Ora Cogan
Photo by: Melissa Estable

Thursday evening was one of contrasts, hearsay, and happenstance. At 9, I hit Amnesia for what proved to be a thoroughly enjoyable 90 minutes of dusty Americana. Over a healthy din of chat Indianna Hale bleated-out in Jolie-Holland-inspired vibratos a set of songs arranged chronologically by when they were written. It was a nice homespun concept and her powerful pipes easily outpaced the socialites’ chatter. Later Emily Jane White, accompanied by a drummer and double-bass, turned in a nice set of song-stories. She was given some good press by the SF Weekly in which her voice is compared to Chan Marshall’s and her songwriting to the novelist Cormac McCarthy.

The real surprise of the night was Vancouver’s Ora Cogan. Before the show I overheard her explaining that her van had broken down in Canada and that she literally got to SF via planes, trains, and automobiles (not to mention walking 5 miles). How she did this with her guitar, violin, and other personal effects is beyond me. Her voice, much like the wonderful 70’s folk singer Karen Dalton’s, is bluesy without being derivative. Her violin-and-vocal cover of “Motherless Child” was inspired. Fellow Vancouver folkies, The Be Good Tanyas, crop up on Cogan’s latest record, Tatter.

Sic Alps were the next group on my short list but during my dash to Café du Nord I ran into a friend on Valencia Street and missed my much anticipated first live experience with one of SF’s most interesting demented/drone/garage/trash projects, so I’ll link a review I wrote about their Pleasures and Treasures here. I did however catch what was rumored to be the LAST SHOW from SF supergroup Comets on Fire. While no mention of the big news was made from the stage, murmurs to the effect were abundant throughout the audience.

If this was indeed the Comets’ last show they went out with astrophysical bliss. Their formula is simple: hairy, unwashed dudes torpedo through classic rock riffs with all the friction of a hard bop combo. What might be cliché in the hands of others comes off as sexy mayhem with an incredible backbeat. We’ll see if there’s any credence to their intentions to hang it up. From where I stand it looks like a classic case of side projects, of which there are many in this band, moving onto be the main course. Long may their various incarnations run.