Words by: Dennis Cook | Images by: Josh Miller
Big Light/Apollo Sunshine :: 06.26.08 :: 12 Galaxies :: San Francisco, CA
Just saying the name Big Light will make you smile. There's an incandescent heat to it, something that warms you inside and out. No flicker, no glimmer, this is BIG light, and the sound of this emerging San Francisco band reflects these associations. They snap to life, dispelling shadows, and warming as they go. They move one the same way obvious ancestors The Slip and Nathan Moore do, these ties highlighted in glorious fashion during this kick-off to a six month residency at 12 Galaxies, where they opened for Apollo Sunshine. Their love affair with music is infectious, and it was a genuine pleasure to watch their smiling, determined trek into the reaches of quality jam seasoned pop rock.
|Fordyce & Torphy :: Big Light :: 06.26 :: San Francisco|
Though a young band in many respects, there's also something endearingly yesteryear about them, a kind of respect for craft, hooks and musicianship more in line with the '60s or '70s but in service of a sound that's timeless, as touched by Pavement as it is The Beatles (though "The Annuals" on their newly minted debut EP - produced by the band and Apollo's Jeremy Black - is a perfect rejoinder to the White Album's "I'm So Tired"). Cute and sweaty, these future indie rock heartthrobs were all shaggy and grinning and delighted to be doing what they're doing, Big Light exhibited a focused, well-rehearsed energy. The first step of any journey is important, and they clearly understood this evening was the beginning of something, both their EP release party and the opening salvo of their residency, which will repeat the last Thursday of each month at 12 Galaxies.
What started in a reverb coated cloud, a weather system you felt coming on, grew into rock you can really dance to – hip lubricant, skull grease, mood relaxer, call it what you will. There's something so deeply flucking enjoyable about Big Light, and it didn't matter if they stomped it crunchy hard rock style ("Heavy") or caressed Randy Newman's words ("Memo To My Son") or just rolled like a river (a fab cover of Nathan Moore's "Safe & Sorry" with guest Dan Lebowitz on lap steel). They showed equal facility and affection for all the colors in their rainbow, constantly reaching just a millimeter or two past their comfort zones. Fred Torphy (guitar, vocals), Jamie Fordyce (guitar, vocals), Bradly Bifulco (drums), Colin Hoops (keys), Cochrane McMillen (percussion), Dan Hurley (organ ) and ALO's Steve Adams (bass, vocals) make diversity a virtue because they put it in service of something sweet and catchy, going from a burnished glow to white light/white heat. Ending with "Separation Anxiety," a simmer that explodes into many bright stars, Big Light made more than a few of us very interested to see where this band goes in the days ahead.
The Light held their own, and then some, with headliner Apollo Sunshine, which is really saying something since Apollo is pretty much everything you really want in a great rock trio (that expands and contracts with ferocious intensity to include any good musician they can pull into their gravity). Hyper skilled and unafraid of laughter and chaos, they are God's own 21st century electric ragtime band, and they made the audience shamble in a weird, crooked footed second line.
|Apollo Sunshine :: 06.26 :: San Francisco|
Early in their set I was reminded of the bizarre but inspired pairing of Frank Zappa and Grand Funk Railroad on 1976's Good Singin', Good Playin'. Apollo shares the exuberant weirdness and raw ass power chord slap of Grand Funk, at least in the live setting, which is increasingly a very different (though equally enjoyable) animal to their studio work. Apollo Sunshine's fan-fuckin-tastic new album, Shall Noise Upon, arrives September 2, and while they dipped into some of the new material in their set, it didn't have the same honeyed high headedness it possesses on record. That's not a dig, just an observation. Live, the Sunshine has a cowbell clank, a foot bruising kick that's mighty swell. It's actually fun to watch them wrestle the multi-layered studio tracks into concert condition. With beautifully tweaked autoharp or a keyboard boost from a friend, they complicated and careened with their songs, finding new things to dig, savoring the differences, and then imparting their newfound enjoyment to us. I don't think it bothers them one iota that there's a different flavor - though consonant tone and underlying foundation – to the live versions of things.
As ever, Apollo Sunshine reveled in the moment, imparting the gift of being present to listeners who usually find themselves drawn to the four corners with text messages, etc. They kind of make one stare, amazed at folks who know how to really be where they are. It's a gas, and when paired with Big Light it made the night bright as day.
Big Light's next show is this 4th of July weekend at the High Sierra Music Festival, from there they tour the West Coast with Surprise Me Mr. Davis, dates available here. Apollo Sunshine's next gig is on July 4th at the Wireless Festival in London, dates available here.
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