Drowners are a band I somehow forgot about for a while, despite feeling nothing but pure adoration towards them throughout 2014. I carried on loving them; it was simply more of a case of other bands finding their way to the forefront of my consciousness. So, when I found out that the release of their sophomore album On Desire and their celebratory release show in New York coincided with my trip there, I naturally had to attend to rekindle this love affair.
Baby’s All Right, the venue for the evening, is located in Williamsburg in the borough of Brooklyn. It carries a stereotypical Brooklyn feeling – looking a little divey from the outside and bearing a giant neon sign on its roof emblazoning the words “ALL RIGHT” on it – but that’s part of the charm of it. The stage (in the back room of the main bar) is plastered in bulbs that glow in different colours, covering all ends of the spectrum and making it prettier than any conventional venue backdrop. Unfortunately, we miss support act Flint Eastwood, meaning that Drowners take to the stage only minutes after we find a spot for the night at the back of venue, with their vocalist Matt Hitt suited up (unlike the other members) and a new drummer in tow. The latter is nothing new – for reasons unknown to me, they’ve had a different drummer on all three occasions I’ve previously seen them.
There’s one key issue with album release shows, and that’s the fact that most – if not all – of the audience won’t know the songs (or at least not very well). As such, the set opens with a song from the new release, which in retrospect I think might have been ‘Troublemaker’, the album’s opening track. It’s a song that’s full of energy, ideal to start a show with: it’s just unfortunate that nobody knows the words. This is also the case for the next few songs, aside from ‘Cruel Ways’, the first single from On Desire. It’s still enjoyable, and hearing the new album for the first time live rather than on record is a new experience, but I’m still a little disappointed at the prospect of hearing nothing from the debut I’d loved so much.
Around four tracks in, Hitt announces that they’re going to play some older songs, much to my delight. They consecutively play ‘Watch You Change’, ‘A Button On Your Blouse’, ‘Long Hair’ and ‘Luv, Hold Me Down’. Prior to this, the crowd still had the enthusiasm and exuberance you always come across at gigs, but their lack of ability – or should I say knowledge – to sing along meant that something just wasn’t quite right. However, everyone knows the lyrics to the older tracks, and everything returns to normal for this time period. The room is filled with jubilant late-teens and twenty-somethings singing and dancing, and it’s wonderful. It’s around this point I realise that my aforementioned love affair with this band has truly been rekindled.
One particular aspect of Drowners’ live show that I notice is how much they’ve improved in the two years since I last saw them. Perhaps it’s just that their new music better translates to a live show: but their set seems much sharper and more captivating than it’s been in the past. Following the interlude of older tracks, the rest of the gig continues with a mix of both new and old. ‘Unzip Your Harrington’ is always a highlight of their shows for me; a song with a more relaxed and melodic tone than their other material. Hitt’s vocals slowly trail off into the ether, as he murmurs choral lyrics “I’m gonna hang around long enough to be part of the furniture” at the close of the song before launching immediately into ‘Pick Up The Pace’, another single from On Desire. The set ends with ‘Bar Chat’ from their debut, an ebullient track that’s both guitar-centric and energetic. This trio of songs are a definite high point, and undoubtedly a triumphant end to the show.By Lucy McLaughlin