The May Fire
On the eve of the last night of Noise Pop, local music fans filtered into one of the city’s most classic and classy venues, Cafe Du Nord, to catch a predominantly-California bill (SF’s Port O’Brien and The May Fire, San Diego’s Delta Spirit), and Austin’s What Made Milwaukee Famous. The night’s rhythms flowed like a good house party, running the gamut from a blistering garage rock wake-up call, shout-out anthems to challenging shyer attendees, and the occasional hushed, existential love song to occasionally slow the sip of your beer. Fueled by the seemingly collective intoxication of the performers and loyal onlookers, the evening played like a candid dialogue between you and a band you knew all your life, or would soon after the set.
One of San Francisco’s hardest working local bands, The May Fire, kicked the night off with little apology for their fuzz-drowned bar chords, taut as hell four-on-the-floor beats, unfettered guitar solos and a bass player ready to bounce off the stage. Three quarters South American (born in Columbia and Argentina), but sounding like they played the Detroit garage rock circuit for the better part of the 90s, the May Fire indulge in dirty hooks somewhere between the bleeding noise of Helium and the loose mayhem of the Stooges. Singer Catty Tasso, recently featured in Guitar Player, steers the attack perfectly with equivalent doses of sex and anger, never taking a step back for faux balladry or over-the-top antics. In a city that’s no stranger to the newfangled indie folk movement, it’s refreshing to hear a legit rock band execute on all fronts.
What Made Milwaukee Famous, preparing for a supporting tour behind Louis XIV, followed with a set as widely varied as a mix CD you made for your boyfriend or girlfriend in eleventh grade. Led by the sincere and yearning vocals of Michael Kingcaid, WMMF is as pop schizophrenic as it is successful due to their indisputable originality. Interspersing emo-ish mid tempo ballads (which would not necessarily be out of place on Live 105’s format) with straight up southern-tinged rock, the band is hard to peg but in the end pretty easy on the ears (not always in the best way, though, depending on your schmaltz-a-meter). Kingcaid, sick as a dog, held back his snot to pour his heart through the set and offer some amusing banter with the audience. Signed to Death Cab for Cutie’s former home, Barsuk Records, WMMF seems a likely candidate for licensing and wider exposure in the forseeable future, so reserve a slot on your next compilation for that digestible, forlorn love nugget.
Up third was co-headliner Delta Spirit, who brought some down n’ dirty, good ol’ down home California folk rock into the room. Sounding like a twangier version of The Walkmen at times, or John Lennon leading the Marshall Tucker Band, the Delta Spirit mostly cultivates its own special sound, without bowing to “retro” or “indie folk” stereotypes whatsoever. Definitely recommended for fans of Oakley Hall and Okkervil River.
San Francisco’s Port O’Brien, who couldn’t have picked a better touring mate in Delta Spirit, built on the latter’s exuberance, capping the evening off with a rousing set. To see them live is a wholly different experience than curling up with the gentler intricacies of their recorded material. The multi-part harmonies and group choruses swallow you whole until you’re compelled to sing along even if you don’t know exactly what you’re singing, as with “I Woke Up Today”, arguably one of the best local singles of 2007. It’s no wonder the band is no longer just a “local band”.