On a sub-zero-windchill evening, Greenpoint’s Studio B could stand to be closer to a subway, preferably a reliable one. Last Monday, the venue—a bastard child of the Flatiron district’s Avalon and Park Slope’s Southpaw, combining the sleek nightclub fixtures of the former with the warehouse outer-boroughness of the latter—hosted a strikingly dissimilar pair of power trios serving rawk warmth to the huddled masses.
Local threesome the Big Sleep opened with the rubbery jam “You Can’t Touch the Untouchable,” complete with scratch-pad solos and three false endings. A taut, primarily instrumental outfit blending the technical robotics of Trans Am with the bluesy swagger of Stevie Ray Vaughan, they can pummel you in more modest venues like the Mercury Lounge. The relatively cavernous confines of Studio B, however, seemed to dissipate both the subtle keyboard-guitar interplay and the band’s general ferociousness.
Even with half the blood in your body frozen, Portland, Oregon’s triple threat the Thermals—performing here as a quartet with a second guitarist—can stir the feeblest of forms. Dripping with dry wit and three-chord sonic blasts that rarely crest the three-minute mark, the band’s in-the-raw packets of pure pop-punk sugar are dispensed with a boundless energy embodied by bassist Kathy Foster’s near-constant pogo and spasmodic singer-guitarist Hutch Harris’s wide-eyed facial expressions, while his manic gestures complement lyrics comparing Noah’s Ark to the Holocaust.
Within 60 minutes, the Thermals can plow through two-thirds of their three-album oeuvre, peaking with The Body, the Blood, the Machine, last year’s searing indictment of Christian fundamentalism. They excel on record, where you can limit yourself to a dozen or so servings of their spunky Jell-O shots. Live, though, the formula often runs out of steam long before the band does. As Monday turned to Tuesday, they soldiered on, overdosing us maybe, but thankfully keeping us out of the cold for a while longer—as Harris promised on The Body‘s “St. Rosa and the Swallows,” “I will hold you tight/Through the cold days/And the frozen nights.”