SF Popfest: The Black Ryder 5/25/11 - Charlie Homo

SF Popfest kicked off last Wednesday with a diverse night of winning acts. After Wolf Feet started the evening with a set of sunglasses-equipped party rock (including a “Blister in the Sun” cover), White Arrows delivered a performance that marked the LA group as one to watch. The six piece’s more tropical moments called to mind the layered melodies of The Ruby Suns, while its more straightforward synth-assisted psych pop was equally welcome. A cover of “I’m on Fire” — by the way, has that become one of the go-to songs to rework? — mixed it up, displaying a deft sense of restraint. At the audience’s insistence, White Arrows played one song more than they were supposed to. “Life is short!” yelled one patron, and the band obliged.

Blackbird Blackbird were performing as a duo at the Rickshaw Stop, with Mikey Maramag accompanied by a live drummer. I’d been hoping to see how the BB sound would be interpreted by a group of musicians, but when you’re looking for a massive wall of catchy electronic pop, it doesn’t hurt to have a single person control all of the music. Maramag clearly has an ear for the best parts of songs, and many of his tracks feel like those best parts looped and layered into anthems. The proof was at the front of the crowd, where a lot of people were dancing.

And after that followed a long break. Judging by some of the yells, I was not the only one mentally composing threats of violence when the clock approached 11:45 and The Black Ryder still hadn’t started playing. And yet, like the rest of the audience, when those first loud guitar strums hit, everything was instantly forgiven. Blanketed by a video projection full of grainy, distorted images, the band was heavy, loud, and undeniably awesome. Why aren’t these guys more famous? Is it only a matter of time?

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