Ahead of the massive crowd gathering outside of El Rey Theatre, I quickly find my spot up against the stage. As the crowd fills in, I chat with another photographer about shows we recently covered, camera gear, and expectations for tonight’s show. Neither of us have seen any of these bands live, so needless to say, we are in for a surprise no matter what happens.

   The curtains open to Robert Tilden and his band BOYO. Their chill, fuzz-pop set is complemented by a stage drowning in soft colors, as well as a plant at center stage, almost as if it was a member of the band. The crowd begins to match the atmosphere that BOYO sets up. As strange as it sounds, every member of the audience mirrors the role of the plant; everyone is part of the show.

    The next band is Palm Reader, who has not played a live show in about 3 years. Tonight is a reunion for them, and it was clear many have been missing their performance. The curtains reopen and the crowd becomes electric. The excitement of playing live for the first time in years, and the force of their fast pace, heavy songs are reflected back at them from the crowd. I am thrown against the stage from moshing and kicked in the head a few times by stage divers, but it fits the feel of their set: aggressive and unstoppable.

    After a long wait the curtains open for the last time, the crowd cheers, and the party starts. Surf Curse’s crowded stage is littered with not only Nick Rattigan and Jacob Rubeck, but a few other band members, a bunch of friends, and tons of colorful balloons scattered throughout. SURF CURSE is spelled out at the back of the stage in huge, shimmering gold letters. Here to celebrate, and they get right to it. They kick off their thumping and thrashy surf punk set, and are met with an equally thumping and thrashy crowd. Just like their openers, Surf Curse creates a mood with their presence and music, and the crowd feeds off of their energy. There is a consistent pace of people coming on stage and dancing with the band (sometimes giving Jacob a peck on the cheek), before launching themselves back into the sea of people whence they came. While Jacob and Nick scream their lyrics into their mics, the crowd screams them right back. Right in the heart of this hectic crowd, my photographer friend and I struggle to protect our camera gear from flying stage divers and erratic moshers. It could not be more fun. The bruised ribs and slight concussion are well worth it.

    With the curtains closing, so does my exhilarating introduction to these bands. I have been to a lot of shows, but I have never seen a band more in tune with their audience. This same connection was true for all the bands that night. BOYO was chill. Palm Reader was an adrenaline rush. And Surf Curse was a party.