Tuesday night at Bottom of the Hill kicked off this week’s Noise Pop festival with an all-local showcase with impressive performances from Miserable, Super Unison, and Same Girls, all currently or formerly based in Oakland.
Pllush, representing San Francisco, were also set to perform, but unfortunately had to cancel due to illness (Get well soon, Karli!). For fans who were sad to miss them, Pllush will return to play the Chapel in April. Thankfully, I was able to catch one of their sets at the same venue last year, with their live renditions of Stranger to the Pain singles “Big Train” and “Shannon” being a highlight of 2018.
Same Girls opened the show on Tuesday with a varied, engaging set. While I had first heard about Same Girls through their releases on Text Me Records, this was my first time seeing them live. The band performed as a four-piece, with vocalist and guitarist Taifa Nia leading the group. Each song had a bit of a different vibe, and everything sounded great. Taifa reminded everyone that it was Black History Month, and tried to lighten the mood with a few jokes on the subject.
Super Unison’s set, however, was a bit less subtle. Things shifted from bouncy guitar pop into post-hardcore territory as the volume levels were cranked up to 11. Vocalist Meghan O’Neil bellowed the majority of her vocals with an impassioned growl, matching the intensity of the drums and guitars. Although the lyrics can be difficult to make out at times, O’Neil introduced her songs with topics ranging from punching Nazis to growing out of personal traumas. Heavy in both message and delivery, Super Unison delivered a powerful and inspiring performance, leaving me a bit deaf for Miserable’s headlining set. Super Unison’s latest album Stella, recorded by Steve Albini, is out now via Deathwish.
Miserable is the alternative LA/Oakland-based solo project of Kristina Esfandiari, separate from her other band King Woman. Kristina led a full band with vocals and guitar, quietly introducing her songs to the crowd. Esfandiari’s smoky drawl hypnotizes listeners over slow-churning doom riffs (with a little shoegaze here and there), belting out peak moments with decisive energy. Rather than trying to fill the space with banter, Miserable would take advantage of moments between songs to meticulously tune their instruments, taking care to make sure everything sounded perfect. Most of Miserable’s Noise Pop set list came from Loverboy / Dog Days (out now on Sargent House), another clear standout from 2018.
With established out-of-town acts rounding out a big chunk of this year’s Noise Pop festival, it was nice to see local bands holding their own. Even with Pllush’s unfortunate cancellation, this show was a great representation of Oakland’s alternative rock scene and a perfect start to the festival.