Photos by Rachel Keenan and Nicole L. Browner

The beauty of catching a show at the Hemlock Tavern (in addition to consistently great booking and cheap PBR tall boys), is that the back room can feel full with even 20 or 30 people in the crowd. Last Friday, that wasn’t even an issue, though, as three of the Bay’s most buzzed about bands–Dominant Legs, Young Prisms and Weekend–and Denver’s Woodsman packed the place, with a line of disappointed would-be attendees extending down the bar.

[audio:https://www.thebaybridged.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/11/Weekend-Youth-Haunts.mp3] Weekend – “Youth Haunts”

Weekend was first and set expectations high for the rest of the evening. Post-punk by way of garage rock (or perhaps vice-versa?), the band seamlessly keeps its expansive atmospherics grounded in intense, raw playing. It’s one thing to appreciate the ambition of songs like “Youth Haunts” (from their forthcoming Mexican Summer 10″), where the band takes the long way to get to the big part. It’s something else entirely that the song is captivating throughout (a sense that carried across their whole set). I’m not sure what the band’s plans are beyond the 10″, but they were pretty fucking great on Friday.

The long and winding (compositional) road may have been less kind to Denver’s Woodsman, whose two guitars/two drummers attack initially felt a little more formless. Loud songs in a small room lost some of the texture in the band’s recordings; as a friend said early in the set, “Wait, they have two drummers?” Things got better as the group continued, particularly as the tempos slowed and things got a little quieter. At that point, the drummers’ layers were better defined, creating some wonderful push-and-pull moments before the quartet surged into an epic ending that felt more than earned.

[audio:https://www.thebaybridged.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/Young-Prisims-Weekends-and-Treehouses.mp3] Young Prisms – “Weekends and Treehouses”

Young Prisms
Young Prisms may have just returned from playing something like seven shows in four days on tour, but they didn’t show any fatigue in an energetic set of shimmering jams. As is the case with their labelmates Real Estate, even though the Prisms soak their songs in effects, they aren’t using reverb as a crutch to hide weak compositions. Quite the opposite, really; on Friday, the rhythm section’s strong backbeat and some cutting guitar work added up to a compelling set of dark rock songs. Afterward, I picked up a copy of the band’s EP. I’d advise you to do the same.

[audio:https://www.thebaybridged.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/Dominant-Legs-Clawing-Out-at-the-Walls.mp3] Dominant Legs – “Clawing Out at the Walls”

Dominant Legs
Starting around 1am, Dominant Legs rewarded the late-night folks with a set showcasing a full band, with a bassist and drummer playing electronic pads joining Ryan Lynch and Hannah Hunt. The first couple songs sounded good, but the band really came together midway through a set that included a number of the songs that have been floating around the web recently. It’s hard to find the words to describe the band’s experimental pop sensibility, but there’s a real vulnerability to even their most upbeat songs. Lynch closed the set with a solo acoustic rendition of the chorus from “Empire State of Mind,” drawing out the melancholy lurking beneath the pop hit’s surface.