Review and Photos by: Nic Buron
One of the many strengths of the Noise Pop Festival is its ability to bring together such solid and eclectic bills. Of course tonightâ€™s show was no exception.
Show opener Tiny Television is a San Francisco band (by way of Denver, Colorado), that prove difficult to describe. Their sound is so familiar, but feels undeniably new: think hard charging, dark Americana, but with something that you just canâ€™t put your finger on. Tonight they played as a six-piece: two guitars, bass, drums, pedal steel, and a back-up singer flown in from Denver. Striking three-part harmonies, depth charge drumming, and masterful pedal steel. They played hard and with real emotion which was rewarded with a response you donâ€™t frequently see for a band opening a show.
Following Tiny Television was L.A. foursome, Leslie and the Badgers. Leader of the band, Leslie, professed a affinity for the Rickshaw Stop, and explained that their first out-of-town gig (and their third show ever) was right here. Although their set was plagued with technical problems, it didnâ€™t slow them down at all. The Badgers’ sound has elements of traditional folk and 60â€™s era Nashville country, but with a beefed up rhythm section. They too had a pedal steel, and a decidedly shiner one at that. Leslie has the country twang down, but snuck in a little rock and folk too, and the band’s set ended in a raucous manner that caused several audience members to shout out â€œone moreâ€.
Third in the line-up were Oakland party girls The Hot Toddies. Their sound mines doo wop, surf rock, and indie pop, and they sing about things decent girls would only whisper about: drinking, spanking, wet dreams, internet love, and, did I mention, drinking? Their songs border on jokey, but they luckily kept straight faces throughout.
Halfway through the set, the girls busted out a surf rock jam with a beat that landed so hard the floor shook, defiantly bringing a party vibe to the chill audience. In fairness, in a venue packed to capacity, it was nearly impossible to find room to shake one’s moneymaker.
The evening ended with 23 year old wunderkind headliner Zee Avi. She had an almost celebrity status – with a glimpse of her causing many to yell â€œItâ€™s her, itâ€™s herâ€ and hurriedly whip-out their iPhones. Avi was backed by an upright bassist and a drummer, but begun her set with an a cappella torch song. You couldnâ€™t find an audience more pleased. Between songs, she made jokes about her native Malaysia, prompting aspiring comics in the audience to shout out their own quips.
Avi’s songs are little mediations on life, sung like a jazz vixen, over folk-pop arrangements. Throughout her set, the multi-instrumentalist played guitar, ukulele, and a beer mug, a good cap to a genre bending night. And if Zee Aviâ€™s sweet confections werenâ€™t enough, as patrons walked out of the Rickshaw Stop, they were greeted by a cupcake truck. I canâ€™t think of a better way to end the night.