Trudging through the frigid night, my first steps into the warmth of The Garage's cozy bar revealed a full bar and a couple of bartenders kept busy by the steady stream of orders. Laughs pierced through a general hum of friendly conversation, and the place seemed pretty low-key despite the crowd. Huddled masses of people gathered around the stage and the bar, downing beers and waiting for any sign of progress from the stage crew, from whom the only indication of starting so far had been a bright light shining behind the drum set. After running one of the PA cords up through the rafters and securing it into a socket, the lights began to dim as the members of Dark Seas started tuning their instruments. Kyle Wilcox strolled onstage with a stein of beer in hand, smiling through big, thick sunglasses at the group slowly gathering at the stage.
He yelled out, introducing the lineup before kicking off a psychedelic surf rock song with his rambling, snarling drawl. Between songs he'd make bad jokes and grab beers from the crowd, bantering with the front row. As he sang, he swayed furiously across the tiny stage, while the rest of the band cranked out fast, groovy songs, their silhouettes swaying in the red stage lights. Andrew Milne and Jared Phelps of Spell Talk arrived about halfway through their set, dancing their way to the front and showing some local support. Patrons drifted back and forth between the stage and the bar, and everyone seemed to enjoy Dark Seas' swirling, delirious sound.
As the set concluded, the crowd rushed back to reclaim lost seats at the bar as the band climbed off the stage. The setup didn't take long, though, and as Max Pain and the Groovies finished tuning their instruments, they looked out at the crowd at the bar, and immediately started into their first song. After they got their drinks, fans rushed to the stage with cans and glasses full of beer, shouting and screaming, swaying to the hypnotic drone of Dallin Smith’s and Shane Preece’s guitars. After the first, short warmup tune, David Johnson adjusted the mic and started howling his lungs out. The front of the crowd danced fast and messy, while the floor was ringed with smiling faces and nodding heads. People streamed in slowly throughout the set, and the group near the stage started swelling. Hardly stopping to chat up the crowd, the band's energy was relentless as always. Johnson's stage presence was wild and raucous, his voice rolled smoothly between croons and screams as he smashed a tambourine and headbanged. Meanwhile, the crowd was swinging beers around, arm in arm, some audience members shouting along into the mic.
The set ended abruptly, a quick release of energetic tension. Sadly, a lot of people walked off after the set, and The Garage started feeling a little empty. Despite the quiet, everyone at the bar talked excitedly about the show so far, watching Gardens set up. Most people sifted back to the bar, where they waited for any indication of activity from the stage. At this point, the show seemed like it was about to slow down, and I wasn't entirely sure how Gardens planned to bring back the crowd's fading enthusiasm.
Hammering on their guitars, the band's unexpected outburst of sound quickly caught everyone's attention. Setting a steady, driving beat for the rocked-out audience, Gardens taps into something classic about rock and roll that doesn't need intensity or psychedelic fuzz to communicate itself. The energy is already there, and while the band mostly stood in place, the small crowd on the floor made up for it with enthusiastic dancing. The folks that stuck it out through the whole show were treated to clean, snappy rock tunes with a mild turn to the grunge end of the spectrum. As more of the crowd gathered around the stage, the band started smiling and getting into the show, their stiff stage presence started to loosen up. Even as the night wore down to a close, Gardens kept the lighthearted spirit of the night alive.