As people slowly flooded into the Chapel last night around 9 p.m. to see Hot Flash Heat Wave’s set, it was clear that the band, through their gnarly sense of humor and charming stage presence, held the audience’s attention in the palm of their hand.
Opening for PAPA, the local Excelsior-based garage-surf rock band burst through the gate with a rollicking rendition of “Homecoming,” clearly the most furious track from the quartet’s debut record Neapolitan. The track bridges the gap between the group’s lo-fi 2014 self-titled EP and September’s Neapolitan, which features much cleaner production and more three-part harmonies. According to guitarist and vocalist Adam Abildgaard, for their debut album, the band decided to stop “figuring out how to produce it, but how to just simplify the sound to take it to the next level.”
[jump] Whatever they’ve done, it’s worked. From the impossibly catchy Strokes-y guitar riff on “Bathroom Song,” to the harmonies on “Gutter Girl,” Neapolitan is one of the best sounding indie records of 2015, with lyrics that perfectly encapsulate the feeling of being a twenty-something in California.
Hot Flash Heat Wave is made up of guitarists Adam Abildgaard and Nathanial Blüm, bassist Ted Davis, and drummer Nick Duffy, all of whom are childhood friends from Davis. While they all went their separate ways for college and joined different bands – ranging from synth-pop group Dempsey to a UC-Berkeley jazz ensemble– the friends reunited in the sweaty Berkeley co-ops and fraternity basements to form Hot Flash Heat Wave, a project that has been evolving since 2010.
“We’re all pretty proud of what we do together and are all committed to making music and have a drive that I haven’t had in other groups,” explains bassist, Davis. “There’s something about band chemistry that’s really hard to hone in on, but with this group, it’s felt really good and we’ve been able to work through any obstacles that we’ve run into.”
Last night may have been the group’s first real show in about two months, but they showed little to no rust, spending much of the first half of their set running through Neapolitan.
But if you’re wondering where the band is going next, the second half of the show provided much more of a quick glimpse into the group’s 2016 plans as they played almost entirely new material. The new songs offer a much different approach to Hot Flash’s sound: One of the tracks was reminiscent of Mac DeMarco’s “Cooking Up Something Good,” while another sounded like something from Beach Fossils.
While they haven’t toured outside of the West Coast yet, the rest of the country (and the world) has started to take notice. National and international blogs like Consequence of Sound, Noisey, and Clash Music have all written about the band, meaning that they are no longer our local San Francisco secret anymore.
I last caught the band play a tiny show at Milk Bar in the Haight a couple years back and it’s incredible to see how far these guys have come. Give them a couple more years and who knows where they’ll be. But one thing is for sure: their egos, no matter how big or small they may be, will never get in the way of their music and live show. These childhood friends are so close that no matter what may happen in the near future, Hot Flash Heat Wave’s quirky humor and tight musicianship will never let anything get in the way of their fun and danceable live show.
Hot Flash Heat Wave plays at Slim's on Dec. 16 with Fritz Montana and Cemetery Son. More info here.