Alvvays Concert Review – October 24, 2017

This month I have three shows in one week, starting off with Alvvays at the Fillmore! Yeah, it seems excessive maybe, but in my mind they were all must-see. In some ways, Alvvays was the least “must see” of the three. I’m not like a super devoted fan, but I really like their music, and I thought they would be fun to see live. It turns out, I was right!

Alvvays at The Fillmore
Alvvays at The Fillmore

If I go to a show with a friend, it’s almost always Alex. We met at SUNY Purchase in the 80s, and we’ve been hanging out ever since he moved to SF in the 90s. Just thought I’d do a little introduction, since Alex has appeared in previous posts, and will surely show up in many future concert reviews. We decided to meet at Japantown, which is basically across the street from the Fillmore. Alex wanted to go to a cool stationery store named Maidō, and we both wanted to eat noodles. Alex suggested Marufuku Ramen which was a few steps away from the stationers. I won’t go into detail, but the food was fantastic. We both had a pork based soup with lots of noodles, pork bellies, vegies, etc. It was to die for – so tasty. Definitely would recommend (if you are not vegetarian).

Then we bopped over to the Fillmore. I feel like the Fillmore is a special venue, and I was ready for the full dimensional experience of R&R history, nostalgia, and of course getting to see some live music in a relatively intimate setting. I exchanged pleasantries with a cute greeter in a top hat, and Alex grabbed a shiny red apple. We decided to check out the balcony, at least for the warm up band, so we could relax for a bit. We found a couple of chairs with a decent view, and waited for Nap Eyes to take the stage.

I had listened to a few cuts from this Canadian quartet on Spotify and was not too impressed. But they took the stage at the Fillmore and launched into a Lou Reed-esque number that frankly sounded pretty damn good. Singer Nigel Chapman’s voice sounded eerily like Lou. The next two songs were similarly pleasant, and I was kind of into them up to that point. But then the familiarity devolved into boredom, and I decided that they were derivative and not very interesting. I got up and took a walk around the venue, and checked out the floor area. I came back and informed Alex that we should move to the floor now – it was filling up, and now was the time to stake out good real estate before everybody crowded the floor for Alvvays. We listened to the last few Nap Eyes numbers from the floor. In their final song, their earnest strumming and crooning gave way to a discordant instrumental. The music got louder, faster, more chaotic, and the riffs clanged against each other. I actually felt that was the best, most unique part of the set, and thinking maybe they should just stick to that kind of sound, instead of a pleasant Lou Reed/Feelies sound-alike band. But obviously, Nap Eyes should play whatever makes them happy.

Nap Eyes said goodbye, and we stood there talking for what seemed like a long time, waiting for Alvvays to take the stage. This was a sold-out show, and the audience was pretty pumped when Molly and the band took the stage. Let me just get out of the way the fact that it feels very much like Molly’s band, and the other players are the side people. I’ll also be transparent and admit I don’t know the names of the other players. They’re all quite good, but since Molly does all that lead vocals, is standing in the center stage with the spotlight glittering off her sparkly gold blouse, it’s easy to assume that Alvvays is just a vehicle for Molly’s vision, but I don’t know that. They certainly play well together, and it may be that they’re content to let Molly be in the spotlight, while the rest of them focus on their music, who knows.

I have both the Alvvays albums, and they’re great – 100 percent filler-free indie pop music with killer hooks, gorgeous vocals, and tight musicianship. I’ve only had the new one, Antisocialites, for a few weeks so I’m not as familiar with the songs, but it’s equally as good as their self-titled debut. As far as I’m concerned, they played all my favorites from both albums, and I was totally satisfied. Marry Me, Archie was of course a big crowd-pleaser, and it came near the end of the set. Plimsoll Punks was a favorite, too. I was so glad they played Forget About Life, which is the last song on Antisocialites, and one of the most poignant. It starts off contemplating suicide “I thought of going in the lake and swallowing” and ends up asking “Do you want to forget about life with me tonight?” There is a dark vein in Molly’s songwriting that provides a counterweight to her crystalline voice and effervescent melodies.

The last song of the set before the encore was Party Police, with its fabulous chorus:

You don’t have to leave, you could just stay here with me
Forget all the party police, we can find comfort in debauchery

I didn’t find a whole lot of debauchery, but it was well worth making the trip to SF to see this talented band.

Fall 2017 – Upcoming Shows

Hey music fans, what’s going on? Apparently I haven’t seen any shows since Burger Boogalo in July – sad! But there’s a bunch of cool shows coming up in the next few months. Here’s a list of bands I’m planning to see, or which sound interesting to me.

EMA Is Coming to Rickshaw Stop SF on October 30

Saturday, September 9, 2017 – Hell’s Belles (AC/DC Tribute Band) at Catalyst Club Santa Cruz. All girl AC/DC cover band. Even if they sucked it would be awesome, but I checked them out on YouTube and they’re the real deal. Angus approved!

Saturday, September 23, 2017 – Horrible/Adorable at The Ivy Room, Albany. I wrote about Horrible/Adorable here. They’ll be opening for some other band. I’m not sure I’ll make it up to Albany for this show, but it’s tempting!

Wednesday, September 27, 2017 – Death Valley Girls at Catalyst Club Santa Cruz. I missed Death Valley Girls last year at Burger Boogaloo. Now they’re coming to my local establishment, so I’m planning to check it out.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017 – Rainer Maria at The Chapel, SF. I don’t really know that much about Rainer Maria, but I love that song Catastrophe Keeps Us Together. I think this would be a cool show, and a rare opportunity to see this iconic band, but not sure I’ll make it up to SF.

Tuesday, October 24 – Alvvays at Fillmore SF. Bought my tickets already. Love their first album, and I’m sure the new one will be awesome, too.

Saturday, October 28, 2017 – Slowdive at The Fox Theatre. I confess, I don’t really know anything about Slowdive, but I think I could be a fan if I gave it a chance. Also, Fox Theatre in Oakland is one of the best places to see shows. Don’t think I’m going to go since I already have tickets for two shows in SF the same week. But you should go!

Monday, October 30 – EMA at Rickshaw Stop, SF. I am so excited for this show. Her brilliant third album, Exile in the Outer Ring, dropped a couple of weeks ago. I love EMA’s music, and her ideas, and I think this show is going to be brilliant. The Blow are also on the bill, and they look cool, too.

Saturday, November 18 – Speedy Ortiz at Bottom of the Hill SF. Sort of college radio darlings, fronted by smart and aware Sadie Dupuis. I’ve seen them three times already, and I like to support them, cuz Sadie is so cool.

Saturday, December 16 – Richard Thomson at Rio Theatre, Santa Cruz. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen Richard Thomson. A genius on the guitar, great voice and great song writing. Will try to make this show as I’m trying to see all shows by bands I like at the Rio.

Any shows you’re excited about – please share.

Burger Boogaloo 2017 – Review

Here is my long overdue review of Burger Boogaloo 2017. As I mentioned here I decided to attend only on Sunday, July 2. Although that meant perhaps missing my one chance to see Iggy Pop in this lifetime, I felt the Saturday ticket was overpriced at $99 and there were overall more interesting bands on Sunday. I stand by my choice.

Shannon and the Clams
Shannon and the Clams Performing at Burger Boogaloo 2017 – Click Image for Video

This would be my second time attending Burger Boogaloo. I went last year as kind of a fluke, and had a good time, so I was game again this year. Festivals are not my ideal way of enjoying music. The idea of spending an entire day, trapped in a large crowd of people, sitting through a bunch of so-so acts, waiting for the one or two bands that I am actually excited about, is not my idea of fun. But Burger Boogaloo is on a reasonable scale – not too huge. The crowd is friendly, colorful, spanning generations but leaning towards older people, attracted to the largely retro sounds of the Burger Records artists. There’s a good selection of food and drink, some merch booths, and John Waters introduces the bands. So what more could you ask for?

All the bands I watched were having a good time, and gave an enthusiastic performance. I watched every band in the lineup, with the exception of Roy Loney and FM Knives. I went and got food or something during their sets, but they seemed kinda boring to me. Although I probably wouldn’t buy the album for most of the acts, they were all enjoyable live, and had something unique to offer. Some of the highlights for me:

Glitter Wizard – like a lot of the bands that play this quasi retro 60s 70s 80s festival, Glitter Wizard was kind of campy. Sometimes camp falls on its face, but Glitter Wizard really worked for me. They were kind of a big hair, glam rock sort of act. Their lead guitar player was burly, and rugged, with a beard and a mass of black hair. If Vikings could be rock stars, they would be Glitter Wizard.

La Luz. This band was one of my primary motivations for deciding on the Sunday lineup. I watched a live La Luz set on YouTube and was hooked. They have a great retro surf-rock sound, and look like they’re having a lot of fun. This was a totally fun set, and I bought their CD Weirdo Shrine, and a cool shirt that says “Luzer” on it.

After La Luz played in the small Gone Shrimpin’ stage, I wandered over to “Butt City” to catch NRBQ. I didn’t have very high expectations. I thought they would be kinda boring, but in fact they kicked ass. They’re old rockers that are still rocking. The keyboard player was especially pumped, and would stand and jump around behind his keyboards, climb up on the amps and stuff. I’m not familiar with their music at all, but they put on on a kick-ass show.

Quintron and Ms. Pussycat. I had checked out some videos of this duo, and was definitely intrigued. Their live performance definitely exceeded my expectations in many dimensions. It started off with a bizarre puppet show – I couldn’t see too well, as the theater was packed and I was way off to the side. But it had something to do with a fashion show. The puppet booth stayed on the right side of the stage during their set. Quintron is a keyboard and electronic music prodigy, and his rig involved a couple of keyboards, a kick drum, and some various homemade looking gadgets. Ms. Pussycat did the vocals, shook maracas, and was occasionally joined by another vocalist on center stage. They had a fun, danceable sound, and a slightly subversive energy, reminiscent of Le Tigre. Definitely glad I got to check them out.

Shannon and the Clams was the only band from last year that was playing again – I think they’re kind of a tradition. They were great last year, and even better this year. I was at the back of orchestra at the Gone Shrimpin’ stage, which soon turned into a big mosh pit and stage diving party. Their sound is kind of retro rock and roll, with Shannon’s powerful vocals and Cody Blanchard’s twangy guitars. They have a strong local following that likes to party – there would be 4 or 5 audience members being passed overhead at any one time. They sang one emotional song that was about the Ghost Ship fire. For the last couple of songs members of La Luz and Quintron came out, colorful wigs were tossed into the audience and mayhem ensued.

X was one of my favorite bands at a point in time, and I saw them a couple of times in the 80’s when they were in their heyday. I still have a lot of love for X, and even more so because of their connection with Skating Polly which is, as you know, my favorite new band. Dawn and I saw X not too long ago at the Catalyst, so I didn’t have any energy around getting close to the stage. I was content to just hang back at a comfortable distance and enjoy the music. They sounded great, and played a good selection from their fabulous catalog of ground-breaking LA punk. Billy Zoom was definitely in full force, with tasty riffs on the Les Paul and even played saxophone on a couple of numbers. Definitely a good set.

The Buzzcocks were the final act of the festival. I had seem them once before at the I-Beam in SF during the 80s, which already seemed like sort of a reunion show. Now it was 30 years later. They actually put on a great show. Sure they’re in their sixties, and playing songs written 35 years ago mostly, but their songs are truly great, and they were in great form and seemed to be enjoying themselves. The set ended with my favorite Harmony in My Head, and I made my way for the exit. They came back for an encore, which I listened to as I walked back to my car. It was the perfect end to a great day of music.