slightly confrontational. Having seen them in Hoxton a few months back I was looking forward to tonight and they didn’t disappoint. Hailing from Australia, they’ve spent some time in the UK building up a solid reputation and fanbase. And its no surprise they’re becoming popular with songs like Feels Like 37 and The Plan giving having a real feel of being back in Manchester in the 90’s.

But they’re no derivative band and tunes such as Your Low and the largely acoustic Delete carving them out their own niche. Great stuff, although one gripe. Lads, cheer up and crack a smile…you’re doing a great job!

American band The Drums at Koko (Andy Sampson)

American band The Drums at Koko (Andy Sampson)

By the time The Drums come on stage, there’s 1500 very hot people inside Koko, and it’s getting steamy. Opening with the short and downbeat Bell Laboratories, they move into I Can’t Pretend both from the most recent album, Encyclopedia. But it’s the next tracks, Me And The Moon and Book Of Days from their debut album which really starts the party, and makes it clear why a lot of the audience are here. Reminiscing and sharing the pain of those lyrics is order of the day. Jonny appears to be in his element, arms waving and eyes closed, rushing from one side of the stage to the other, whilst Jacob remains far more impassive and contemplative. I Don’t Know How It Ended brings a huge roar from the crowd and despite its melancholic undercurrent the whole place is in full voice and full dance, and it doesn’t stop as track after track cranks the atmosphere up a little more.

American band The Drums at Koko (Andy Sampson)

American band The Drums at Koko (Andy Sampson)

And in the same way as bands like the Smiths, and Joy Division, The Drums seem to be at their best when they mix an upbeat punk-pop-electro sound with these downbeat lyrics. The slow songs just don’t seem to work so well live, a fact that they seem to have worked out too. Their encore is a great mix of this style including their biggest hit Lets Go Surfing and Forever and Ever Amen which both cue more singing, dancing, and no doubt, more reminiscing.

American band The Drums at Koko (Andy Sampson)

American band The Drums at Koko (Andy Sampson)

I never knew that being a bit miserable could be so much fun!

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Photography & Review by Andy Sampson.  The Drums at Koko 21 July.

Andy has his own great website here: www.soundritualphotos.co.uk

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