Photos by Nicole L. Browner
Last night’s show at the Rickshaw Stop packed a huge crowd, including familiar faces such as members of Surfer Blood, Thee Oh Sees, Burnt Ones, and the fourteen year-old kid who Bradford Cox brought on stage during Atlas Sound‘s Noise Pop 2012 show at Bimbo’s 365. Yep, you bet he crowdsurfed too, as did two or three other feisty individuals caught up in the energy of White Fence‘s phenomenal headlining set.
Jonathan Rado and his band of “Gentlemen Jets” opened the show. Rado is one of the two permanent members of Foxygen, arguably the most polarizing band of the year this side of Death Grips. Rado said this was the first show he and his new band had ever played, after allegedly practicing for only one day. Rado’s band actually played much tighter than when I saw Foxygen play at Brick & Mortar, perhaps because he wasn’t butting heads with Foxygen’s eccentric singer Sam France. Both of them are releasing solo albums soon, hinting towards Foxygen’s likely demise. Rado apologized for not having his debut Law and Order LP pressed in time for the tour, and for the fact that he’s “not really good at banter.”
Joined by a guitarist, bassist, drummer, and his girlfriend Jackie Cohen on tambourine, Rado led his band through songs off his upcoming album in between sips of his Tequila Sunrise. His songwriting is a little more traditional than Foxygen’s, relying on heavy blues-rock riffs, guitar solos, and old-timey lyrics like “Oh! Susanna”. He even teased a bit of Michael Jackson’s “Black or White” at the beginning of his set. Tim Presley did not join Rado on stage to play guitar on “Faces”, but the band did hit an ambitious four-part harmony on the jam that goes “would you always be at home.” The drummer plays in a band called Wolf Thompson and said he will not be joining Rado for the remainder of the tour.
San Francisco songwriter Jessica Pratt performed a gorgeous set of songs from her self-titled debut, backed by guitar, vocals, and keys from a gentleman she called Will. After he helped tune Pratt’s guitar before they got started, saying “sorry, this is like a bad dream,” Pratt responded with “Will also bathes me.” Starting off with highlight “Night Faces”, Pratt enchanted the crowd with her uniquely nostalgic voice and meticulous guitar plucking. A few songs in, Pratt traded in her electric guitar for an acoustic one, more akin to her delicate voice. “Hey, can we keep the lights like this blue color,” she said during the middle of her set, and the lighting technician obliged. It was beautiful and I’m sure someone probably cried.
This was the first proper headlining performance I’ve seen from LA/SF garage rock band White Fence, and my god did they deliver. Tim Presley was joined by a drummer, a bass player who was rumored to have been flown in from Wales, and a glammed-out dude named Jack who was tweaking pedals and playing one of those weird little Steinberger Spirit guitars looking creepy as hell. If Presley looks like the coolest motherfucker ever to hold a guitar like a rifle, it’s probably because he is. Opening with an onslaught of largely instrumental psych-rock shredders, White Fence roused the center-stage crowd into the biggest most pit I’ve seen at Rickshaw since, I dunno, ever.
This continued for about seventy minutes or so, with the band serving up many of the hardest rocking tunes from White Fence’s new Cyclops Reap LP and albums past. From time to time, the band slowed it down a little for songs such as “Breathe Again”. That didn’t stop Jack from breaking a string on his Spirit, however, as he had to revert to a less showy six-string as Presley took it back down a notch with “Only Man Alive”. Presley swapped out the bass player for some dude named Jared towards the end of the set.
Before White Fence played its encore around midnight, Presley couldn’t find his guitar pick and had to borrow one from the audience. When he found that his was stuck to his guitar the entire time, he said, “That’s fucked up. That’s like Mythbusters,” and proceeded to end the show, which was, in sum, incredible.