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.
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 I sensed she was a little withdrawn, so I suppressed my urge to gush too much.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:
Louder in Outer Space
Perfume for Now
Picker of His Words
Arms and Opinions
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.