Kelley Stoltz

If you’re smart, you’ll find yourself down at Bender’s for the Noise Pop Happy Hours.  With $3 West Coast IPAs and specials on Fernet, this is the place to loosen up before the evening’s shows.

Bender’s got a bit of a facelift for the festival thanks to the guys at Knight Visions Production and Design who are providing stage lighting for all the festival happy hours.   They also added some nice ambient lighting to the origami cranes hanging from the ceiling.

On Day 2 of the festival I caught the Aimless Never Miss.  Frontman Jonny Latimer apparently was suffering from a bit of a sore throat, but you’d never have guessed the way they were rocking.   This was a full on rock show.  Amps roaring, cymbals crashing…the whole nine yards.

Favorite moment: when Jonny shifted over to drums and Eric over to guitar,  in the middle of a song no less, and Eric proceeded to shred it on a tapping solo with a slight aftertaste of tremolo, that was quite welcomed.

Then it was off to jump on the 49 and head on over to the Great American Music Hall for the Stephen Malkmus show.

I missed the opener, Goh Nakamura, but ran into a buddy of mine there who said he really dug the show, and he’s a guy I trust, so you should too.  I did, however, make it for the entirety of Peggy Honeywell’s set.

Peggy Honeywell’s sound is soothingly simplistic with a subtle guitar accompanying her beautifully honest voice.  After rocking out at Bender’s, this was a much welcomed retreat with such a stripped down sound.  Apparently Peggy doesn’t play publicly that often, and according to her she spends five months practicing for a gig.  Whatever it is she does to prepare, she should keep doing it because even with all the people talking during her set, she was impeccable.

Lee, manning the soundboard for the show, was the behind-the-scenes maestro who was spot on with the sound.  When you have something as simple as one guitar and one voice, its very easy to screw it up as every miscue is caught.  Lee’s deft hands (and ears) let no such disservice befall the evening’s artists.

Kelley Stoltz followed and kicked things up a notch.  Although he was limited to guitar and voice (although a saxophone made an appearance at one point), he’d never let that impede his energetic set.  His set was more varied in style, bringing in some motown-esque progressions at points.  He established a rapport with the crowd (doesn’t hurt that he’s local) and I loved it when he told us that his next song was based on an out of service train in the city.  He also told us that it was sung over an A7 chord, which, according to Kelley, is the “greatest chord there is.”

The show sold out, but it looked like most of the crowd was holding out until Stephen Malkmus, and then the place got packed.  Between sets, I heard that this was Malkmus’  first solo show in the Bay Area, and that he’s only done this a few times ever.  I count myself amongst the lucky few who witnessed an amazing evening.

I was curious how he was going to strip down Real Emotional Trash, his latest album, to just a solo guitar and a single voice.  That question was answered as soon as he played the first song, “Harness Your Hopes” from his Pavement days.  As the night went on he would masterfully pick and choose from his entire catalogue.

And the crowd absolutely loved it.  It seemed as if everyone there had been following him for years and knew every song by heart.  The ambience was nothing but positive, almost as if Stephen had united to a single cause – great music from a great musician.

This was one of those once in a lifetime shows and I’m sure glad I made it.

Favorite Moments: singing along to “Spit on a Stranger” like a giddy 12 year old and groovin’ to Malkmus’ cover of the O’Jays “Love Train”