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Breaking the fourth wall with Surfer Blood

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Surfer Blood (Photo by: Steven Hatley)

To say Surfer Blood have evolved quite a bit since I last saw them open for Foals at the House of Blues in 2013 would be nothing less than an understatement. The West Palm Beach, Florida natives have gone through several line-ups and are currently on tour in their new form supporting last year’s 1000 Palms.

This latest incarnation has two original members: John Paul Pitts (lead vocals/guitar) and Tyler Schwarz (drums). Also joining them is their long time high school friend Lindsey Mills (bass guitar/backing vocals) and Mike Mcleary (guitar/backing vocals), who replaced original guitarist Thomas Fekete. Fekete left the band in 2015 due to a medical diagnosis for a rare form of cancer (Sarcoma) that had spread to his lungs and spine.

The last time Surfer Blood came through town they played One Eyed Jacks, October 29, 2013, to a less than stellar crowd. It didn’t help that Gwar was playing that night at the House of Blues while Crocodiles, Royal Bangs, and Brass Bed played the Mint. Also, a Tuesday night show during Halloween season didn’t help much. This time around, though, the band played a smaller venue - Gasa Gasa - to a nearly sold out crowd. Mills lamented that this was her first time in New Orleans, and she liked what she’d seen so far.

The set was divided pretty evenly between the band’s three albums and extended play, brining the audience into the mix as they sang and danced along to virtually every track. “Take it Easy” let Pitts break the ever allusive forth wall by hopping off the stage and singing in the audience.

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Surfer Blood (Photo by: Steven Hatley)

Pitts stated that "Take it Easy" is one of his most favorite song to sing, and interacting with the audience during that song only increases the enjoyment for everyone.  In fact, reactions to the set all night were beyond favorable and really went to the next level a few times, most notably when the band launched into their first single “Swim.”   Much to the audience’s delight, after a short break, the band came back and played two more tracks to close out the evening.

Surfer Blood is a well-crafted mix of Shins, Pixies, and Weezer influences. The Weezer reference is one Pitts gets often, but he doesn’t seem to mind as the “first two albums are masterpieces.” The material from the band’s latest album has a mature nature and sounds great live. This is a testament to Fekete’s work before he left the band. After the show I managed to capture the band playing with some sparklers. You can see an expanded gallery here: http://jalbum.net/a/1687197

Steven Hatley is a New Orleans-based photographer. You can find more of his photography here.