The Thermals/The Divorce/Viva Voce
February 5, 2005 – Seattle, WA – The Vera Project
by Ashley Graham

When it comes to seeing your newest, latest and greatest favorite band live for the first time, there are two possible outcomes with which you will meet; after being wowed by those couple of discs in your collection, the band will either amaze you or leave you wondering how they ever managed to sound that way on the albums.  After experiencing my share of those in the latter category, I was fearful that a band that captured so much energy and excitement on their albums would run absolutely amok on the stage.

But when it comes to The Thermals, that is not anywhere near the case.

I have spent the last three months obsessing over The Thermals in ways I have not obsessed over a band in quite some time.  My expectations for their live show were high, and I was in no way disappointed.  All of the frantic guitar, the crazed, pounding drums, and the boyish, wailing vocals were present in full force, and in their perfect form.  They had a new quality in the live arena and it only strengthened the power of the music. 

Drummer Jordan Hudson’s arms are swinging, his eyes darting around.  You don’t even notice Kathy Foster plucking her bass because you can’t take your eyes off of her constant movement, forward and back, up and down, her thick, curly black hair moving in time with the beats.  And then there is Hutch Harris.  With vocals that seem at once whiny, and then endearing, Harris has a charisma about him without even being aware of it.  He speaks little in between songs and he is not a likely front man, but he is likeable.  He maintains the sense of charm and energy that makes him just so much fun to watch. 

The Thermals’ most winning quality is that same sense of innocent fun.  They look and perform like three best friends who are just playing the songs that they love.  They don’t interact much while on stage, but there is a connection between them that is undeniable.  And that comes through in the music.  Their albums are of a refined brand of pop punk, and they have a quality to them that helps carry them.  While it would be easy to let that quality slip in the live show, it doesn’t. 

When Hutch yells “Nod if you’re near and you can hear me, signal if you feel if you’re feeling it” during the band’s final song “Overgrown, Overblown!” there is no way that the crowd’s energy can go unrecognized. The Thermals put on a fun show, and the crowd is having all kinds of it. 

If you love your Thermals albums, you’ll love them live.  And if you first catch them live and think the albums will never be as fun, they are.  This music is strong, no matter the format.

The same cannot necessarily be said for their openers.  Husband-wife duo Viva Voce suffered from insufficient vocals, but sounded like something that might otherwise be interesting.  Seattle-based The Divorce seemed to alternate between being eighties-inspired dance music, and a harder rock, complete with screaming vocals from the bass player, while the best version of the band is definitely the former.

The Thermals stole the show, and managed to burrow further and further into the depths of my music-loving heart.  They may soon solidify a spot as the next great musical love of my life.  I’ll be sure to keep you posted.
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