The Thermals at Kilby Court. Photo: Tim Kronenberg
It never ceases to amaze me when I hear the words “Provo,” “punk” and “good music” strung together in the same sentence, but somehow it keeps happening. The last memorable group I can remember that was known for making trips north of the Zion Curtain to fill stage space at Kilby Court was The Playdead Movement. It was just after my talk with Baby Ghosts’ drummer Bret Meisenbach about all the episodes of The Office that I’ve never seen, when his band started off their opening set for The Thermals nice and loud for a half-packed Friday night at my favorite all-ages spot.
All there is to say about this band’s Happy Valley grunge theme is that they’ve got something good and they know how to make it count. Baby Ghosts’ sexy frontwoman Karly Zobrist and her Gibson SG power strokes and guitarist Pat Boyer licked frets in songs like “Gravy Brain,” with fingers from hell that kept eyes front and center for the first hour. With all the band’s antics and stage comfort, it’s no shock to hear that some of their members also put time into projects like The Mighty Sequoia and Desert Noises.
Set one finished before sundown, so the young hipster crowd, with their showoff signs of first tattoos, could make their way outside to pick up merch and burn a smoke as the dusky golden light of Earth’s Instagram filter announced the arrival of concert season. This was just enough time for The Thermals, armed with their new record Desperate Ground and fresh from their tour kickoff in Boise the night before, to swap equipment onstage and start their headlining set.
A little faster than the record and just as rehearsed, The Thermals took to their simple, loud chord progressions and lead singer Hutch Harris was drenched in sweat by the end of their first and new song, “You Will Be Free.” This would usually be the time at any other punk-type show where I’d expect to see some sort of violence starting up in the front of the crowd, yet the law of Lance (Saunders), one of the owners, prevailed. It turns out that center pole holding up Kilby’s ceiling has seen more red than just the paint on it, hence the no moshing/skull bashing rule. I did, however, catch a few brave souls pushing for a skank circle revival, although a good Kilby powwow like the old days hasn’t happened in a while––I blame the Disney Channel.
Whether it was house rules or the early taming of America’s youth by tightwad fascists, this night was stiller than a geriatric soak. That is until our friends the Baby Ghosts saw a pep-squad opportunity and got the dance party going by crowd surfing Harris as he shrieked that Fender, laying on his back carried by the fans who came to live some rock n’ roll. It was about halfway into the set during “Born to Kill” when drummer Westin Glass abandoned post, giving a fan the opportunity to come in and finish the song for him. Glass would later note that, “You can’t leave a drum set unattended because someone’ll always find a way to get in there!”
Even though half the audience was still wallowing in their dead fish routine, they managed to muster up enough courage to chant for an encore. Without hesitation, The Thermals delivered with their take on “The Four Chords song,” by playing 2003’s “No Culture Icons” from their More Parts Per Million release. They finished flawlessly and hung around after the show to meet fans and shoot the shit. If anything could have been changed in the night’s performance or in future shows, I’d only ask for more scale exploration between power chords and some added differentiation from the studio recordings. Then again, I might just be picky.
The Thermals just played show three of a five-week stint in the USA––Canada and Europe, you’re next! Dates and everything you need to know can be found at thethermals.com and, while you’re at it, Baby Ghosts is gearing up for some dates around the homeland, so keep an eye on the Facebook folks.