One of the best ways to not let a Monday ruin your Sunday is to dance away your demons to some good, old fashioned rock and roll in a communal setting. It also helps if the dancing is being done to the music of a band that is riding high on the fumes of a well-deserved, packed-to-capacity homecoming gig. The sold-out crowd at the Doug Fir Lounge in Portland seemed to know this all too well as they swelled the room late on a Sunday evening to see The Shivas, an explosive guitar band that formed back in 2006 in Portland.
The Shivas brought the house down by powering through their newest album and fifth overall, the superbly punkish yet technically refined Dark Thoughts. The raging cacophony of layered guitars, the murky and distant vocals, and the pounding, motoric drums that are evident throughout the album translated perfectly to a live setting, as singer/guitarist Jared Molyneux and drummer/singer Kristin Leonard soared through album standouts “Gloria,” “Turn Me On,” and “Start A Fire.” The vocal interplay between the two, already cultish and bombastic in tone, was made even more powerful by the feverous crowd hollering back every note and lyric for the full hour and a half set. “Gloria,” the set (and album) opener, is indebted to the urgent guitars of Raw Power era Stooges, while “Start A Fire” evokes all the best facets of The Brian Jonestown Massacre circa Who Killed Sgt. Pepper?; drone-based yet immensely danceable, with cutting guitars panned out to either side of the mix and reverb-drenched vocals.
Every member of The Shivas showcased their effortless and diverse musicianship, as guitarist Jeff Boyardee frequently hopped on drums, while Leonard shuffled back and forth from the kit to center stage, taking sole vocal responsibilities on ballads like “If You See Me” and “Can You Feel It Too?” Her ability to transition from break-neck drumming on one song to melodic, soul-filled balladry the next was truly awe-inspiring, and her ability to command a crowd was on full display during these tender moments. Bassist Eric Shanafelt’s deploying of infectious, surf-rock-inspired bass runs over the top of the roaring sound did not go lost on the crowd, either; nearly everybody in the crowd had some swing in their hips.
The night came to an end on high note, with the band opting to close out the set with perhaps their most well-known hit, “You Make Me Wanna Die,” from the 2014 EP of the same name. This was perhaps the most communal moment of the night, as both the band and the crowd seemed to feel in the air the same thing; the glorious triumph of a dedicated band returning to where it all started, with the knowledge that all the hard work and relentless touring was worth it for moments exactly like this one.