Saturday night’s Slumberland Records showcase at the Rickshaw Stop was a mini-festival within SF Popfest 2011, like a set of Russian nesting dolls, or like something that’s a smaller thing within a similar but larger thing other than a set of Russian nesting dolls. Promising ten bands in eight hours, the show offered prospective attendees a sampling of one of indie’s most vital labels, but I’ll confess to harboring a little bit of fear about the undertaking too. With a genre like indie pop, which often, and not altogether unfairly, gets derided as a little samey, one could imagine a show of this length as an unrelenting battery of C86, numbing enough to send even the most loyal twee devotee headed for the hills.
Although my feet hurt by the time 14 Iced Bears hit the stage, the evening’s varied offerings help prevent the burnout that so frequently happens at music binge-a-thons. And it wasn’t just that the bands were all different, but that so many of them were terrific, particularly a stretch in the early evening that kicked off with Oxnard’s Sea Lions. Nerdy, nervy, and jangly, the band’s got an LP forthcoming and, as far as I’m concerned, the sooner the better. Slumberland is also slated to release new records this year from Brilliant Colors, who played a number of strong new fuzzy pop songs, and LA’s Devon Williams, whose band delivered a sharp set that felt drawn from the Nick Lowe school of tight power pop. Oh, and The Art Museums were really impressive, and Phil Wilson was extremely charming, and really, I could go on and on.
On some level, though, all of that is just beating around the bush. This show would have been worth it — hell, the whole Popfest would have been worth it — just to see Terry Malts plow through a set of someday greatest hits, barely pausing for air. You know how irritating it can be when someone incessantly talks about how a band you don’t know is the best band in the universe? I have been on the receiving end of the Terry Malts hype, but now I’m one of the converted, ready to spend my savings on billboards announcing that the musical rapture is here, and it’s being led by three dudes from San Francisco. I want big bands to take Terry Malts on tour and watch the Malts blow them away and steal all of their fans. Put it this way: if you like rock and roll, The Ramones, melody, and/or life itself, you will love this band.