December 4, 2013
Swearin’, who took stage at the Rickshaw Stop on Monday night, is the band Pink Slip wanted to be. The Philadelphian/Brooklyn punk pop project of Allison Crutchfield packs all the appeal of a mainstream act with enough grit to still seem edgy. A. Crutchfield (in a Smashing Pumpkins shirt) is keenly aware. She’s clearly honed her voice to fit into the fuzzy bed of voluminous guitars while members Kyle Gilbride, Keith Spencer, and Jeff Bolt support. Gilbride also provided vocals on some tracks, like “Here to Hear,” which Swearin’ hit third.
Waxahatchee, led by Katie Crutchfield (and sister to Swearin’s Allison), headlined the evening. Katie’s sound is a sweeter counterpart to her sister’s, and surges and retreats with more earnest implications. The Crutchfields have made some serious strides since their last joint band, P.S. Eliot. Cerulean Salt, Waxahatchee’s release earlier this year, was warmly received for its devastating lines, recounting the details of growing up in a time where love is flawed and morality is fluid-—where ideals are dead and people grow up realizing the world isn’t gold.
Katie Crutchfield’s honest, dynamic presence settled into Waxahatchee’s sound nicely. Dealing the audience a cover of Mama Cass’ “Make Your Own Kind of Music,” which brilliantly complemented Cerulean Salt‘s main themes, K. Crutchfield dove into a more lighthearted recognition of independence and freedom.
Towards the end of Waxahatchee’s set, the Rickshaw Stop’s lights went out. While I have been to dozens of shows here, this was the first time I ever remember seeing this happen. The house turned on the stringed Christmas lights crossing the room’s ceiling and low stage lights as a substitute in the meantime, as Waxahatchee played on.
Though Katie was clearly uncomfortable (and even asked for the lights to be brought back on), they looked beautiful. It was unfussy–intimate, glowy and unadorned. It felt like a show no one else would see, if only briefly while the house readjusted their lights. It was as if any kind of sheen had been lifted, and Waxahatchee was telling us a secret, a truth no one else would know.
Cerulean Salt will surely be on many best-of lists this year, and their show at the Rickshaw proved why. Check out the album here, via NME.
San Francisco’s own Joyride, second billed after Crabapple, took stage after lead vocalist Jenna Marx introduced them. She is was playing double duty as the vocalist of both bands. Though the two bands had a very different vibe, Joyride was clearly the more polished of the two.
December 3, 2013
Last Tuesday, November 26, Santa Cruz noise rockers Comets on Fire played their first Oakland show in six years. The mighty Stranded Records managed to set it up at the fabulous White Horse Inn. Advance tickets sold out and there was a long line for tickets the evening of the show. The band formed in 1999 and disappeared in 2008. From Oakland they head to the UK for the All Tomorrows Parties festival. This was my first experience with the band.
Holy Echoplex! I have never see a band use an Echoplex (tape delay effect) with such enthusiasm. With multiple guitars blazing, they easily accomplished a wall of noise that filled the tiny White Horse. With little pause, the band burned through over an hour music that ran the gamut. My favorite moments sounded like Roky Erickson singing Neil Young’s “Danger Bird.” Low points veered into the feared jam band territory.
November 27, 2013
Last night, The Chapel may as well have been a spiritual gathering.
Julianna Barwick‘s vocal performance is shape-shifting, whether it’s in the high-ceilinged Austin church in which I first witnessed her live, or the moderate height of the open two-story interior of The Chapel. Although volume plays into it, the sounds she emits adapt to their container naturally. Weighing the options just here in San Francisco, I was relieved that the show ended up at The Chapel; it was well attended, but not packed – which led several audience members to sitting on the floor, some even meditating.
In Seattle, there’s a church that on Sunday nights hosts a choir that performs Gregorian chants. People of all backgrounds and ages crowd into the cathedral, using all the space available to stretch out on the floor or huddle in corners to listen to the choir. Regardless of one’s beliefs, it’s a moving experience that even brings some to tears. The voices fill up the space in such an arresting way that I hadn’t again felt until witnessing Barwick’s live performance.
Standing or sitting, observing Barwick’s set last night felt much like meditation. Her method of performing live invites you to concentrate on Barwick as she layers each track onto the previous loop. She uses the low end of her vocal chamber to build a base layer then varies her falsetto onto that, all while playing heavily reverberated piano. On this tour she is accompanied by a guitarist, who provided massive, oceanic swells in an amusing fashion – when the room was silent, you could hear the guitar strings being plucked before the volume knob was turned up in order for the guitar effect to be audible.
November 25, 2013
A little over a week ago, our Zack Frederick caught Lil B‘s show at the Regency Ballroom, about which he wrote:
Even after doors opened, a line wrapped up Van Ness and snaked down one of those wet, trashy side-alleys that run like veins into the Tenderloin. The kids were out en masse and buzzing with energy — weed smoke and echoing BASED GOD shouts hung in the alley. By the time The Pack, Lil B’s first rap group, who rose to fame with the Bay Area hit “Vans” (but they look like sneakers), finished warming up the crowd, I felt way too old and also very, very alive. Mosh pits began to form. People in the crowd literally knew every word of Lil B’s two hour set. The floor shook when Lil B launched into crowd pleasers like “Wonton Soup,” “Ellen Degeneres,” and “I’m God.” His between-song sermons on positivity, the West Coast, nerd thugs and #based lifestyle gave the crowd plenty to shout about while raising their hands in prayer. And the diverse crowd that represented close to every ethnicity in the Bay Area lent the concert a very real, no bullshit vibe, a sort of alternate universe where all the never-ending teenage drama ceases to exist when placed in the hands of this kind-of-brilliant, kind-of-insane Berkeley rapper named Lil B.
Enjoy this gallery of photos from Gary Magill for the full #BASED experience.
November 25, 2013
Photos by: Ryan McDonald
Before the headlining act took the stage, Sam Flax and his band stirred the crowd with a burning blend of synth-pop and guitar rock. With all members looking comfortable in ruby red lipstick, the band made their way through a setlist powered by both familiar and forgotten 1980s melodies. From the punchy riffs of “Everybody Wants,” to the slow-danceable “Almost Young,” the hazy songs from the group’s 2012 album Age Waves, translated perfectly in a live setting, maintaining a consistent level of shimmery pop laced with moments of psychedelia. In the most complimentary sense possible, Sam Flax could have easily played your high school prom night (or maybe your parents’ prom night), with his accessible pop overtones being off-kilter enough to inspire future music makers with the idea that you can make pretty music and still be a genuine weirdo. I’d love to see these guys play under all the shiny streamers at Make-Out Room, just to see this prom night fantasy come to life.
Fresh off of the release of Face the Sun, their second LP as a proper group, The Entrance Band graced The Chapel at the tail end of a month-long tour. Though the band opened for Mazzy Star at The Warfield only a handful of weeks ago, the three-piece outfit returned to the city for a headlining set filled with an endless stream of solos and commanding bass lines. Once he worked through sound issues with his amp, front-man and founder Guy Blakeslee led the show with an onslaught of licks, flourishes and killer dance moves. He ran in circles, pirouetted in both direction and kicked the air mechanically, all while maintaining his furious guitar work. One of his more powerful moments came when he dramatically declared, “When I’m dead and in my grave, no more good times will I crave,” before launching into a good-bad attitude version of “The Crave.”
While Blakeslee acts as the foundation of the band, bassist Paz Lenchatin adds in so much of her own flavor that it’s obvious the two artists orbit each other creatively and feed off of each other’s energy, from the way their different riffs weave in and out of each other to their synchronized hops. Lenchatin owns an understated infectious energy that fulfills the difficult task of balancing, counteracting and emphasizing Blakeslee’s psychedelic stylings with groovy bass lines, particularly on tracks like “Temptation,” “Fine Flow” and “No Needs.”
The Entrance Band made their way through some older tunes, notably “I Want You” and “Back in the City,” one of the many songs drummer Derek W. James switched a drum stick out for a maraca, but they kept the focus and attitude centered on their new record. Driven by the band’s journey out of dark times–the addiction and depression that is reflected clearly in songs like “Medicine”–the show was, like the album, ultimately an exhibition of The Entrance Band harnessing their own strength. And they pull it off to stunning, rock and roll effects.
November 25, 2013
Geographer is polished. The San Francisco trio, who had been on the road until last night’s final junction at Bimbo’s, played a flawless set to the hometown crowd. The group’s last release, Myth, swells with fatted synths and vocalist Michael Deni’s billowing wails. Played live, it cast the audience into a wallowing surge of Geographer’s textured tracks. Deni is striking — the frontman had an appropriately coltish jaunt onstage, despite the venue’s ill fit for their presence. Bimbo’s is beautiful, but a bit campy, which made Geographer’s set seem a bit out of place.
Nevertheless, this band is clearly practiced. Deni created his own loop for “Kaleidoscope” live, without much fuss, an indicator of their professionalism—-although they did not give a tired, unaffected impression. Cellist Nathan Blaz was focused and stoic. Drummer Brian Ostreicher engaged. They were present. They were home. And this San Francisco crowd was family.
November 22, 2013
The Flamin’ Groovies formed in San Francisco in 1965. Guitarist and vocalist Roy Loney left the band in ’71 and formed the Phantom Movers in ’79. Wednesday, the band played Oakland for the first time in more than 25 years. Like their first record (1969′s Supersnazz), the set included a wide mix of originals and covers. They played the Byrds’ “I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better” and paid particular tribute to the late great Gene Clark. Chuck Berry’s “Don’t You Lie to Me” and the Stones’ “Jumpin Jack Flash” came alongside originals like “Yes I Am” from 2008′s Jumpin’ in the Night and “I Can’t Hide” from 1976. The highlight of the evening, however, was a powerful version of “Shake Some Action.” Roy Loney returns with his Phantom Movers to the Stork Club on 1/18 with The Sloths and The Chuckleberrys.
Meanwhile in 1965 Hollywood, The Sloths played their first gig, mostly covers. The members of the band were 15-17 years old at the time. They recorded one 45 before breaking up in 1966. In the ’90s, the A-side, “Makin’ Love,” made its way onto the garage collection Back From the Grave Part 2, and the rest is history. My first encounter was in May 2012 at the Stork, and the set list hasn’t changed much. I ain’t complaining. Every band should open with Love’s genius “7 and 7 Is.”
November 21, 2013
Curling piano riffs and looming heartache fill the songs of Julia With Blue Jeans On, the latest LP from Canadian songwriter Spencer Krug, who performed Tuesday night under his Moonface moniker at the Swedish American Hall. Despite the relationship-under-a-microscope lyrical focus of his piano ballads, Krug was in good spirits — cracking jokes throughout the night with a shot of whiskey in hand. He was quick to point out he’d arrived late and started chugging whiskey, forcing the audience to sit and wait. When the crowd cheered, he smiled and sarcastically told us great work for applauding alcoholism. Still not ready to begin, he asked everyone to move around and take smoke breaks (“I’m going to be here awhile”) and joked about how the seated event felt far too formal for his piano talents (“I’m no concert pianist and I’m going to fuck up and you’re all going to hear it”).
Krug went on to play every song from Julia With Blue Jeans On, opening with the album highlight “Love the House You’re In,” which begins with a delicate right-hand riff and slides into a deep, soothing chorus. Before launching into “November 2011,” he jokingly invited the audience to leave the room if cheesy songs about love annoy them. Krug is nothing if not polite, boyish, and absolutely endearing. Watching him drunkenly lean into the piano to feel the deep bass vibrations or lean back and nail a twinkling piano riff added an emotional depth to the performance that only enhanced the songs over their recorded originals. Meanwhile, the thundering deep notes of “Everyone Is Noah, Everyone Is The Ark” produced a quiet storm in the hall with its bold, howling chorus — “I don’t know if I can call this home,” Krug cries during the song’s climax — and biblical lyrics.