By ANGELA ZIMMERMAN
On and On
January 31, 2013
Better than: Hearing "Kites" on the radio or "Verona" through headphones.
Geographer came home last night after a month on the road, and San Francisco embraced the band with eager and earnest arms. From Portland to Boise, Austin to Oklahoma, over the past month the trio made its way through various stops in the Midwest and West Coast, playing intimate clubs and larger rooms, selling out many. But it was only last night at the Fillmore -- in the belly of San Francisco, in the heart of the city's hallowed live music hall -- that Geographer was finally home. And they broke out some extras goodies to celebrate.
For one, they played with a string quartet. The Magik*Magik quartet sat in on five songs about halfway through the set, and the musicians' stirring string arrangements gracefully complemented Nathan Blatz's already awesome electric cello, like they were just standing by to give a special occasion lift. The final collaboration was a beautiful version of Kate Bush's "Cloudbusting," which they recently recorded and released as a free download.
After the Magik*Magik guests left the stage, singer/multi-instrumentalist Mike Deni said, "Alright, let's get down to business!" and then the band members really picked it up, an extra spring in their delivery, filling the high ceilings with a lush onslaught of sound. (You could sense them settling into the home stretch after long days on the road). Deni's voice sounded so fluid, soaring from earthy lows to high falsetto. Drummer Brian Ostreicher held the songs down by their spines, his pulsing rhythms countering all the high-flying vocals and synthy textures.
Though it's those rich and searching textures that perhaps define much of Geographer's catalog, one highlight of last night was the spare acoustic rendition of "Rushing In, Rushing Out" from their 2008 debut full-length, Innocent Ghosts, performed by Deni alone. Hearing the track stripped down to its bare melody made everyone in the room (even the exceptionally chatty ones) stop gabbing and watch, transfixed.
Deni became more and more amped as the show went on, climbing the side stage up to the balcony where apparently he had family from New Jersey; engaging the front row audience with hand-grabs in true rock-star style; stage-diving and crowd surfing during the band's last song, "Kites."
"Kites" was Geographer's first big hit, and it's a song a lot of people know in San Francisco. It was definitely well-known at the Fillmore last night. When the band struck up its opening sequence, kids who'd been loitering in the hallway or heading to the bathroom came barreling back into the room, full speed, plowing into anyone and everyone to push up to the front to hear "Kites" up close.
Early on, Deni had bantered with the audience, asking everyone to yell out their hometowns, after which he said, "Well, I grew up in New Jersey, and when I was growing up I never thought I'd see myself here. I may not have ended up where I thought I was looking, but instead I ended up with this here, tonight."
Judging by the rapturous applause that greeted him as the band kicked into what would be a 90-minute set, it was easy to believe that Geographer, arriving home to a sold-out show at the Fillmore, had indeed made it. Having eventually conceived of their definition of success, they followed it all over the place, across the country and back again, to end up here, at the Fillmore, dream in hand. And what a surreal moment, for them and us. We shared in the splendor of that success, and it was moving.
Opener: San Francisco's Midi Matilda may be merely a duo, but after a few songs into their set, it became clear they were more than a predictable drums and guitar pair. Much of that entertainment value came from the drummer's seriously awesome surprise dance moves.
When all-ages really means all-ages: Chatty teenagers and pensive old men stood alongside one another, all expectant ears. A neat cross-section of the city.
Pretty lights: The Fillmore usually has killer light shows, but casting Geographer in the club's vivid reds, yellows, blues, and greens brought the band's moody ambiance to a whole new level of visual spectacle.
I'll melt with you: It's easy to fall into the spell of Geographer, sinking into an abyss of hypnotic swirling sounds, but the soaring temperatures in the balcony made the notion of melting to the music all too possible.