titlefight1Title Fight (Photo Credit: Nikolas Soelter)

Touring in support of their new LP, Hyperview, Pennsylvania's  Title Fight brought their unique brand of culty alt rock to San Francisco on Friday night. By 9:30, the venue was filled out and Texas thrash-metal band Power Trip were halfway through their set. For me, it took seeing this band live to truly appreciate them. Ex-Trash Talk drummer Sam Bosson was filling in on drum duty, and his wild drumming fit in perfectly with the primal howls echoing over the metallic guitars. I've seen a lot of bands playing aggressive music urge the audience to get physical and show their enthusiasm, but one of the most striking things about Power Trip's set, in my opinion, was their humble and down-to-earth attitude. Singer Riley Gale's shirt was soaked through and his hair hung down in twisted knots as he announced, "This is our last song. Thanks y'all for checkin' us out," before laughing as he added, "This song's called 'Intro'."

merch1Merchandise (Photo Credit: Nikolas Soelter)

Merchandise opened their set announcing, "It's good to be back, you all look beautiful," and breaking into "Time" off of 2012's Children of Desire, a song written back when they were just a vocalist, a guitarist, and a drum machine. Dave Vassalotti is probably one of my favorite current guitar players. He plays with an angular aggression that brings to mind Jonny Greenwood or Johnny Marr; twisting and dancing while injecting Merchandise's romantic pop with smart hooks. Sam Bosson was apparently doing double duty this tour, and was holding it down for Merchandise as well. Power Trip had alluded to him having suffered some sort of head injury, and it was apparent at times that he was struggling through the set, but he pulled through. Midway through the set, singer Carson Cox and Dave kicked around a space blanket and smiled at each other.

merch2Merchandise (Photo Credit: Nikolas Soelter)

merch5Merchandise (Photo Credit: Nikolas Soelter)

Slim's does a thing between bands where they drop down a projection screen and play strange clips of interviews, movies, etc. while one band packs up and another gets ready. Title Fight were setting up and sound checking, and there's vocals, drums, and guitar cutting in and out while a video of a man doing BMX tricks is playing in slow motion and reverse on the screen, and huge swathes of teens well below the drinking age are gathering in front of the stage in anticipation of some cult ritual.

titlefight3Title Fight (Photo Credit: Nikolas Soelter)

titlefight2Title Fight (Photo Credit: Nikolas Soelter)

The band opened with the first track off of Hyperview - a mellow, atmospheric build up - and then immediately tore into a Floral Green crowd favorite. Instantly the room became a swirling mass of bodies and stage dives - everyone knew every word. The set was comprised mostly of new material and songs off their last LP Floral Green , and despite all of the coverage of Hyperview describing it as a huge sonic departure, nothing felt at all out of place. In fact, the more reserved and less aggressive moments of the set really emphasized one thing - Title Fight are an incredible band. The songs are beautifully arranged, and vocalists Ned and Jamie are immensely talented. Even before the band had started, certain chords in the sound check elicited cheers from the audience. They've crafted an instantly recognizable sound, that despite drawing on influences mostly from before the 2000's, seems to be pushing guitar music forward.

titlefight4Title Fight (Photo Credit: Nikolas Soelter)

"Thank you for your attendance and allegiance... thank you to the whole world," bassist Ned Russin proclaimed. The four formed the band just as they were starting high school, and have since released three LPs and toured around the world; it's no wonder they feel an immense appreciation for the people who have stuck with them. Title Fight closed out their set with "Secret Society"; the sound of 500 people screaming "I'll be you and you'll be me" drowned out the band.

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