The Bobbleheads (photo: SarahJayn Kemp)
Saturday night at the Make-Out Room, the place was nearly empty save for the bands performing, their friends, and their families. I’d never been to the Make-Out Room before, but I could imagine why it’s named as such. Even though the venue is strictly 21 and over, I felt like I was back at my senior prom, or at least the dystopian version of coming-of-age rituals embodied in late ’90s music videos. The streamers and other disco paraphernalia hung from the ceiling evoking the wonder and lust of teenage crushes. There was a lot of love in the air.
Usually, I don’t love solo singer-songwriters. I saw Bob Mould, a personal hero of mine, solo once and I swore off seeing solo acts in the future. Even talent that reaching couldn’t float the awkward and distancing workshop feel of a solo performance for me. I need the comfort of the roar of rock and roll. However, Scott Gagner was able to present a solo performance that didn’t feel undone or lacking. With hints of Nick Drake packaged in a more versatile timbre, Gagner stood his own ground with just his guitar to support him. There were many gems in his set, but I was most impressed by “The Ghost of Me and You.” There’s a poppy jive to this song that kind of stayed with me — imprinting itself on the rest of my experiences that evening. I love a comfortable song like that — one you can just put on and wear all night.
Once we’re all dead and gone and the robot archaeologists of a fully-automated future are sifting through the ruins of humanity, I hope the relics of pop music is one of the things they uncover. Despite all of the human race’s shortcomings, a three-minute song with some decent vocals, drums that drive, and guitar that unravels and reels back up again is proof that we’re not all bad. We can shove a lot of art, emotion, and sometimes humor into a bite-sized earworm. Trip Wire and the Bobbleheads, the last two acts of the night, are two of the Bay Area’s best when it comes to supplying that power-pop sound — and the Bay Area is not hurting for talent in that genre.
Trip Wire’s harmonies should be sold as a salve; they’re so smooth their practically slick. I have seen dozens of bands that can’t find one decent singer, and I think I know why — Trip Wire is hogging them. Do yourself a favor and listen to their “Long Days Gone” and see if you don’t get the taste of honey in your mouth from the sheer sweetness of all the moving parts of the band working in such delectable cooperation with each other. Highlights of the evening included “She Handles Well” and “Exit.”
I’d never seen the Bobbleheads before, but I’m going to make a point to see them again. Their lead singer was reminiscent in terms of sound and talent of Matthew Sweet. However, whereas Sweet has a reputation for singing some of the most beautifully upbeat songs about feeling low, the Bobbleheads seemed to be much more about singing songs with an actual tinge of joy to them. They also seemed to be able to bear to poke a little fun at themselves, saying, “because we’re old and beefy we’ve got it on vinyl,” about their merch table offerings.
Intimate as the show was, it was unsettling that I soaked in so much of this sound with so few others. Bay Area friends, don’t squander future opportunities to see these acts, listed below.
Photo Gallery by Patric Carver