Around 2015 someone told me to give a listen to a band called Joanna Gruesome. I did, and I instantly fell in love with this chaotic, gorgeous noise pop band from Wales. Their great origin story is that they formed after meeting in an anger management group. Sadly, brilliant vocalist and songwriter Alanna McArdle announced her departure from the band shortly before I was to see them in San Francisco. At last Ms. McArdle has joined a new band called Ex Vöid with Owen Williams (also from JG) as well as Laurie Foster, Kester Davies and Jon Coddington (according to Brooklyn Vegan). Ex Vöid’s first single Boyfriend pairs McArdle & Williams’ vocals with with great guitar hooks. You’ll want to listen to it over and over. They’ve got a 3-song EP on Bandcamp, and are currently on tour with Waxahatchee in the UK. Girlbandgeek says check it out!
Hey people of earth. I caught up with my backlog of concert reviews, so that means it’s time to let you know about some upcoming shows in Santa Cruz and the Bay Area. With no further ado:
Friday, May 25 Diet Cig will appear at the Crepe Place in Santa Cruz. Show time is 9pm. I was so sad when their February show was cancelled because Alex was sick, so I was thrilled to see that they were able to re-schedule. Diet Cig are Alex Luciano on guitar/vocals and Noah Bowman on drums and they are as infectious as they are minimalist and lo-fi.
On Tuesday, June 5 I’ll be seeing Yo La Tengo for the first time at The Fillmore auditorium in SF. This band has been around for 20+ years and I just had the feeling I should probably check them out. They’re sort of a music geek band, and they demand a certain amount of ardent listening to begin to reap the rewards. But they’ve got a lot of heart and soul, and I’m looking forward to this show. They’re also playing on June 6.
Speedy Ortiz is touring behind their new album, Twerp Verse. They are playing Saturday, June 9, at the Starline Social Club in Oakland CA, and the following day at Café du Nord in San Francisco. I’m going to the Oakland show. It will be my fifth Speedy Ortiz show! I’m not really a fanatic, but I like them, and I want to see the new songs live, so I’ll be there!
Belle and Sebastian are playing the fabulous Fox Theater in Oakland on Monday, June 25, with Japanese Breakfast supporting. I’m not actually going to this one, but I bet it will be a great show for fans of either band.
Snail Mail at the Starline Social Club in Oakland on Wednesday, June 27. I am highly anticipating this show. The creative force behind Snail Mail is Lindsey Jordan, who sings, writes the songs, and plays guitar. She has mad skills, and is getting a lot of attention, despite her young age. I recommend checking them out!
On Thursday, June 28, 2018, The Go Gos play The Fox Theater with Pottymouth opening! I think it would fun to see the Go Gos, but I really love Pottymouth, and it would be so cool to see them on stage at the gorgeous Fox Theater. However, I’m seeing Snail Mail the night before, and Oakland is a 2-hour drive from my home, so it’s not happening for me. Hopefully Pottymouth will play another show in the Bay Area soon!
I just stumbled onto this while buying tickets for Diet Cig (see above). Quintron & Miss Pussycat will be playing at The Crépe Place in Santa Cruz Saturday, June 30. Quintron & Miss Pussycat were one of the standout performers at last year’s Burger Boogaloo, so I’m stoked they’re coming to one of my local venues.
And finally on September 19, Margaret Glaspy takes the stage at the Swedish American Hall in San Francisco. I discovered Margaret Glaspy about a year ago, and missed my chance to see her. So I am definitely planning to catch this very talented singer-songwriter.
I really feel that there’s no better way to enjoy music than live, especially in a small venue. I encourage you to get out and support your favorite artists!
Alvvays was coming to one of the local Santa Cruz venues, so it was a no-brainer, even though I had seen them last October at the Fillmore. I invited my neighbor Dennis, who is also a fan of Alvvays, thanks to my influence. This would be our first musical outing together, and I have to say it set a very high bar with three awesome exemplars of psychedelic shoegaze jangle goth goodness. It was, in retrospect, one of those special shows where not only was the entire lineup excellent, but it was in fact a rare opportunity to see these players perform together.
I decided we should get there early and go for a table up in the balcony so we could sit and rest our feet, since it was going to be a full evening of musical entertainment. This proved to be a good call. We got there at 7:00pm, and the doors opened around 7:25. We headed up the stairs to the balcony on the left side, and grabbed the first table closest to the stage.
Frankie Rose was the first band. They are a 3-piece band with Frankie on guitar and vocals, and two other musicians that I could not identify playing, bass, guitars and drum machine. I would characterize their sound as goth/shoegaze. The songs had a driving beat, lots of distortion, and echo-y lyrics that I (mostly) could not make out. The band stood in darkness the whole performance – if not literally gazing at their shoes they were certainly not making a lot of eye contact. Black and white movies of geomtric shapes played on a screen above them. Although I couldn’t make out many of the lyrics, Frankie does have pretty voice, and the band had a great sound. After an excellent but relatively short set they said farewall and seeped back into the darkness.
Next up were The Drums. The Drums were formed by Jonathan (Jonny) Pierce with his friend Jacob Graham in 2008. Graham left the band a year ago, but I’m pretty that was him playing guitar, so he must have rejoined for this tour? Long time member Connor Hanwick manned the drums, and Johnny Aries, looking like the goth Steve Reeves, played bass and guitar. I think this was the first night of their tour in support of the new album Abysmal Thoughts, which is pretty cool. Anyway, I liked this band a lot. They were kind of like bad-boy new wavers. Jonny was very appealing in his dark jumpsuit with Abysmal Thoughts plastered across the back. He had the blond puppy dog good looks of Rocky from Rocky Horror. He stalked the stage, turning in spirals and figure 8’s and dancing like he didn’t give a fuck. Their sound was heavy and hypnotic, and they put out 110%. After a decent set, The Drums waved goodbye and left the stage, only to return about a minute later. Jonny pointed to the clock and said “I realized we have time for a couple more songs!” The crowd, which was swelling and enthusiastic, roared their approval. After two more numbers The Drums made their farewall for the evening.
At last we were in the final countdown to Alvvays. By this time the balcony was packed with people, and Dennis and I were feeling pretty smug about our perch looking down on the stage. As I noted, I had seen Alvvays back in October at the Fillmore, but I was looking forward to seeing them again, and having the opportunity to observe additional nuances about the performance. Plus it was a lot more exciting to be able to see the performers so well in the relatively intimate setting of the Catalyst.
Alvvays are pretty restrained performers, but there was a more casual or looser feel to this performance than at the Fillmore. Even Molly’s sartorial choices – blue slacks and a black top – were more relaxed. Guitar players Alec O’Hanley and Brian Murphy are kinda serious, but good. Keyboard player Kerri MacLellan is zen-like and has sensible shoes. They all seemed to have sensible shoes, in fact. Must be a Canadian thing. But seriously MacLellan’s keyboards are a huge and excellent part of Alvvays’ sound, for which she deserves full credit.
Not My Baby
Saved by a waif
Forget about Life
Ones Who Love You
Atop a Cake
Next of Kin
They’re a very polished band, but they know how to rock and have a good time. Molly’s voice is sweet and pure, and many songs are punctuated with her signature “woo!”. New drummer Sheridan Riley, who joined in 2017, is an excellent addition to the lineup with her tasteful beats and excellent backing vocals. Sheridan is fun to watch with her cascading ringlets, too. I’m going to suggest for the next record that keyboard player Kerri McEllan and drummer Sheridan Riley should sing lead on a song or two if they like. Alvvays played most of the songs from their two albums, along with two I couldn’t identify which could have been covers, or perhaps new ones? In any case, Dennis and I left with smiles on our faces.