Photos by: Rachel Keenan
When the dust clears, album release shows — much like prom nights, or say, New Year’s Eve goings on — can have a calculated emotion about them. Usually the magic of an album, at least for the band, occurred sometime several months ago in the haze of a poorly lit studio when an accidental note or a missed entry becomes the unsuspecting essence of a bridge…a song…or the record itself. Not to mention, hometown crowds are the best and the worst. Everyone you love, and maybe even some of those who have become estranged, can be on hand.
Ambiguous release fever considered, Young Prisms, the so-called “psychedelic slackers” who have spent the better part of a year in a van or on the other side of the pond earning their buzz as one of San Francisco’s top bands to watch in 2011, exude aesthetic, appear primed for recognition, but most importantly, I got a sense for their internal homage to the sound they’re creating. It doesn’t really matter that it’s a Wednesday night in the middle of January, or that some other band slipped off the bill at the last minute, or the crowd seems underdrunk or overstoned, because it’s obvious after about six minutes of complete saturation of the ears that these guys (and girl) really don’t care what you think. They are in complete control of not being in control at all. Stage presence is passionate but distant, secondary to the assault of the ears taking precedence.
If you didn’t hear the vocal hook the way it sounded on iTunes because the two guitar parts were melting on top each other like a scene from your freshman year lava lamp, or that the methodical reverberation of the drums might have been the only melody of a chorus that never really became a chorus, it’s your loss. Or, whatever. YP’s sound is at once: divisive, momentarily blissful, well-intended, loose, shoegazingly familiar, repetitively delightful, decisively dated, admirably now, but in the end, an envious coalescence of young musicians who appear to be doing exactly what they want to be doing at this moment in time. Guess that sounds kinda silly, or seemingly common for a twenty-something touring rock band, and at worst overly existential, but it works for me. And I have a feeling, after only one listen, YP’s latest, Friends for Now is going to work for a LOT of people — not really a weak link in the lot.
Preceding YP’s 90s stylings were locals Melted Toys, who reminded me how much I loved early Cure, before they got too mopey and still had a creepy playfulness about them. Their performance was energetic, with a varied palette of vaguely electronic, crusty guitar pop, sometimes peppered with indecipherable Kurt Vile-esque vocal meanderings. I would have liked to see what a human drummer could have done for them, but seems like they will work quite well as an appetizer to YP in the next few weeks.
Speculator, a one man band from LA, warmed the night up with a yearning half-hour performance of fuzzy bedroom electro pop mostly generated from dozens of guitar pedals, loops and manufactured drum beats. It called to mind Casino versus Japan and Her Space Holiday, but with way distorted vocals in the red, a la Indian Jewelry. It’s definitely not easy to make all those elements and layers translate in a live setting through generations of loops and house monitors, but dude had an obvious dedication to his craft. That said, I am tweaking out to it on headphones right now, and the soundtrack to 1:07 a.m. has found its way home.