Thank You Scientist outshined by openers

Thank You Scientist's saxophone player blares on stage amid wash of red light.
Venus Edlin / The Log

Thank You Scientist and supporting acts Art Thief and Strawberry Girls came to Portland’s Mississippi Studios on  June 14. The progressive rock band was well admired by fans, however the openers out shadowed their performance.

My initial hesitations came when entering the 21+ venue and seeing a crowd full of bearded hipster men – nothing against the type, we just tend to have different tastes in music. However, Art Thief surprised me immediately. While music services categorize the band as alternative/indie, they have a heavier sound with elements of prog, funk and ska. The most standout element was Sam Smith and Am Berretta’s synchronized vocals that are vaguely reminiscent of early Girlpool.

Art Thief’s set included songs like “Alley Cats” and “Weed is Tight” from their 2021 album “Tough Crowd,” though that night’s crowd seemed to be putty in their hands. The songs shifted from more serious tracks to the comedic and indulgent lyrics of “Weed is Tight” such as “I just want to smoke weed with my friends after school/ And be high, and be cool, just like the cool kids do.” It was a healthy reminder that not every song has to be serious, but can rock just as hard. Art Thief closed out their set with a cover of “Closer” by Nine Inch Nails, my personal highlight of the night. 

After a short tech setup, Strawberry Girls took the stage – without traditional vocal microphones. The band’s set was nearly entirely instrumental,  showcasing each member’s multi-instrumental talents and dexterity. The best moments of the band’s set was when singular members were focused on for a solo, allowing the complicated time signatures of their math rock style to shine. While Art Thief’s whimsy and sound still appealed to me more, Strawberry Girls was an excellent addition to the line up.

Next, headliners Thank You Scientist took the stage. The nine piece prog rock ensemble was interesting, featuring an electric mandolin and saxophone. It was clear that they were favorites of the crowd, as fans rushed to the front and cheers of adoration continued through the course of the set. However, I was not as impressed as the band has become stale since its 2012-16 peak.

In between songs, lead singer Salvatore Marrano bemused the mic with troubling comments about alcohol. While a comment or two about the whiskey you are enjoying on stage is understandable, it is concerning when there is a comment about getting wasted between every song, clear drunkenness and a break between the set to get more. To top it off Marrano was straight up bitter and mean to the audience at times, with targeted comments that passed the line of playful jabs. 

Honestly, Thank You Scientist was at its best when it was purely instrumental, without the nasally, damaged-sounding vocals from Marrano. However, the highlight of their set was the last song, which was a cover of “Toxic” by Britney Spears. The prog instrumentals made the cover feel fresh and with the assistance of a vocal filter on Marrano’s mic, the lyrics were interesting to listen to. Though the set closed out on a high note, I did not stay for the encore.

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