“Holy shit! San! Fran! Cisco! Oh my God. Well, I may be really fucking tired… I danced my ass off! I have sit down so I don’t have a heart attack! … just in case you missed what we were trying to say… San Francisco, you are fucking amazing!” MisterWives’ Mandy Lee, after coming back on stage for their encore, taking a seat behind the drum kit. That encore opened with a “fucking amazing” cover of “Uptown Funk”. This is the moment where they really showed off how each member of the group is an exceptional musician, as they went through an extended jam session that really showcased their music talents and ability to intuitively wander about a song and squeeze every last bit of sonic confection out of it. I first saw the New York pop band performing as part of the KNPB television series, Cargo Live at Whitney Peak Hotel in Reno, and came away feeling that it was a band destined for a very bright future. That feeling was cemented Thursday night, as they have matured even more as a live act. Their debut album, Our Own House, has since been released, and fueled them through an hour and a half show. The theme of the night, for them, seemed to be an earnest love for The City by the Bay, with Mandy becoming choked up at the love being showered onto the band throughout the concert. They are definitely a young act with much larger stages waiting for them in the not too distant future, as long as they keep on doing what they are doing.
“I’d like to thank our two friends down here who have been down here all day; it was crazy for us to have any of you here in San Francisco all the way from London…” Ellie Rowsell’s gratitude expressed to the two Wolf Alice fans who came a long way to see the UK alternative four piece play in the U.S. I’d just seen their show at Popscene in San Francisco only three months ago, and I could not wait to catch another one of their dynamic live concerts. Having since had an opportunity to get schooled in their music released to date, I have found Wolf Alice to be one of the most exciting newer bands recording and performing today. With their debut album – My Love Is Cool – due next month, I am confident that their music will propel them to greater success and larger stages. They have a real set of gifts and talents with their songwriting and originality, and the contemporary yet timelessness of their music which features some touches and influences that span many disparate music genres and eras. They are the real deal.
“My only birthday wish is to fucking bring the house down……” MS MR playing Popscene at Rickshaw Stop on Thursday night, being a traditional Popscene show that runs late into the night, it literally became Lizzy Plapinger’s birthday at some point during the show. When, exactly, was anybody’s guess, as she and her partner, Max Hershenow, blasted through hit songs and songs yet to be released at the sold out show in San Francisco. Keeping with the duality of their performing and recording name, the old and the new songs split the exactly hour long set in about in half, giving fans a preview of the upcoming sophomore album, due out in July on Columbia Records. MS MR easily sold out two shows at the much larger Fillmore last year (see past review), so it was special seeing them playing a smaller, intimate venue. The new music is fantastic, and shows a lot of growth for the duo as the expand their musical horizons. I ranked their debut, Secondhand Rapture, as my favorite album of 2013, so I really look forward to seeing how the studio versions of the full album measure up to the brilliant Popscene show this past week.
“It’s so wonderful to be back in San Francisco. It’s wonderful to be back in America, because actually the title of the record – How Big How Blue How Beautiful – was inspired by the American sky. It was actually, in a text message… I sent – I don’t want to break the mystery of it – but I sent to someone I really cared about a lot. And this song was written about that time. And about just how everything seemed endless, and beautiful, and that the world was a magical place. And then if you hear the rest of the record, you may be able to tell that things got a bit… muh… but still, I feel like you come back to this feeling, always.” Florence Welch of Florence + The Machine, providing an introduction to the title song of the upcoming album due out in June. Playing two back-to-back shows at The Masonic in San Francisco, it was not only a set of concerts with new music, but seemingly a Florence with a bit of a different feeling. I was lucky enough to catch two of their shows in 2012 (at the Mondavi Center in Davis and at the Hollywood Bowl), and the Florence I saw performing this week encompassed what I came to expect (an intense and phenomenal performer), but with flourishes of more joy than I’ve seen previously. It made for even more captivating shows, as her and her incredible group of artists truly put on a masterful performance, with a mix of familiar and new. I obviously attend a lot of concerts every year, but Florence + The Machine is one of the very few that can give me that adrenaline rush and tingle down my spine throughout – a real feat. Being fortunate enough to attend both shows this week, while the set list was the same, the shows each had there own character, energy, and vibe. With the preview of the new album, and the quality of the songs, it would appear that the band hasn’t hit any ceilings yet in terms of their gifts, talents and abilities, and I expect them to continue to soar in that big blue sky that Ms. Welch is so fond of… in studio or on stage, they remain one of the top musical artists active today. [Read more…]
“San Francisco. It’s been a while.” Ronny Moorings, to what appeared to be a sold out crowd at DNA Lounge on Thursday night, with Clan of Xymox’s first show in Northern California in over a decade. Ronny founded Xymox/Clan of Xymox in the Netherlands in 1981, and remains the sole original member, singing all of the vocals as well as playing guitar. A pioneer of Darkwave music, the mix of Synth Wave, Post-Punk, and Gothic Rock had it’s golden age in the 80s among contemporaries like Bauhaus, Joy Division, The Cure, Sisters of Mercy, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Cocteau Twins, and Depeche Mode. A rare visit not only the San Francisco, but the U.S. in general, this was one of just a few shows in California this week. With a playlist featuring classic and new Xymox songs, it was an incredible showcase of a unique style of music that Ronny has kept alive and relevant for over three decades now.
“We’ve got a couple more for you… party on, Friday night!” Ellie Rowsell’s preface leading into Wolf Alice’s encore at the sold out show at Popscene at Rickshaw Stop on Friday night in San Francisco. The alternative band from London put on a blazing show at a rare headlining stop in the U.S. on their way to SXSW. A relatively newer band, their debut album, My Love Is Cool, is due in June, and already they seemed destined for much bigger venues. I would be surprised to see them on a steep upward trajectory over 2015. While the four members skew quite young, they exude maturity and confidence in their music, and as great as their EPs released thus far sound, their music seems fashioned to excel in a live setting even more than the studio recordings. Even though they didn’t move around too much on the stage during their set, their music moved the crowd and they are one of the most exciting bands to come along in recent years. Definitely ones to watch, and to catch live if you get the opportunity.
“If I was rich, I’d live here…” The modest Georgia Nott, chatting in-between songs about the beautiful houses she’d seen in San Francisco earlier in the day, at their sold out show at The Regency Ballroom Saturday night. It was a big step up in size from the shows I’d attended last year. Accompanied as always with her brother Caleb and touring drummer Joel Farland, it was indeed a much bigger stage this time around, which they filled with ease with their authentic set of fantastic pop music fueled by incredible melodies and heartfelt, thoughtful lyrics (and of course those soaring vocals!). Dubbed “The Evergreen Tour”, they are supporting their solid debut album released last year (which I ranked in my own Top Ten Albums of 2014). The kiwi duo are so young that I’m really excited to continue to follow them to see where their gifts take them next. I expect checking in on them in 2016, we will see them take on even larger stages and venues. One of the best new artists of this era, and they put on a fantastic live show – my highest recommendation.
“Is that the only pair of panties we’re going to get tonight?” Lisa Light, remarking on the underwear tossed at her co-vocalist and guitarist Scott Blonde of The Lovemakers at Popscene at Rickshaw Stop in San Francisco Friday night, as part of their “My Bloody Valentine’s Day Party on Friday the 13th of February”. The band seem to have a special relationship with the annual romantic holiday, though looking around it seemed to have turned out more singles looking for fulfillment than happily coupled couples. Building on their 2014 reunion, the band seems at it’s best live and on stage, literally pouring water on their hot and sultry style of retro pop and dance music. The Lovemakers were supported with a blazing set by Beginners, who came up from their home in Los Angeles. Filling in with fantastic DJ sets were Popscene’s Aaron Axelsen and Omar.
“San!!! Fran!!! Cisco!!!” A city turned into a three-word chant by Jules De Martino, he and the other half of The Ting Tings duo Katie White aren’t the type to chit chat too much in-between songs at their live shows, but they certainly know how to get a place jumping. And that’s just what they did at the sold out show at Popscene at Rickshaw Stop on Friday night. The Ting Tings haven’t passed through on a tour since supporting their sophomore album, Songs from Nowheresville, in 2012 (see my review of that show at The Fillmore), and this latest gig was even more of a special occasion since they aren’t hitting but a handful of cities on this front end of touring in 2015 (and the dates in play are predominantly in California). Their newly released third studio album, Super Critical, just came out late last year via their successful PledgeMusic campaign. Co-produced by original Duran Duran guitarist Andy Taylor, the album pivots them into a different direction, though with their trademark infectious and experimental sound and energy. The show Friday night was amazing, and illustrated how the band puts a lot of thought and attention into creating a live show that refashions their music a bit with each outing, keeping it all fresh and exciting for the crowds they turn out. I loved every second of it, and while it was a full set, they left me wanting more, but I’ll get that at their follow-up show in Sacramento… one of those rare bands who inspire me to follow them around a bit.
“All I was trying to say was, that it means a lot to us the day after Christmas that San Francisco shows up… I’m serious; thanks so very much for that… and I say like this… ‘Are You Satisfied?‘…” Jordan Cook, AKA Reignwolf, standing on the kick drum that he dropped into the audience at sold out show at The Independent, before throwing down with his signature anthem that somehow showcases what he is all about – authentic rock and roll. I first saw Reignwolf opening for the Pixies in Los Angeles in 2013, and I have been raving about him since, to anyone who will listen. It’s been more than a year, but Friday night in San Francisco I finally got to witness him and his band do their own headlining show, and it was even better than I imagined (and I went in expecting it to be one of the best shows of the year). The man has such gifts, and taps into them with ease. The only other artist I’ve seen live that has that same mix of innate improvisational ability and also has more music in him than can maybe come out through the traditional instruments of rock and roll is Prince. Since seeing Reignwolf more than a year ago, I’ve been certain that he is destined to be one of our generation’s top rock stars, and I am as sure of that then ever after his show this weekend. It’s really just a matter of how soon he debuts a full album and how long it will take the rest of the world to catch up to this brilliant talent. Needless to say, the concert was phenomenal, and those who didn’t make it out the day after Christmas maybe missed the greatest gift of all.