Live Review: Surfer Blood at Mississippi Studios

Words and Photography by Nina Bielawski

On a cold Thursday night, a ray of sunshine hailing from West Palm Beach, Florida
came to Portland via the band Surfer Blood. The indie rock group brought a tinge of warmth on stage to the purple-lit Mississippi Studios, on January 25th.

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Processed with VSCO with 6 preset

Before they were to play on stage, members of the band casually strolled through the
bar and chatted up fans. If one had no prior knowledge of what the band members looked like, they could have been easily looked over as show-goers, simply passing the time casually talking before the music started. This modesty was shown once more when the band members walked up to their mics and greeted the fans they were just chatting to in the audience, as if they were their closest friends. As lead singer John Paul Pitts came up to center stage with his red Fender guitar, the audience’s attention was centralized to the stage. Once Pitts started playing, smiles instantly spread across the faces of all the crowd members. His friendliness towards the concert goers in the room was comforting, and set the mood for the night that this was a place to forget about your troubles and be happy in the present moment.

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Processed with VSCO with 6 preset

The sounds being played were a melodious blend of peaceful rhythms. Once the beat
of the drums transitioned smoothly into each song, a contagious wave of swaying from side to side followed through the audience. Drummer, Tyler Schwarz, kept a face of concentration throughout the set, focusing meticulously on each aspect of his technique. On lead guitar was curly-haired Mike McCleary, who was humble about his presence to the audience. His vintage Gibson guitar added interesting depth to each song he played. One could not ignore the blissful energy from bassist, Lindsey Mills, as she danced her way through each song. With every nod of her head, her golden hair flowed through the purple light like a mermaid. Every time Mills and Pitts joined one another to face their guitars in close embrace, the connection and trust was mutually felt between the two band mates and the crowd, which was followed by a roar of cheers.

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Processed with VSCO with 6 preset

One of the bands hits, “I Can’t Explain” caused another round of cheers through the
crowd. More swaying and smiling ensued while each sound vibrated through the room, and each word sung by Pitts warmed everyone like a soothing hug. For the next song, John announced that he would have his friend who he invited on stage to play guitar for him. The reason for this was explained when Pitts surprised everybody by jumping down from the stage, directly into the crowd, bringing the mic and his voice with him. He walked with purpose, into the center of the audience to sing the passionate part of one of their most popular songs, “Take It Easy”. He made time to put his arm around one singing fan so that both could sing the song together, while the joyous looking man who Pitts had chosen to sing with raised his beer to a toast for this night. Before coming back on stage, Pitts made one last stop to fall on an open area of carpet below him, where he continued to sing while rolling back and forth between the feet of the audience. This unexpected act brought sometimes idolized band members and fans down to the same level- which left a feeling of a sense of equality among the crowd.

The night ended with a warm thank you to the audience, and the crowd left with an
overall feeling of contentment, and smiles still stuck on their faces.

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Processed with VSCO with 6 preset


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