Thursday, April 18, 2013
Better than: Savages' savagery at the Independent?
Thursday night at the Knockout, Mallard leader Greer McGettrick took stage and asked the sound engineer, "Can you make it sound like I'm in a cave?" He did, but the Mallard's final performance achieved that effect itself. The urgent and clamorous set drew heavily from the Mallard's forthcoming sophomore album, but the group is now broken up and won't perform to support its release. The Mallard retreated too deeply into its cave and expired. Deprived of light and indulging darkness with dissonance and cataclysm, the band's final show affirmed the Mallard's evolution into a savage live outfit that will be dearly missed.
The Mallard's swan song is not on the forthcoming album. Not for a band whose evolution as a live act won its followers. The Mallard's finale was the last track the band performed onstage Thursday. Live, with human fingers manipulating resonant material amplified by electricity, how the artform of rock is completed -- the Mallard rests there. Considering the crowd's riotous response, rock's grand dichotomy -- in which performers exorcise frustration in song and an audience visibly relishes the display -- was in full effect. Guitarist Dylan Tidyman-Jones shuffled in a pool of beer and stomped pedals indiscriminately during the many instrumental passages. His face was stoic and resolute while McGettrick writhed and swatted her guitar. From a foot behind the microphone, the furthest chamber of her cave, McGettrick shouted invectives and imagery above skittish beats and brooding noise.
The crowd thrust in every direction and defied the stereotype of too-cool-to-move urban showgoers. For the last song, McGettrick offered her guitar to the crowd and refused to take it back. Instead, she joined the audience. Mingling with attendees and still raving, McGettrick absorbed the Knockout for the last time as Mallard leader, seemingly making amends and bidding good riddance at once. Similarly, the group rushed most of its songs into impressive tempos. Whether the members were hurrying to finish or possessed by the crowd's response isn't clear. Regardless, the elusive alchemy when a rock band locks into a groove and explores the foundation's crevices for the most expressive flourish or outburst defined the evening. In between, McGettrick conjured noisy segues and spoke little, except to emphatically thank the openers.
McGettrick claims her lyrics are unimportant, but communication is essential, and her visceral performance explained everything at once to an enraptured crowd. It explained that bands in San Francisco ebb and flow like the tides, dictated by the will of the moon. But the Mallard washed into a cave, adapted to its environment, and emerged a supremely evolved organism. There's a legacy of San Francisco rock groups with brief careers narrowly bookended by singularity and volatility. Last week the Mallard joined that lineage.
Openers: McGettrick selected some of her favorite local groups to open The Mallard's final show and profusely thanked them during the set. The lineup was diverse, spanning Lenz's futuristic rock, Synthetic ID's angular post-punk, and pastoral, propulsive pop from Pure Bliss.