Thao with the Get Down Stay Down; the Thermals at Detroit Bar, Costa Mesa

The Show: With red, semi-acoustic guitar, Nguyen performed a commanding set full of spirited and world-weary songs from her last two records. “Goodbye Good Luck,” with its cathartic salvos and sing-song verses, transferred well to a live setting, where audience members could participate in the music-making. In an unexpected turn, Nguyen removed her guitar and began beatboxing before breaking out into her most popular single, “Bag of Hammers.” Drummer Willis Thompson, after a frenzied solo, shared percussive duties with the vocalist, who chimed in with dueling cymbals. Throughout the set, Nguyen charmed the audience with her cute (but tough) demeanor, sipping whiskey between songs and tossing off jokes.

The Thermals finished the night with a performance that should've allayed any fears that they've entirely given up their basement punk origins. The power trio kept it simple with minimal chord changes and pop melodies that maintained their edge without giving way to staleness. Sure, the songs didn't sound all that much distinguishable outside singer Hutch Harris' incendiary vocals. Variety's not exactly the point with the Thermals. With high-energy showmanship, the band burst through the set with the occasional slow-burning anthem to pace themselves.

The Crowd: The audience during both sets seemed to be familiar with the bands' catalog, singing along to the lyrics and applauding at the start of every single. Every other guy and girl also seemed unembarassed to admit their crushes on Nguyen, whose performance likely earned her many new fans. The Thermals, who have enjoyed a steady following, played to a familiar, adoring crowd with huddled, sweaty bodies moshing near the front row.

Overheard: “No, tonight is the night we won't play 'Stairway to Heaven,'” said Thao Nguyen.