NOISE POP NIGHT 4 :: 03/02/07
Words & Images by: Kayceman
Autolux, Snowden, Malajube
The Independent has quietly established itself as one of San Francisco's premier music venues. Not as vast or steeped in history as landmarks like The Fillmore and Great American, the Indi is a bit smaller, more localized, and has become a hotbed for burgeoning rock bands.
The Independent :: San Francisco, CA
For Friday night of Noise Pop not only was the club packed with people, it was also crammed with music. Having missed Oakland's Death of a Party, it was Montreal's Malajube that quickly engaged the swelling crowd.
Malajube :: 03.02.07 :: Noise Pop
Sung entirely in French, the vocals were charming, adding support to the music and filling in space but rarely pushing forward or demanding attention. The focus for this five-piece indie rock outfit is clearly on quality song structure, tight changes, and subtle shifts in the music. There were times when the sound would build to massive crescendos embracing an almost stadium aesthetic and at others the punchy tension-release was almost proggy in nature. There was something in the swapping of keyboards for guitars and the friendly flow coming off the stage that vaguely recalled fellow Canadians Broken Social Scene. By the end of the far too short set, Malajube had won over the crowd and it was obvious this would be a hard act to follow.
It's hard to tell if Snowden felt a little lame simply because of the power displayed by Malajube, but the placement of a melancholy, new wave band after an energetic, hungry group like Malajube proved a bit difficult to roll with. Although it was easy to enjoy the enthusiasm of female bass player Corinne Lee, overall the lack of energy and originality were impossible to overcome. That and I'm always a bit pissed off by bands who sound like they're from England when really they live in Atlanta.
Taking the stage after a few minutes of looped, echoey entrance music, L.A.'s noise-rock trio Autolux began slowly, gently, sort of the calm before the storm. Easing in with drummer-singer Carla Azar's vocals, bassist-singer Eugene Goreshter and guitarist Greg Edwards strapped on their matching silver axes and quickly got to work. The set shifted into high gear with the band's hit "Turnstile Blues," off 2004's critically-acclaimed Future Perfect, and didn't let up for some time.
Autolux :: 03.02.07 :: Noise Pop
As the heavy drug rock, screeching guitars and clouds of feedback built in intensity it was shocking to think that Azar's career almost ended in 2002 after a tragic fall from the stage. She shattered her elbow and was only saved by experimental surgery and eight titanium screws in her elbow. How a lady with that much metal in her arm can slam so hard is a mystery, but she clearly didn't seem impaired at Noise Pop.
About halfway through the band's set, Edwards's gear crashed. He's got one of the most extensive effects rigs I've ever seen, and with that many electronics something is bound to go wrong from time to time. Watching Edwards play it was clear he's not the most technically accomplished guitarist around. He relies on his pedals to help beef up his sound too much, but when he gets it going it's a huge sound and it's often impossible to determine where all the noise is coming from.
After about ten-minutes of droning loops and tinkering behind the stage, Autolux finally emerged with a new speaker cabinet and finished strong. Building on Goreshter's gigantic bass, the final segment of the show was overwhelming as the band deconstructed into a total, drive your guitar into the ground, instrumental meltdown.
While not as dynamic in the songwriting department, Autolux's music is languid and druggy like The Secret Machines, and it's no surprise bands like Nine Inch Nails and Radiohead have brought them out on the road. As impressive as Autolux's performance was, with the technical difficulties weighing them down the youthful Malajube almost stole the show. Almost.
Words by: Robyn Rubinstein
The Dandy Warhols :: Mezzanine :: San Francisco, CA
I was introduced to The Dandy Warhols about a year ago on a hung-over Sunday afternoon when the documentary Dig! came up on IFC. The film chronicles the initial friendship and eventual tension between The Dandy Warhols and the Brian Jonestown Massacre over the course of seven years. Anton Newcombe is the genius behind the BJM, and he is as deeply disturbed as he is profoundly talented. Early in the film, he strokes The Dandy Warhols for the filmmaker, saying that together the two bands are going to start a musical revolution that is going to throw the whole industry - in fact, the whole world - upside down. BJM is eventually torn apart by internal strife, mental instability, and copious drug use, while The Dandy Warhols reach commercial success by being the self-described "most well-adjusted band in America." And maybe just slightly less copious drug use. The film was powerful and captivating, and it quickly slid both bands into the "must-see" category.
I arrived just as opener Audrye Sessions took the stage at San Francisco's Mezzanine. The best thing I can say about their set is that it was short. Self-indulgent, heavy-handed emo-rock has definitely been done before, and with less whining. The whole crowd seemed to breathe a collective sigh of relief when they were finished.
When the Dandys came on, I was overflowing with anticipation and excitement, which sadly dissipated quickly. The sound quality was fair at best, and at times it was impossible to hear keyboardist Zia McCabe. Frontman/singer/guitarist Courtney Taylor appeared largely inebriated and unfocused. Bassist Peter Holstrom and drummer Brent BeBoer were mostly unremarkable, except for of DeBoer's slightly off-key vocals. Their set seemed very hurried and haphazard. Even their high profile hits like "We Used to Be Friends," "Bohemian Like You," and "Not if You Were the Last Junkie on Earth," lacked the passion and precision that made them great to begin with. There was slight redemption with "You Were the Last High," but only slight.
I freely admit that I can be a cynical, salty bitch, especially when it comes to music. Tonight I was a cynical, salty bitch fighting the flu, and I'm sure that had an effect on my interpretation. However, great music has temporarily ameliorated illness in the past, and tonight that didn't happen. I love the Dandys on record and film, and as much as I wanted to love them live, I didn't.
Words & Images by: Andy Tennille
Vic Chesnutt, Zach Rogue, Thao Nguyen, Alela Diane
Swedish American Hall :: San Francisco, CA
"I think this is the quietest room I've ever played in. And that's a good thing."
Thao Nguyen :: 03.03.07 :: Noise Pop
Zach Rogue smiled warmly from atop his stool as the seated audience politely applauded through the Rogue Wave frontman's solo acoustic set.
The dark serenity of the Swedish American Hall is the perfect place to take in solo acoustic music. The room holds 350 people and is tiered between floor seats and a small balcony. With the dark mahogany woodwork and a high gabled ceiling, the hall emits a warm, old-world feel that fosters intimate, engaging performances. Friday night's lineup of Alela Diane, Thao Nguyen, Rogue and antebellum rock poet Vic Chesnutt promised to live up to the hall's rep.
Arriving just as Portland-based songstress Alela Diane left the stage, I grabbed a cup of coffee (sorry folks, no beer here) and headed for my perch in the balcony. Thao Nguyen is an SF singer-songwriter that wears her influences on her sleeve. Her raspy, breathy vocals and foot-tapping, finger-picking acoustic melodies pledge allegiance to Laura Veirs, Cat Power, John Fahey, and all things Lilith Fair. With a new album produced by Tucker Martine (The Decemberists, Jesse Sykes) coming out on Kill Rock Stars later this year, expect to hear more from this talented siren.
Rogue & Spurgeon :: 03.03.07 :: Noise Pop
Zach Rogue may be the busiest musician at Noise Pop this week. On Wednesday, he deejayed a party at the Diesel store in downtown San Francisco and is scheduled to participate in "The Life in Music: Conversations with Indie Greats" panel discussion this Sunday with John Vanderslice and Mark Eitzel (American Music Club). Friday night provided the rare opportunity to see Rogue perform without a net. Joined by Rogue Wave drummer Pat Spurgeon for most of the set, Rogue treated the crowd to some Rogue Wave songs as well as some unrecorded material that featured his adept guitar playing and soaring voice.
While Rogue may have been the busiest guy at Noise Pop this week, Vic Chesnutt has been keeping plenty busy working on three separate albums for release in the coming year. The Athens, Georgia-based musician has recently wrapped work on a record backed by Elf Power and has another collaborative effort with Godspeed You Black Emperor! in addition to his own solo acoustic album recorded in Nashville.
Vic Chesnutt :: 03.03.07 :: Noise Pop
Flanked by two guitarists, Chesnutt played a terrific set and appeared right at home onstage at the Swedish American Hall. His stark, lonely songs filled with tales of desperation, death and down-on-their-luck folk trying their best to survive reverberated throughout the dark, cavernous hall.
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