Words by: Nicole L. Browner
Photos by: Adrian Bischoff
Whereas many of the Noise Pop shows offered headlining spots to the big out-of-town bands, this Bottom of the Hill show allowed San Francisco to boast its local talent on the rise: Sholi’s Noise Pop performance doubled as their at-home record release party for the album they’ve released on Quarterstick last month.
Opening for the night was their longtime associate, Jake Mann (Crossbill Records) and friends. Jake bashfully draws upon classic sounds from the decade before: the eager tempo of Pavement, Jeff Tweedy’s rural charm and even a little Neutral Milk Hotel with the newly added trumpet. Keeping things simple was the crux of the Mann band’s routine â€“ singing and playing bass, Jake added that he hopes to be noted as the first capoed bass player â€“ and was clearly having fun onstage.
As act one finishes up, Bottom of the Hill is thickening and somehow does produce the effect of deterring eyes from the main event. Going on my fifth night of this Noise Pop week, Iâ€™ll contend that Saturdayâ€™s crowd was the most attentive and courteous. And Iâ€™d yet to see a volunteer come up to tell a joke during a guitar-tuning break â€“ which yes, actually happened later in the evening.
Next comes Everest, a band with rich history and incredible musicianship that impressed Neil Young enough to pick up (on his Vapor Records) and even take to Europe. Lead singer Russ Pollard admitted the shocking fact to me that heâ€™d learned to sing just as Everest begun, as in the past heâ€™d been drumming (Sebadoh, Alaska!, Folk Implosion and help to the Watson Twins).
The five piece pounded out both â€œTreesâ€ and â€œRebels and the Rosesâ€ from their full-length Ghost Notes, but played mostly unreleased songs they’ve been writing on tour. These new songs pack in more zeal and a stronger incentive for the band to let loose with their stage activity, rounding in close to compliment the utmost stunning basslines from Elijah Thomson.
Pushing the subtle hints of twang over the edge was The Dead Trees, an alt-country group on Milan Records who did tourdates in Europe with Little Joy last month. Despite not standing out in much regard (and sounding uncharacteristic of their native Portland), I still started to wonder how this bill was chosen. First a charismatic pop set, and then on to acts deserving to open for Band of Horses or Son Volt? Well, it was pulled off by the mere fact that every band brought their a-game to the stage on this occasion. If Noise Pop is a time to win over a fan on the fence, to bring a new face into local venues and to give exposure to bands that need just one opportunity to woo a crowd, this show exemplified it.
At this point the record releasers take the stage, San Franciscoâ€™s Sholi â€“ starting out with the always mesmerizing â€œAll That We Can Seeâ€ followed by another older track rejuvenated on the album, â€œAny Other God.â€ Their Quarterstick debut embraces both quiet and soft just the way these two songs do. The magnetism between Payam Bavafra, bassist Eric Ruud and drummer Jon Bafus shows mostly during the live set, but easily overlooked is Greg Hagel in the corner, maintaining melodic sounds from the keys and Macbook sitting in front of him. But his charges pulled him in soon enough, as he strikes the floor tom and snare aside his post during “November Through June.”
Sholi kept with a perky setlist, including their rendition of the Iranian pop singer Googoosh’s “Hejrat,” (translates to “Migration”). “Tourniquet” was a high point, as it allowed Jon to display his wide range of stylistic ability. Before you know it, this shuffling song (throwing me back to the soothing Engine Down) slides into a 30 second pop beat, only to just as quickly disappear underneath Jon’s jittery timeclock percussion.
In-between song banter never comes out the way anyone wishes, and like I mentioned earlier there was a stage guest who offered comedy when Sholi assured they’re anything but a funny band. Just to be tasteful I won’t retell the joke, but I’ll give a hint: it was about tampons.
The crowd warmly received each band on Saturday night, which set the show apart from the rest of the week’s (at least in my experience). And as for the Quarterstick rookies, I’d assume they better get used to headlining packed venues — Sholi’s new album has the potential to bring success wherever they take it.