Photos by: Charlie Homo

It was a weird night over at the Independent on Thursday. The specter of Michael Jackson’s death hung over the night like bubble wrap on your grandma’s antique china. It felt slightly awkward to be seeing what was sure to be a solid night of live music knowing what went down earlier that day was, in fact, a reality.

Time marches on, as I’m sure someone great once said, and I suppose we were to be the first cavalry. Three amazing bands were scheduled to take the stage in what felt like a strangely paced night, but was ultimately a great show anyway.

[audio:] Still Flyin – “Good Thing It’s a Ghost Town Around Here”

Still Flyin’ took the floor first, and while the Independent’s wide stage allowed this 15+ member band to stretch out and move around a little bit, something they are very good at, the crowd was sparse…It was pretty much to be expected that early in the night, but a drag nonetheless as these guys are in their element when playing to a full room. Regardless, they played a solid set full of great tunes that can’t help but infect your jaded sensibilities with a need to get down. Even thought the crowd was small, in the end, the band got the people moving Also, their re-interpretation of Soul Asylum’s “Runaway Train” was a real treat.

Next up was the formidable Port O’Brien, who I have to admit, I’d never seen live before. (I know, Shame on me.) After this set, though, I’ll be making catching the band a regular thing. First off, guitar/keyboardist/whatever else, Gram Lebron (Rogue Wave) took the stage and sang a few little ditties all by his lonesome. Then Port O’Brien proper joined him on stage with Tyson Vogel (Two Gallants) on drum duty and the show really started.

[audio:] Port O’Brien – “Fisherman’s Son”

Port O’Brien are gearing up to release a new album in the fall that headliner Papercuts’ Jason Quever produced, so there was most definitely a family vibe to this set. They played a mix of new and old songs and lead singer Van Pierszalowski really gave the crowd a show as he threw himself about on stage without missing a beat. In fact there were several times I thought he might fall over, but to no avail, he kept on going. Cambria Goodwin was beautiful as always and had a much more subdued temperament about her. She switched between banjo and guitar from song to song but mostly just kept her seat and sang softly when the time came for it. It made for an interesting dichotomy, on one side Van, swaggering on stage like a drunken sailor, howling into the mic. Then Cambria, sitting politely on stage playing her banjo and singing sweetly. Of course all this went directly out the window for the bands final song “I Woke Up Today”, as they invited all the members of Still Flyin’ on stage and passed out pots and pans to the audience to play along. Lets just say the place got noisy, in the best way possible.

Papercuts‘ Jason Quever took the stage with fellow musicians in tow and immediately launched into a dreamy, relaxed set comprised mainly of tracks off his newest album You Can Have What You Want with some from prior albums added for good measure. Jason’s voice is almost like aural Valium; while it doesn’t jump out and grab you right away, it does find a way to penetrate whatever state you’re in and transport you to a more relaxed place. The organ played second fiddle to Jason, adding flourish and structure to some of the choruses and giving him a nice foil for his particular style of singing.

[audio:] Papercuts – “You Can Have What You Want”

Papercuts aren’t concerned with stage acrobatics either, instead focusing on providing the listener with textures that bring the audience along with them. Not one for banter, Quever thanked the audience for their adoration while moving from one pop gem to another. Polite and innocent, his boyish charm was evident and he seemed to be genuinely appreciative of all the love he was getting that night.  Highlights of the set were the head-bob-inducing “Future Primitive” and the deceptive change-up “John Brown”. When the audience demanded an encore, the performers almost seemed a bit unprepared for it, coming out and explaining that as a band, they hadn’t rehearsed the final song too much. But it went off without a hitch and they gracefully left the stage, ending the night’s festivities.

I guess looking back on it the show was paced nicely. Starting with a party, moving on into some solid rocking, and ending with a blissful kiss off. Not your usual lineup, however, and I was a little worried: Port O’Brien put on such a good show that I wondered how Papercuts were going to follow up on it. The headliners did their job admirably and I made my way home happy that I was able to be there and see three amazing examples of SF bands that are on their ways up, while feeling sad that a legend was no longer with us.