Live Review: Surfer Blood Catches a Sold-Out Wave at The Rickshaw Stop

Surfer Blood
Talking in Tongues
Hot Flash Heat Wave
The Rickshaw Stop
February 26, 2015

Better than: Surfing in a wetsuit off the frigid coast of Northern California.

Noise Pop 2015 is in full swing, and this writer is completely immersed in the revelry and debauchery encouraged by such things as happy hours at Bender's sponsored by Different Fur Studios. Seriously, if you want a completely sober recollection of what happened last night consult the Church of Mormon, because after a few free Jamesons and some $3 Lagunitas, anything can and will happen. Alas, I've been enlisted to recollect an amazing show at Rickshaw Stop, complete with local favorites, touring bands and Canadian imports that left the audience wanting and needing more; so it goes…

[jump] Hot Flash Heat Wave started off the night with a lighthearted set that for a moment made everyone forget they had to pay too much to live in San Francisco. Living in Oakland (and writing this review on the last BART train home), I was able to thoroughly enjoy every minute of their sun-glazed brand of garage/surf rock. Complete with crowd favorites such as “Hesitation” (I love that song), “Jacuzzi” and “Gutter Girl,” the Hot Flash dudes crooned through a performance that had audience members screaming for nakedness and more. Blown up beach balls, left over from a video shoot, bounced around the crowd as Nick, Nathaniel, Ted and Adam cruised through an encompassing armada of songs that harkened to the bands college-days roots while exploiting their newly forged songwriting craft. Standing next to manager Katie and photographer Bailey, I was able to fully enjoy the set as both a lover of music and a connoisseur privy to the best and brightest new talent that the Bay has to offer.

Talking In Tongues was next, taking the tempo down half a notch while drawing the crowd in closer to their personal approach to shoegaze and indie rock. The Los Angeles foursome ran through a crashing crescendo of music that enlivened the audience and echoed with flanging intensity off the padded walls of the venue, vamping three-chord progressions and driving drumbeats that would have lifted the lowliest life forms from the depths of the ocean onto the oasis of turf jutting out of the San Francisco Bay. Unconventional but just short of revolutionary, the effects-drenched refrains shimmered like a mirage in the desert, beckoning the thirsty music fan in close without providing that precious life-giving water. Parched but placated, the crowd stirred like a bee hive ready for the next act.
Vancouver exports Bestie were up next, whose enthusiasm and stage charisma cannot be overstated. Excited to be in San Francisco (this was their second time ever performing in America), their giddiness was palpable and translated into a participatory set that had everyone in the room involved along with the natural high. Chewing through a food-themed set list that featured such danceable ham jams as “Pineapple” and “Sriracha,” the Canadian jammers brought all the energy of the vetoed Keystone pipeline into the processing plants of Hayes Valley. Lead microphone holder Tristan Orchard, himself a figure in the music community of in his native Vancouver, proved that he could navigate the roads of stagecraft better than most, making eye contact with the front row and bending down to issue a few hugs here and there. For a band that shares a name with a German rap group and a Korean pop band, Bestie set themselves apart from the crowd with an impassioned offering of dream pop and proto-disco bubbling.
Surfer Blood didn't fail to deliver a raucous headlining salvo of crowd favorites and new tracks from their latest album. Punchy guitar lines and Rivers Cuomo-esque vocals solidified the band's niche as clever post-punk revivalists, causing the sold-out crowd to bend in the breeze blowing from the air ducts above the stage. Awash in red and blue hues, the band caught waves of rhythm and rode noodling guitar crests safely to shore, sinking into the syncopated sands of snare pops and vocals from frontman John Paul Pitts. Like a shark stalking its prey, they swam, taking advantage of the chum in the water while never giving the crowd the feeling that they needed a bigger boat. “Say Yes” and the closing track of their initial set “Anchorage” were highlights, and when the band returned on stage for an encore casual fans trickled out as diehards crowed the stage.

In between drags of a cigarette outside I chatted with photographers and writers from Pitchfork, Billboard, and The Fader, some of whom moved here from New York and all agreed that San Francisco had a decent music scene. A sold-out Noise Pop Wednesday is a good indicator of the strength of our music community, even if some people were there just to prove to their followers that they cared about it. All things being equal — 10 out of 10 would Noise Pop again.

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