Nathan Blum, one fourth of Excelsior-incubated Hot Flash Heat Wave, has never been to Outside Lands.
Unless, that is, you count an incident two years ago when he and guitarist Adam Abildgaard tried sneaking in, only to be tackled by a dozen 300-pound men. Whisky may calm the nerves, but too much inspires overconfidence, which they learned the hard way.
“One second I was running and the next, my face was in dust,” Blum says. “We were really stupid.”
That was then. This week, the band has just left Boston for Toronto, with a pit stop in Niagara Falls, on its first full-fledged national tour. Next Sunday, they’ll head west to play on the same stage as Janet Jackson in Golden Gate Park — no attempted bypassing of festival guards necessary.
Hot Flash Heat Wave released its debut album Neapolitan in 2015 and followed up with Soaked in 2017. Bloom feels that the national tour has shown they finally reached an equilibrium of putting on a show that keeps the dreamy indie rock sound first-rate while demonstrably having fun.
“We compromised one for another,” Blum says of prior points in the band’s careers. “For the first time I feel super-confident in the sound and the performance.”
But even as the three-year-old Hot Flash Heat Wave has an in with its adopted hometown’s biggest music festival, all but one member has left San Francisco. Having stood out as a band that could make life in the city work, they’ve now joined the artist exodus — although not entirely for financial reasons.
The group shared a rent-controlled house in the Excelsior, where Bloom says drummer Nick Duffy still lives. As fellow musician friends slowly trickled out of the city, beckoned by a new scene in Los Angeles or New York, a busier touring schedule brought several members of Hot Flash Heat Wave back to Davis, Calif. — where they all went to high school — between gigs.
“It was a choice that related to a lot of other people getting forced out,” Blum says, adding that San Francisco “is still very much a place we think of as our hometown.”
But Blum is tired of talking about artists struggling to stay in the city. He just wants to go where “the universe’s energy” pushes him, something the song “Glo Ride” captures.
“It’s kinda like when life is taking you in a certain direction and rather than question it or overthinking it, be at peace with the moment,” Blum says.
Like many of the group’s videos, it simultaneously embraces the absurd and the mundane. In one shot, Blum croons while holding a pitchfork with a horse in the background, and the next shot lingers on him showering in the same cowboy hat he just had on.
“Raindrop” goes full San Francisco-psychedelic as the band eats flowers and drives a DIY go-kart around San Francisco, while “San Francisco Dating Life” flashes a swirling hot dog covered in glitter, and “Gold Years” shows them dressed as wizards and making a potion. Much of this is their Tim & Eric-inspired vision, realized.
“I feel like we all just goof around a lot as a band,” Blum says. “When we’re making videos, we just, I don’t know, make funny shit.”
They may not live together at the moment, but it’s hard not to get the sense that they do.
Hot Flash Heat Wave, Sunday, Aug. 12, 1:20-2 p.m., at the Panhandle Stage.
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