Photos by: Rachel Keenan
Thankfully, the rain dissipated to welcome the first proper full slate evening of Noise Pop acts. It’s always a bit of transition to slip into “festival” mode, where four band bills can test the weariness of your legs and ears, not to mention your liver. The sets can be a bit shorter, if not strategic, but the discovery of a new bff band is always looming.
Although the room was slowly filling up, it was fitting to hear a pocket of natural reverb grace the harmony-driven 60s basement pop of the The Splinters, who hail from the East Bay. While they seemed a bit green on the big stage, by set’s end it was easy to imagine their tambourine, Shaggs-tinged sound appealing to a wider audience in the coming year.
Following was co-headliner Foreign Born’s tourmates, Free Energy, who notched up the time machine a decade with its nearly transparent, but genuine, homage to 70s icons Big Star and Thin Lizzy. Almost immediately, it was apparent they would be the wild card of the night, with their unabashed popgasms that would make Peter Frampton proud, and their fresh-faced frontman, looking like a distant relation to Dazed & Confused‘s “Mitch Kramer”. The lyrical narrative of the set was refreshingly ‘good times’ — completely devoid of angst — backed by solid musicianship, perhaps making some of us wonder: what ever happened to the idea of a kick-ass pop rock band with tunes entitled “Dream City” and “Hope Child”?
Taking cue from Thee Oh Sees, SF’s The Fresh & Onlys have put out a shit ton of music in the past year. Couple records, seven inches, cassettes, lectures, laser discs, home movies — I dunno, I lost track. Anyway, I came in on this performance having seen them a couple times, so it was easier for me to obnoxiously whisper in my friend’s ear: “this is a good one”, as it happened. While it’s obvious they can slam the door of the Garage in their sleep, hit those half-step down choruses, or even Surf a wave or two, their set really came alive when singer Tim Cohen’s baritone lull channeled a slightly more psychedelic Iggy Pop-esque new wave, or Eric Burdon’s era with the Animals. If the crowd had even the slightest case of the Wednesdays, their last two tunes sent the uninitiated straight to the merch booth.
Hmmm…headliners always have all the tricks — especially when they’re from the land of illusions, our old friend L.A. In closing the night’s ceremonies, Foreign Born encountered an indecisively energetic audience, nearly as unpredictable as their set, which seemed to alternate, incredibly at times, between anthemic Brit pop and gently- inspired West African pop. Some headed for the door, but those who remained up front were not content to plant their feet. If the encore slight did ya wrong, check out their equally reputable offshoot Fool’s Gold.
Hope Child, now signing off from Dream City.