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Terry Malts

January 6, 2017

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January 6, 2017 - San Francisco, CA

Lovin’ the Taste of #TerryMaltsLive

The warehouse of Timbuk2 is big and open with natural light tossing itself in through the abundance of windows. 

On the wall I notice a painting of a giant flower: kaleidoscopic, multicolored and sharp-edged, much like the group performing in front of it.

Once the band gear was locked, loaded and ready to fire — Terry Malts was given the green light.

Their first song, “Come to Find You,” begins with Nathan Sweatt, the group’s drummer, walloping a heavy beat on the tom and snare — I feel my heart thudding along to the dense and energetic intro. Next, a high pitched scream from the guitar of Corey Cunningham; the sound gradually falls and lands on a tight, fast rhythm. And finally, the thumping of bass, accompanied by Phil Benson opening his mouth to release a deep ripple of vocal vibrato.

As the noise increases, I notice a curious outsider cupping their hands around their eyes and pressing their face against the window to get a glimpse of what in the hell this glorious event is all about.

I’ll let you in on the secret: It’s about the camera capturing a parade of picks on the string’s taut, shifting rhythms, Benson smiling casually because – let’s face it – these guys are so on point with their sound! They play with an effortlessness that only comes from hours of painstaking practice in a room together. A repetition of the lyrics “I’m neurotic,” finds a snug place in your brain to hang out for awhile. 

How do these musical blokes distinguish themselves from all the other musical blokes? In the case of Terry Malts, it’s definitely their ability to conjure the right bit of mania in that screeching guitar and rolling drum, but also to hold it down low for an easy listening experience by the recumbent croon of Phil Benson’s voice. 

The crowd cheers after each song, but the group seems to pay no mind and jumps face-first into the next jam — that, right there, is true musical comfort. With their upbeat, accessible rhythms and elevating melodies, it isn’t hard to imagine Terry Malt’s audience rallying their lovin’ bones to these tunes.

The group performs their song “Gentle Eyes,” and their lyrics, I know I’m hard to read / at times I’m cold as ice / but when you’ve had enough / you still give me gentle eyes, bring about the sensation of purity and taintedness — like even if I’m not exactly a perfectly shiny person, you’ll still dig me. A spanking of splendid, if you will. This moves you even further into the uniquely boisterous, punked-out, heart-wrenching style that is Terry Malts.

…Blink of an eye and the curtains close…

When they finally take a moment to stop playing music, the band says something jokey about cat piss and then nonchalantly moves on to admit to their lack of presence in the last few years. Guitarist Cunningham, claims, “#TerryMaltsLive — We’re not dead, we’re alive!” They all have a quick laugh, then dive back into it, almost ironically, with the beginning lyrics “I’m no good for you.”

As the music plays on and the time starts running out, I say a silent prayer that it won’t. The fresh environment and lo-fi, poppy sounds have me wanting more. Not only is the music fun and addicting, the setting itself is just as enticing.

But alas, all good things (shouldn’t) come to an end.

They complete their live set with “I Could Be Happy,” a very fitting Altered Image cover. The lead singer wipes the well-deserved sweat from his brow and tosses a “That’s all she wrote” at the crowd before walking away. 

…But that’s not entirely true. Terry Malts has heaps of music waiting to bless your ears. After this treat of a performance, you know you want to check out the rest. Oh! and be sure to follow — #TerryMaltsLive. 

- Nikki Zambon

nikkizambon.com