Photos by: Rachel Keenan
The inclusion of John Vanderslice in the Noise Pop 2010 lineup should come as a surprise to no one. Regardless of new albums, collaborations, tours, proverbial blog buzz, etc., JV’s spot on the bill reflects something even greater. As both a musician and San Franciscan, he epitomizes the spirit of the Noise Pop festival: an event and institution that thrives on a sense of community through local underground music, art and film, as well as highlights from a more nationwide indie scene.
JV is just that – a local musician who both supports and creates community within the Bay Area (through Tiny Telephone, as well as endless enthusiasm and generosity towards his peers), and also commands respect on a national level for his stellar roster of albums (such as last year’sÂ Romanian Names).
Vanderslice headlined Friday night’sÂ Bay Bridged-presented show at the Swedish American Music Hall, preceded by a lineup that, as he stated later in the evening, he was very proud to have put together. As a result, it felt like a truly musical evening – every song from every act came across with a common sonic thread, a feeling of particularly lush composition and intricate, creative songwriting, a constant outpouring of pure melody.
The show began with Conspiracy of Venus, an all-female a’cappella choir with a repertoire of familiar songs. Under the artistic direction of Joyce Todd McBride, the group performed a lovely set of pop tunes rearranged in choral form, from Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi” to Rufus Wainwright’s “Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk.” The ladies were all dressed to the nines, with feather boas thrown in for good measure, and displayed enough energy and grace to set the tone for a very jovial evening.
Seeing Honeycomb perform next for their official EP release was a lovely and unexpected bonus. The band is comprised of Emily Ritz, Kasey Johansing and Nathan Blaz (Geographer), among others, and the result is wonderfully jazzy, rustic chamber pop. The set wasÂ buoyedÂ by sequins and floaty female vocals, and frontwoman Ritz led the pack with masterful ukulele skills and powerful, soulful vocals.
Visiting from Portland,Â Nurses are labelmates with John Vanderslice onÂ Dead Oceans. The band showcased plenty of lo-fi, echoey pop, channeling bands like Grizzly Bear and Rogue Wave. During their set at the Swedish, they successfully fused instrumental, theatrical electro and afflicted vocals into an energetic live set, leaving little time for banter and instead focusing on loops and samples.
His band filled in later on upright bass, drums, sax, but John Vanderslice began his set with just his guitar for a few introductory tunes. Not even halfway through the first song, and he stepped back and dropped the F-bomb before proceeding. “This song is about cannibalism, and it’s very important that I get the lyrics exactly right!” An insistence delivered, of course, with no trace of real anger or frustration, but instead with good-natured playfulness. And such is JV’s live act – charismatic and fun and lighthearted banter mixed in with his most excellent, oblique indie pop.Â Venturing out into the middle of the audience, JV and band concluded the show with some haunting acoustic songs. Joined by Conspiracy of Venus for a collective closing rendition of “Nikki Oh Nikki,” it was a joyful end to a genuine and creative evening.