Photo by Mesh Magazine
On May 18, in the far reaches of the Mission (nearly Bernal Heights), San Francisco’s Sholi took the stage at The Knockout, an emerging gem of a venue whose sound and live entertainment would make any regular Hemlock goer pleased but without the fuss of a noisy, overcrowded weekend crowd. This is not to say the club never reaches its capacity, but having the intimacy of the music contained within the same room helps to engage most of the bar’s patrons, making it an ideal venue for up-and-coming bands.
For those of you unfamiliar with Sholi, you will know them soon. They are immensely talented musicians who consistently and visibly wow onlookers at their shows. You can just feel it in the room and read it on the faces. It’s the kind of listening experience that attracts fellow local musicians to the front of the stage to gawk at the players’ fingerings and movements. While Sholi could probably play Blonde Redhead covers in their sleep with lead singer Payam Bavafa’s soft lacy delivery over minor melodic guitar or conceivably render some of Deerhoof’s art rock acrobatics, instead the quartet sidesteps the latter’s occasionally cloying antics and the former’s latent melodrama in exchange for unconventional composition.
Fueled by their lead drummer Jonathon Bafus’s free jazz inclinations, which inspire me to revisit Ed Blackwell fills in 1959 Ornette Coleman-era recordings, and at moments coming around to heavy hitting minor-chord-fueled choruses that epitomize the so-called “indie” aesthetic, Sholi is doing something really quite refreshing. While Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore has often been heralded for cross-breeding Indie Rock with Free Jazz, his experiments were more of the No-Wave variety and were not as heavily undertaken in the context of his own group, but moreso in the form of side projects and one-offs. On the other hand, Sholi is incorporating many of the inflections of jazz and good ol’ indie rock, simultaneously — in the eight hands of its four members. We’ll be watching these eight hands very closely.