It’s been 15 years since I said farewell to my Bay Area homeland and set out for Colorado. After checking out the line up of bands set to perform at the inaugural showcase of Bay Area bands, sponsored by Balanced Breakfast and the Recording Academy at this year’s Underground Music Showcase, the Bay's music is just as diverse and spirited, as dark and gritty, and as subdued and haunting as ever.
In addition to the Balanced Breakfast showcase that takes place Sunday, July 31st at Skylark from noon to 5pm, each of the acts are playing other UMS slots during the festival.
The word “fuzz” gets tossed around quite a bit these days in regards to many punk inspired indie rock bands that cross the blurred lines in the sub-genre wasteland of the underground. This adjective couldn’t be more apt to use when describing the debut album from the Bay Area’s punk trio POW! Filled with short form, quick firing gems, this debut is packed with fuzzy, old tube-amp crunchiness, and lyrics about the decay of their city and the crumbling world around them. This collage is the essence of the POW! debut LP, Hi-Tech Boom.
Quite to the contrary, for this show at the Warfield in San Francisco, The Walkmen clan is astutely dressed in slacks, button up shirts with ties, and even the occasional blazer. The stage is lit simply and softly. It looks like a scene from Dead Poets Society, in which the boys are gathered for a clandestine late-night meeting in a Wellesley dorm room.
These guys certainly look more like law students than a rock band; in fact, one audience member declared, "Well, clearly at least one of these guys studied English Lit with a minor in art history."
Fresh off their weekend at Coachella, Does It Offend You, Yeah? arrive to a rather sparse, but highly energetic reception at Slim’s in San Francisco. The turnout is probably partly to blame on their set being at the barely rock-o’clock hour of 9pm. Considering that this is a two-band bill (with Yo Majesty the headliner), one would expect a later start.
A bit more of a crowd had gathered by the time the boys took the stage after a twenty minute push-back, presumably for the room to fill. Drummer, Rob Bloomfield is strangely missing as the band begins. The band intruduces themselves to a rousing applause, and someone yells, “You guy were great at Coachella!” Singer/bassist, James Rushent replies in his British accent “Thanks.. Before they begin, someone else yells, “Tell us a story about Coachella,” and all Rushent has to say is, “Portishead stole the show.”
At the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco, the stage is dark and empty, and has been long enough that the audience, freshly energized by an amazing set from Pierced Arrows (ex-members of Dead Moon) is starting to fidget with urgency. Finally someone walks on stage and begins to set up the drums with a meticulous knowledge. His thoroughness is kind of amazing for a drum tech; and suddenly it makes perfect sense: this is not a drum tech at all but rather Black Lips actual drummer, Joe Bradley.
The rest of the band gradually gathers on the stage, each setting up his equipment unassisted. Even more hands-on, the band consults with the house sound guy throughout the show, tweaking different elements for each song. For a band who has sold out this 600 capacity venue, they keep a very small and tight (and smart) operation.
Tonight’s entertainment is provided by DJ Handlebars, a veteran entertainer at Pop’s Bar, spinning endless rock and punk classics from every era. The party-goers are a cross-section of Pop’s regulars who’ve drifted over, and a whole lot of new faces, including quite a number of girls kissing girls (which was not so noted in Thee Parkside’s old incarnation). Hot dogs and various accompaniments are grilled on the expansive back patio, and revelers keep both the indoor and outdoor bars busy. With a full kitchen presumed to be re-opening as well, it’s going to be exciting to see what comes for this budding nightspot.