Although Outside Lands has become one of the country’s biggest and most diverse music festivals, its setting in the middle of the city has always given it more of a commuter vibe. It’s not a remote destination event, like Coachella, Bonnaroo or Sasquatch. Instead, it feels much more like a mega concert made specifically for San Franciscans (and other Bay Area residents).
Which is why it’s a little confusing that every year a collection of promising young bands end up playing unusually early set times during the opening session on Friday. Part of the allure of Outside Lands is that you can work during the day and hop on a bus and be at the festival by 5 p.m. However, if you did that this year, you’d miss a bunch of great up-and-coming acts, such as Speedy Ortiz, Broods and Leon Bridges (not to mention highly-acclaimed and recognized performers like St. Vincent.)
And unfortunately for fans of well-crafted power-pop and ridiculously catchy hooks, that afternoon posse also includes Alvvays (pronounced “Always”) a five-piece band out of Toronto who rose to prominence last year behind the strength of their highly-acclaimed debut album.
But while Outside Lands may make the occasionally-confounding scheduling choice, the event does a great job of partnering with local organizations to produce festival-related night shows, where smaller acts get a chance to play outside the shadow of the more prominent headliners.
On Thursday, the night before Outside Lands kicks off, Alvvays will be playing one such show at the California Academy of Sciences, as part of that institution’s weekly NightLife series. For the regular Joes who can’t get out of work early on Friday, Alvvays’ NightLife performance will be a great opportunity to see one of indie rock’s most promising new bands.
Led by Molly Rankin’s coyly-charming vocals, the group has an uncanny knack for embracing the best elements of power-pop, from jangly-guitars to soaring choruses. The band’s first single, “Archie, Marry Me,” was one of the best songs released in 2014. In that track, Rankin’s plaintive pleas rise above a cacophony of Teenage Fanclub-esque guitars (and she expertly channels Tracyanne Campbell of Glasgow indie-poppers Camera Obscura.) Like any great power-pop album, Alvvays has plenty of upbeat moments (“Archie,” “Next of Kin”), and enough room for softer, more ruminative numbers (“Red Planet” closes the album awash in eerie organs).
NightLife is always a trip — getting to see live music performances not far from where an albino alligator feeds isn’t exactly something Slim’s can offer. But Alvvays is one of the more acclaimed groups to play as part of the program, making their August 6 performance all the more anticipatory. Even better — they’re scheduled for 8:45 p.m.—which means you can’t use your lame job as an excuse to miss them this time.
California Academy of Sciences
August 6, 2015
8:45pm, $10/members, $12/non-members