Photos by Katie Kopacz
I had been in The Independent for about 7 minutes on Tuesday night, when an eager British guy came up to me and told me to come with him. Perhaps I’m too trusting of strangers, but I followed him anyway. He led me to the merch table and tried to sell me a t-shirt with flattery. He introduced himself as Harry Violent, the unofficial roadie/hypeman of Palma Violets. He told me to get ready for a good time, that the boys of Palma Violets, fresh from two weekends at Coachella, would not disappoint us in San Francisco. We even talked about the “weirdness” of Coachella and the absolutely insane news that Palma Violets will be opening for none other than The Rolling Stones in England this summer. Having missed out on seeing both Palma Violets and opening band Guards playing at Coachella, I was stoked to catch them at The Independent.
The venue was sparse early on in the night but a steady number of people began trickling in as Guards prepared to take the stage. Hailing from Brooklyn, the trio are currently promoting In Guards We Trust, their first full-length album released in February that boasts indie pop rock with a decidedly 70’s twist and fuzzy vocals. Guards has been riding a steady wave of high praise after the release of the album and crept into the scene thanks to famous blood: lead singer Richie James Follin is brother to frontwoman of indie pop darling band Cults, Madeline Follin (making hook-heavy indie pop rock runs in the fam!).
Guards brought a mystic-like stage setting, and the majority of the band members rocked long, dark, middle-parted hair. A fog-machine that rivals all others shrouded keyboardist and wife of Richie, Kaylie Chruch, in light smoke. The highlight of the band’s set was “Nightmare,” a ripping song that blasts with fuzzed out vocals. Guards seemed humble and eager-to-please, none of the I’m-too-cool-for-this-I-just-don’t-care attitude. Richie extensively thanked the crowd for showing up early. Guards clearly had the energy and colorful songs to make them a perfect opening band for Palma Violets on the rest of their tour.
The crowd was full and ready as Harry took the stage to introduce Palma Violets before throwing himself in the audience to get the crowd buzzing. Palma Violets tore through “Johnny Bagga’ Donuts” first and played most every song off of their debut album, 180. The four London lads were bursting with a captivating energy, a heavy passion that came not from giddiness but rather a commitment to building up a powerful force to be reckoned – the result of which had everyone in the venue feeling the same. Singer and bassist Chili Jesson sang with angst and made the stage of The Independent a trampoline for the night — jumping around and getting the crowd riled up.
The pièce de résistance came when the band played their most well-known song, “Best of Friends.” The song really blew through the crowd as the wild energy that can only be produced by four sweaty, slightly drunk 20 year old dudes transferred to the audience. Palma Violets weren’t all boundless, dizzying energy. There were some tender moments of the set, the melodic rambling of “Last of the Summer Wine” as well as the tail-end of their latest single, “We Found Love.” To cap off the night, they performed an encore of “Brand New Song,” the hidden song on the album and a rabid hurricane ensued. The crowd reeled even more when Jesson and singer/guitarist Sam Fryer jumped into the crowd, sweatily banging out the last notes.
The band thanked the crowd and skittered off backstage, leaving the crowd echoing notes of their last song with hoarse throats. Harry Violent was right — the boys of Palma Violets played an uproarious set rivaled by few and far between. I actually did end up buying a T-shirt, and I never buy T-shirts.