The first two bands (local notables the Cartographers and aptly named Tallahassee duo Powerplant) played to maybe a dozen people. The crowd might grow a little, but Druggist begins unloading instruments knowing they’re playing to 20 people at best. The group, recently stripped down to a duo of Blake Cormier and Zach Dunlap, is augmented tonight by guitarist/bassist Stephen Oakes, drummer Mason Macias, and multi-instrumentalist Marcus Rubio.
Cormier sets up a bass, a keyboard, a cymbal, and a rack of various guitars. Rubio, dressed for the quirk-rock big leagues in a bed-sheet sari and Star Trek: The Next Generation tie, lugs a violin, a glockenspiel, and a microKorg, and spends the rest of the show attempting to bum a tambourine from the audience. The instruments onstage come dangerously close to outnumbering the people watching. Druggist rocks regardless. Emotive asteroid pop “Bad Touch/No Touch,” the crazy-diamond glitz of which is somewhat dulled by the muddy live sound, opens a set list of promising new material. Quarter-life crisis guilt trip “Hold on Son” sounds exactly as it should though, grungy and pissed off. Lead guitarist Dunlap, still relatively fresh behind the mic, provides vocals for about half the numbers. His voice is less polished than Cormier’s smooth tenor, but Dunlap seems to really feel what he’s singing tonight: His right hand, when not strumming, the guitar is gripping at the air in front of him, slowly clenching into a fist, then he closes his eyes. He wants the audience to feel this, too.
But most of San Antonio is home, or at least not here. Ike’s coming, so maybe they’re out raiding Wal-Mart for duct tape and plywood in the eerie calm before the promised storm that never came (at least not here). A very real humidity hangs heavy in the air, though. Rubio folds his sari into an apron. Macias peels off his shirt and dries sweat in front of the window-unit A/C. Druggist provides a perfect soundtrack for the weather’s pregnant-pause — cathartic gratification ever delayed and re-routed, kinked-hose aggression overflowing into glockenspiel riffs and synthesizer loops.