“Music is a language and different people who come along are each using that language to do something different, but all coming at it in a similar vein inasmuch as it’s always community based and for the most part nonprofit. Most bands don’t ever come within a mile of profit; clearly these people are not playing music to make money.”
The Thermals appeared at the White Buffalo in Bellingham, Washington, 27 April, where the stage lighting was kept near darkness. Even as the band’s sound sent waves of energy across the audience, at times it was almost impossible to get a focus on the band. At a couple of points the stage spots went out completely, none of which slowed the pace of the band.
The Portland-based Thermals sometimes play all-ages shows, but this night (27 April) in Bellingham, Washington, it was an all-adult-swim night with sharks, at the Wild Buffalo. Three acts were on the bill: Bellingham’s Soccermom (tame crash pop) and The Palisades (wild but domesticated post punk), and Portland’s Thermals (feral-to-the-core punk).
The whole night I was locked into my position at the front of the house, on the rail, directly in front of Hutch Harris, lead singer and guitar player, who launched himself into the audience a few times (once with his guitar) to do a bit of personal shark teasing. Drummer Westin Glass went for a swim, too (abruptly standing up and running from his drum kit to the front of the stage and diving). Only Kathy Foster, the bass player, was content to remain on stage for the entire evening.
Microphone stands flew into the audience as people surfed, sank, dove to the floor, then rose again thrashing. Some audience members climbed onto stage and dove back into the churning multitude. The beefy security dudes kept watch but didn’t get involved. I understood their reticence, and envied them their distance. Eventually, to avoid being kicked in the head by surfers, I moved down (helped along by being pushed down) the rail out of the main shark tank. Drinks were dropped making the floor wet and slippery.
At some point I realized my clothes and shoes were soaked in someone’s beer. It was an intense, wet, adrenaline stoked evening. The sharks were young and angry and feeding. Next time, I think it will be one of those all-ages Thermals gigs for me, now that I’ve seen what you get with the full adult portion. I’m sure I won’t be missed.