For Surf Curse, there is no hierarchy of sound. Founding members Nick Rattigan and Jacob Rubeck may be the most familiar faces, but when all four members line the front of the stage, their energy rushes forth in a collective wave.
Since Surf Curse first formed in 2013, the band’s punk-infused surf rock has evolved into something more “milky” and mature. With the addition of bassist Henry Dillon and guitarist Noah Kholl, Surf Curse’s music has more fully filled out while retaining the abrasive texture of its previous projects.
On the night of Oct. 16, Surf Curse made a splash at The Warfield with songs both new and old. As tracks from its latest album Magic Hour, released Oct. 7, flowed into bonafide hits such as “Freaks” and “Disco,” Rattigan and Rubeck proved they’re still the beloved band of the 2010s — the surf only gets stronger with time.
The four musicians entered to playful, funky music before stationing themselves at the mic stands lining the front of the stage, Rattigan taking a seat at his central drum kit. As they harmonized “Hello” and “Hey,” watery lights projected against the backdrop, rippling over a monochrome skeleton paddling through the clouds. Then, like the shorebreak crashing against the sand, they sent their impetuous sound barrelling through The Warfield.
Though most bands place the drum set in the back, Rattigan’s position front and center called attention to the Surf Curse’s raw percussive energy. As he sang “All is Lost,” he looked wistfully toward the ceiling before thrashing back down on the drums. Each movement emotive and uninhibited, his energy spilled copiously out into the crowd.
Wading through steady basslines, Magic Hour standout “Self Portrait” eventually crested with coarse screams and gritty guitar riffs. Though the tune mellowed during the bridge, Rattigan’s vocal and rhythmic delivery pulsed with unabated verve, placing unexpected accents on the track.
Occasionally, Rubeck would make his way closer to Rattigan’s drum set, the two showing off their close-as-ever fraternal bond. Meanwhile, Kholl and Dillon’s performances remained much more understated; they kept their heads down and even turned their backs to the audience as they casually rocked along to the beat.
Though songs crashed one after the other with few lulls in-between, the band members still found time for witty banter between themselves and with the audience. “This is about the time in the show where my shoe comes off,” Nick said after an upbeat performance of “In My Head Till I’m Dead.” “I know I could re-tie it, but it just keeps coming off.”
From there, the band dove straight into “Heathers,” sung from the perspective of Winona Ryder’s character Veronica Sawyer in the 1989 film of the same name. While the 2013 track bleeds pure indie rock, Surf Curse elongated the bridge into a dreamy, instrumental interlude. As the audience awaited the angsty set of “ohs,” it couldn’t help but surrender to the purple-tinted flash rip.
Per the band’s name, a flurry of crowd surfers comes as no surprise. However, Surf Curse encouraged audience members to “be mindful,” and it frequently checked up on how everyone was doing. After “TVI,” stage hands came to the front of the stage to throw water bottles out to the never-tired members of the mosh pit.
Surf Curse’s sound remains ever-fresh, but the band is still mindful of its predecessors. Before playing “Lost Honor,” Rubeck and Kholl joked that Jerry Garcia — who frequented The Warfield before his death — hovered in the mist above them. “We love the Grateful Dead,” they remarked as they dedicated the song to its late frontman.
Between a stagehand diving into the crowd during “Freaks” and Rattigan leaving his drum set to dance in front of the crowd during “Disco,” Surf Curse closed the night with an air of pure play. Whether it’s 2013 or 2022, a two-piece set or a full band, Surf Curse shreds harder than ever — its sound echoing through audiences’ heads till they’re dead.