July Talk (photo: Joshua Huver)
Bottom of the Hill, the small club at the bottom of Potrero Hill in San Francisco, hosted one hell of a rowdy rock show last Thursday, January 27 featuring an opener from Oregon, a middle-slot act from Tennessee and a Canadian headliner who just wrapped a stadium tour in Europe.
Kicking the evening off shortly after 9:00 PM was The Lower 48, a Midwestern group who relocated to Portland after high school. After some lineup adjustments, Ben Braden and Sarah Parson (each doubles on vox, guitar and bass as needed) welcomed drummer Nick Talk to complete the three-piece they play as today. On Thursday, they played a high energy, nine-song set with a punk rock sneer for their entire 45 minute slot.
The Lower 48 definitely are well versed in the rock and roll of yesteryear, holding nothing back in the driving grooves. All three members harmonize and take turns in the spotlight, adding their own unique flair to every song.
MONA, another Midwest transplant – this time moving to Nashville – took the stage shortly after 10:00 PM and nearly filled the stage with their three guitarists, not including the bass.
Throughout their hour-long set, MONA tore through hard-rocking anthems reminiscent of the grandeur of Fitz and The Tantrums and seriously impressive lead vocals from band leader Nick Brown.
“Don’t be scared,” Brown told the crowd between songs. “It’s only rock ‘n roll.”
At 11:20, the main event finally graced the stage as the lights went down and five-piece Canadian sensation July Talk took the stage to a packed house. Backed by the unshakeable rhythm of bassist Josh Warburton and drummer Danny Miles, guitarist Ian Docherty has loads of room for nuanced guitar swells, anxiety-riddled bends and overall atmospheric attuning; the center ring of the circus is Peter Dreimanis and Leah Fay’s explosively sensual stage presence.
They opened their set with “Picturing Love,” their most recent single from Touch, their second full length record. “Summer Dress” and “Headsick,” a song “about losing your goddamn mind” according to Fay, followed from their 2013 debut album, July Talk.
“Gentleman,” a bonus track from their debut album and a highly viewed YouTube single came next, followed by the back and forth call and response of “Johnny + Mary,” the first of many songs that center on a theme of duality. “Guns + Ammunition” is another, and they followed that with “Now I Know”.
One of the most exciting aspects of attending a July Talk show is the effort that Fay and Dreimanis put into connecting with the crowd; if you shout at them, they will hear you. For the older song, “I’ve Rationed Well,” Fay climbed into the crowd and had everybody sit down around her. Watch it unfold below:
The end of the set saw them continue their themes of duality, utilizing the contrast from Fay’s sweet and charming tone with the gritty, Leonard Cohen growl of Dreimanis. Fay’s background in dance helps her engage with people all the way in the back of the room and if they can get close enough, Dreimanis’ charm will undoubtedly hold them.
“Blood + Honey,” “Uninvited” and “My Neck”, all from their debut album, were full of theatrics and interplay between the bandleaders, from faux mic cord strangulation to one acting as a microphone stand for the other. They ended the set with the fan favorite “Paper Girl.” Check it out here:
For their encore, the band performed the title track from their latest disc, “Touch” and finished with “The Garden”, which is the first song the band wrote together. Originally it was called “July Talk”, but the band decided July Talk would make for a better band name instead.