Tom Krell (aka How To Dress Well)

Wednesday night marked How To Dress Well‘s return to the Rickshaw Stop, making good on Tom Krell’s promise during his previous San Francisco show in June. SF duo Seatraffic opened the evening, followed by a set from New York electronic duo Beacon. Epicsauce DJ Kevin Meenan spun house jams between sets.

Once Seatraffic worked out a couple kinks with their custom lighting and vocals, the local drum and synth duo got the crowd dancing with a set of mostly new material. The band played in front of their self-designed backdrop, with colorful lighting synchronized to the beat of each song. Mark Zannad kept his vocal chords primed with water when his hands weren’t busy working the synths, while Brandon Harrison chose to sip beer between his sets of live drumming.


Listen to Seatraffic, “Crimes” (SID Happens Remix):

Brooklyn duo Beacon took the stage next, forming electronic, beat-heavy slow jams against a backdrop of vibrant, digital visuals. Thomas Mullarney III and Jacob Gossett threw down laid-back, seductive electro cuts, with Mullarney on vocals. Beacon ended with “Feeling’s Gone”, which you can stream below.

For those who attended How To Dress Well’s show this past June, Wednesday’s setup might have seemed familiar, as nothing had changed with the act’s outfit. Falsetto-ed frontman Tom Krell commanded dual microphones, with Cameron Reed (Babe Rainbow) on MIDI and Aaron Read on violin and samples. I’m pretty sure Cameron was literally wearing the same outfit, an Elite Gymnastics t-shirt. Krell was rocking a House of LaDosha tee.

Alternating between tracks from his new album Total Loss and 2010’s Love Remains, Tom Krell’s fragile, pitch-perfect voice silenced the crowd as the trio performed against a video collage backdrop. Krell’s silhouette was inverted against the screen, back-to-back with his shadow, an interesting visual effect. After performing “Running Back” Krell announced that he was sick, but also “really high,” as he chuckled between his deeply soulful vocal tracks. He asked for the bass to be cranked up on “Cold Nites”, transitioning into a brand new song. He said, “It should be really loud, but don’t let it stress you out.”

The Chicago native also informed the crowd that San Francisco was his “home-away-from-home,” dedicating Love Remains favorite “Suicide Dream 2” to Caleb of, which put out How To Dress Well’s Just Once EP in 2011. He dedicated “Ready For the World” to someone named Hassan, working in a medley of R. Kelly’s “I Wish.”

The trio capped off the set with Total Loss single “& It Was U” (hear the new Doss remix, below) and “Ocean Floor For Everything”. Towards the end of closer “Set It Right” (of which Krell said, “Yo, this one should be extremely fucking loud.”), Epicsauce DJ Kevin Meenan accidentally jumped the gun on the bass-pumping house music. (Editor’s update: we’re hearing that it’s unclear how the DJ’s sound came back on during the set.) Krell made a crack at our local DJ friend, who jokingly yelled “Go fuck yourself!” back at the stage.

Listen to How To Dress Well, “& It Was U” (Doss Remix):

Krell’s backing band exited the stage, and Krell returned for a solo, a capella encore, as the performer often does. Instead of the expected Janet Jackson cover, Krell paid tribute to Elite Gymnastics with a stripped-down vocal cover of “Here, In Heaven” (which sounded very different from the original, below), followed by an emotional new song that he wrote for his brother.

Listen to Elite Gymnastics, “Here, In Heaven”:

It was an emotional night indeed, as the crowd was left stunned by How To Dress Well’s heartfelt performance, primed by the solid opening bill of Beacon and Seatraffic.