Speedy Ortiz at Bottom of the Hill, Nov 18, 2017

So this is a special sibling episode of Girlbandgeek blog, as my younger sister A agreed to join me for a show. I think the context was me complaining about not being able to find people to go to the kind of shows I like. So A announced for her birthday present that she would go to a show with me (obviously, more of a gift for me, but I wasn’t going to question it). I gave her some options for our time frame and she picked Speedy Ortiz.

Speedy Ortiz at Bottom of the Hill
Speedy Ortiz at Bottom of the Hill

We met up in downtown SF, strolled about Union Square, and then headed to Potrero Hill. We ended up eating at Goat Hill Pizza where I used to go back in the 80s when I was living in SF. The pizza was pretty sublime, and our server was a delight, so that was a good call. Stuffed with pizza, we rolled down to Bottom of the Hill.

Opening act was Crooks on Tape. I knew nothing about them. They were three guys, looking like mad audio scientists in white lab coats. There was a drummer, with a fairly standard drum kit. Lab coat guy on the left played the bass, and also had a stack of keyboards, synthesizers and who knows what stuffed in a wooden crate which also apparently made them easy to transport. A couple of old tv’s rounded out his rig. Lab coat guy on the right also played bass, as well as theremin, and vocals. I give them credit for laying down some pretty fierce grooves with bass and keyboards, sometimes two basses at once, theremin, and so forth. Disturbing imagery flickered on the old televisions. There was liberal use of distortion and effects. They did a couple of instrumentals before adding vocals. While they had a kind of mechanical aesthetic, and shouted out the vocals, their set revealed surprising range and depth of emotion. I got a kind of Devo vibe off them. Below the surface of these sonic experimenters was a considerable well of passion and feeling. I liked their set a lot, and would definitely recommend checking them out.

Crooks on Tape at Bottom of the Hill
Crooks on Tape at Bottom of the Hill

By the time Speedy Ortiz was getting ready to take the stage, the club was packed. BOTH is not a very large space and it was wall-to-wall people. A and I were very close to the front, in a little pocket near the left corner of the stage. The sound was not great, but we had a really good view of the performers.

This would be my fourth Speedy Ortiz gig! The previous three shows featured Devin McKnight on guitar and Darl Ferm on bass. I know Devin has moved on to other projects, and Darl maybe had some other reason why he couldn’t come on tour. It appears that Andy Molholt has replaced Devin on guitar. I couldn’t find the name of the bass player, but she had blue hair and sounded good. Sadie Dupuis is of course the voice and soul of Speedy Ortiz, and Mike Falcone on drums and vocals is its heart. This was the last night of the tour dates with Speedy Ortiz and Tera Melos, so there was a kind of exhausted, delirious feel about the performance.

I saw an interview where Sadie said that she likes to dress very feminine to perform, because she thinks people need to see feminine performers shredding on the guitar. Sadie was wearing a very feminine, tiny pink skort suit. And there was much shredding on the guitar. They opened with a song I did not recognize – perhaps a cover, or a new one. Then I noted Raising the Skate, Graduates, Tiger Tank, and a new song. I was pretty happy in my spot 15 feet from the stage, grooving to Speedy Ortiz when I looked at my sister and I could tell something was wrong. She was overwhelmed by the noise and the crowd, and needed to go to the back. I stayed in our spot, and A wended her way back through the crowd. I soon began to worry, and after a couple more songs, I felt I had to go find my sister and check on her. That turned out to be easier said than done, because as soon as I left my little pocket, I realized the crowd was packed in like sardines, and moving was slow going.

I couldn’t even find my sister at the back of the club, so I texted her, ‘Are u ok?’ Turns out she had passed out, was assisted by helpful patrons/bartender, and was now outside the club, on the sidewalk, feeling revived. So after the final songs of the set, which I believe were Drk Wrld and MKVI, I joined A outside the club. My overall impression of the show is that it was excellent. The new players were up to speed on Sadie’s intricate compositions, and everybody was playing together. The set list had a lot my faves from Major Arcana and Foil Deer, and possibly a couple of new ones. And there was that loose, sort of manic last day of tour feel which worked well.

Anyway, A and I left after Speedy’s set. I had wanted to see Tera Melos, but that will have to be another day.

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