Skating Polly Concert Review – June 10, 2017

So I had discovered the band Skating Polly just about a month ago, while clicking on something likely that popped up in my YouTube suggestions. I have written in a previous post some thoughts about my love for this band. Of course I checked out their web site immediately, and discovered that they were on tour and actually coming to San Francisco in a few short weeks – so I bought my tickets right away.

New Trick EP Cover Art
Skating Polly Merch

It’s already been more than two weeks since the show, but I did want to write my first impressions of Skating Polly down for posterity. It was a Saturday night and, as often happens, I was solo clubbing. I had never been to Thee Parkside, which is an unassuming restaurant/shed sort of place on 17th St. near the base of Potrero Hill. Parking was no problem. I was early, so I hung out in front until somebody came along who needed my extra ticket. I was offering it for free, but the guy who bought it was nice enough to buy my first non-alchoholic beer.

You enter through the restaurant part, which is connected to a bar area with a small stage in one corner. I noticed the clear orange drum kit seen in so many SP videos, and smiled to myself. There were maybe 30 or 40 people in the whole establishment. Curtis Mayo, the drummer and, as it turned out, multi-instrumentalist was manning the merch table out in the restaurant area. He introduced himself “Hi, I’m Curtis”. I introduced myself, and we exchanged some small talk about touring and such, and I told him I was a big fan of the band. I bought the three most recent CD’s (New Trick, The Big Fit, and Fuzz Steilacoom) and also a t-shirt, a black one with a contrasting white image of Kelli doing a high kick while shredding on the basitar. Peyton came over to handle the credit card transaction. I sensed she was a little withdrawn, so I suppressed my urge to gush too much.

I was afraid I’d be awkwardly standing by myself all night, but as luck would have it I met two friendly, tipsy women named Carmen and Michelle. They were forty-ish, so at least close to my age, and they shared my table and talked with me at least through the opening act. They were old friends, and the one had come down from Seattle to visit the other, and celebrate their birthdays. They had big bunches of birthday flowers with them, which was sweet.

Dirty Denim were the local openers. They were kind of dangerous looking with lots of tattoos, tight jeans and big hair. The drummer looked amazing in a tight red dress, updo, and cat-eye makeup. In fact she was a ringer for Amy Winehouse which I’m sure was intentional. Like their optics, their their music was loud, raunchy and fun. Next up were Gal Pals, a two-piece band from Austin. The first few songs felt a little unsure to me, but once they hit their groove (or maybe I hit the groove?) they really rocked. They had a really great energy and rapport with each other that was beautiful to watch.

More time passed, and finally Kelli, Curtis and Peyton took the stage. Kelli had on a kind of orange party dress. Peyton was wearing a short black dress which had a sheer, long over skirt. Over this she wore a hoodie, somewhat spoiling the effect. Curtis was wearing jeans and a t-shirt. I was very excited for this moment, and they did not disappoint. What I remember of the set list is as follows:

Pretective Boy
Louder in Outer Space
Hail Mary
Perfume for Now
Picker of His Words
Cosmetic Skull
Arms and Opinions

Hey Sweet
Alabama Movies

There were quite a few more songs that I didn’t recall. I brought my notepad, but I was too into the moment to jot stuff down, or take more than three blurry iPhone pics – I just wanted to enjoy each moment to the fullest. Hail Mary and Perfume for Now are two of my favorite songs, and the live versions were everything I hoped they would be. Like having your ears caressed by the Siren’s song one moment and in the next be pounded on the rocks by a tidal wave. So good. The one slight bummer was that Peyton was sick, or had something up with her throat/voice that prevented her from singing with her normal clarity and power. After the second song, Peyton took a spoonful of medicinal black syrup out of a sticky looking bottle. The band started the opening riff to Louder in Outer Space, which features some of the most beautiful Peyton vocals yet recorded. The song was still great, and she got through it, but Peyton was obviously in considerable discomfort, and it was clearly not what she is capable of.

Kelli did all of the band banter, and sounded like the enthusiastic, slightly aw-shucks yet edgy teenager she surely is, saying what a cool city “San Fran” is, and how excited they were to be ending their tour here. She excused Peyton’s vocal troubles, and indicated that they had switched up the playlist a little. They then launched into Picker of His Words, which was a treat. And although I think I’m a Peyton fan, in the way one might prefer Lennon to McCartney, I do adore Kelli and the many awesome songs where she is the lead.

Musically the three siblings are totally assured, and they give a performance that is tight, yet at the same time riding a wave of explosive energy. I like the way their songs alternate between quiet, almost whispered passages, and then the refrain comes down like a hammer with fuzzed out guitars, crashing drums and searing vocals. Yeah, can’t say enough about this band. For the last couple of songs Peyton switched with Curtis on the drums, and Curtis picked up the guitar. For the encore they did Hey Sweet, Alabama Movies, and one other I can’t recall. Curtis’ flashy shredding was a little over the top for me, but he was having fun, and it gave the encore set a crazy, metal intensity. I was certainly satisfied by the show.

I stopped again at the merch table to get my New Trick CD signed, and thank the band for the great show. Then I was on my way back home the the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Skating Polly #1

So, friends, I have discovered a new (to me) band, and I am in the first flush of band crush. Their name is Skating Polly. I discovered them about a month ago in my YouTube suggestions. I think the first two videos I watched were new ones – Louder in Outer Space and Hail Mary. After that I was pretty much hooked, and watched many videos after that. Please check out the following playlist featuring five of my favorite videos and be prepared to be wrecked by their raw energy and inventiveness!

Skating Polly consists of step sisters Kelli Mayo and Peyton Bighorse. When their respective parents got together, the two bonded over a shared love of punk music like Patti Smith, the Ramones, etc., and they decided to form a band . At the time Kelli was 9 (!) and Peyton was 15 (that was about 6 years ago already). Kelli plays a “basitar” – a kind of 3 stringed bass that was a little easier for a small human to handle, Peyton plays the guitar, and they switch off on drums. They also both play piano, and of course both sing and write songs. More recently, Kelli’s older brother Curtis has joined on drums to fill out their live sound.

Kelli’s singing has quite a range – from soft, whispery vocals to banshee screams. As revealed in the videos, Kelli has a more manic energy than her older sibling, that tends to put her a little more in the foreground. The older Peyton, whose presence is a bit more restrained, can also go for it vocally. Sometimes Peyton kind of hollers, and drifts out of key, but in a way I find really effective. Yet her voice is also rich and beautiful when she wants to express herself in that way.

For me, Skating Polly has all the stuff I care about – great vocals and harmonies, a minimalist sound based on guitars and drums, and songs with inventive structures and killer hooks. They also have a number of softer songs, with vocals layered over piano or acoustic guitar, that rival the best of them.

I had the chance to see Skating Polly about a week ago in San Francisco. I’ll put up my concert review in a subsequent post.