The Drums + The Motifs – Oxford Art Factory (01.08.10)


Once again, Oxford Art Factory has played host to a night
for the memory bank with The Drums
throwing one hell of a party. This review is a tad behind schedule for reasons
beyond control of Ares the mighty war god, but here it is for you to peruse.

Before I get to the goodness of the enigmatic New York band
I have a few words to say about support act The Motifs. Mostly I just wanted to point out that their name is
apt. There were motifs running through their set and here’s what I found. A
classic librarian look, an abundance of keyboards and clapping, so much
clapping. I think I counted four keyboards simultaneously occupying the stage
at one point. The young five-piece seemed a bit shy but had some nice songs.
Nice being the fundamental word. They weren’t exactly powerful or engaging and
I felt like I’d fallen into the soundtrack for Juno. Not a place I like to
spend any of my time exploring. Everything seemed hard-boiled sweets and happy
dust with a discomforting reluctance to interact with the audience. However, the
keyboard stroking, xylophone tapping girl in a red cardigan had the most
infectious smile and in the end I couldn’t hold my negative stance on hackneyed
folk twiddle and I smiled too. I may have even clapped at some point. Yet to be

After The Motifs vacated the stage and it was rearranged
over a length of time akin to a week interning for the New Rutherford Chess
Club, a figure emerged from the darkness to occupy the space – it was one
quarter of The Drums, front man
Jonathan Pierce, gliding up to the microphone like a swan pretending to be a
duck. What proceeded may have been the most bizarre, amazing, entertaining and
brilliant set I’ve ever seen. At first, the twisted shapes being thrown down by Jonathan
felt somewhat tongue in cheek, but beyond impressive. His body moved in a seductively
awkward manner that captivated the eager crowd. The moves being thrown down by
guitarist and tambourine extraordinaire Jacob Graham and the shapes being
pulled around the stage by the boys seemed almost choreographed as they twisted
and gyrated around the space. I wasn’t aware that limbs could combine with a
tambourine in such a manner, as Jacob’s portrayal of a keeping time percussion.
It’s safe to say he explored every section of the stage with his passionately
floundering tambourine technique – twisting, clapping, leaping, bashing,
folding, star-jumping radiance.

They were there to do their own thing and clearly enjoying
it. They were performing as much for themselves as they were for the audience
in front of them. I’m quite sure Jonathan made eye contact with each and every
person watching with a genuine enthusiasm for the sounds and actions being
shared. I personally admire the way guitars have been used. Of course we all
love a good bass line, but these guys are a great example of why a whole lot of
twanging is just so much fun. People seem to want to label them the modern day Beach Boys. Why? ‘Cause they have some
nice scaled high-note guitar riffs and a punchy rock-pop feel? Comparisons are
not required. Call it indie, call it rock, pop, blues influenced surf sounds,
whatever (although I don’t think they have anything to do with surf culture).
For me it doesn’t really need defining and neither do their influences. It is a
fresh, guitar filled, shape-throwing love fest of sounds and I like it.

The other musical aspects are not overshadowed or
unimportant. Connor Hanwick’s drumming was solid beat pounding goodness. It lived
up to their name. Jonathan Pierce’s voice is incredible and pure charisma
emanated from his every move. Anybody within 2 meters of the stage increased
their sexual appeal by a factor of 12 just by being that close to him. But it’s
all about guitars for me. The twanging, riff-running, chord pounding string
love that rounded off an absolutely unforgettable night. I did not see a
glimmer of disappointment on anyone’s face after the gig and if you have a
chance to get to one of their 634 overseas gigs remaining this year, do so.

Unbelievable good fun!