Thursday, March 5th was one of those days when everything felt right with the world, the stars were aligned, the wind was at my back, etc. For a music fan, that means your efforts to see two excellent bands playing at two separate venues on the same night works out perfectly, and you even manage to have a beer with a member of one of the bands.
First up in my cosmically-aligned evening was Hard Girls from San Jose playing – conveniently enough – around the block from my house at The Milk Bar on Haight Street, at the very convenient time of 8:30pm as the openers of a four-band bill. I love this band’s latest album on Asian Man Records so much, I added them on to my Top Five Albums of 2014, happily crowding the list past capacity. Live and on album, they are my kind of punks: the ones that eschew convention, especially punk ones. Their anthemic songs brought out the rambunctious sing-alongs from the crowd from the beginning of the set and continued throughout, keeping the atmosphere packed with positive energy. The band – completely encapsulating the term “power trio” – was crammed on stage in between their awesome array of amps (SVT and Fender cab for the bass. VOX AC30, Marshall Half[?], and something else for ONE guitar player), gloriously hoisting their guitars and bashing their drums, playing the sweat out of every tune and most crowd members. They played the hits: basically all of A Thousand Surfaces to my delight, and a couple tracks from their other recordings.
After noticing that Mike the guitar player was wearing a Guided By Voices tee-shirt, and in consideration of the great show, I offered him my last, rare Dogfish Head Brewing Company’s Beer Thousand tribute to the GBV’s landmark album. He accepted and I showed him all my GBV paraphernalia while drinking some beers around the block. My roommate tried to capture the moment. No comment on the framing.
All that and I still had ample time to grab a cab, a drink, and position myself in the crowd for Viet Cong at the Rickshaw Stop. Viet Cong’s self-titled post-punk masterpiece may stay up near the top of my favorite albums of 2015. It’s early, but I have faith this album will stay on top. Viet Cong’s album on JagJaguar makes such an impact with it’s impeccable, industrial-strength production, I did two contrary things at the same time: I attempted to manage my expectations f seeing them live, while utterly creating an image in my head of post-punk, slightly gothy dudes playing these tunes through fog lamps and minimal lighting. So when four normal-looking and -acting dudes got on stage and started playing, I have to admit to a tinge of disappointment.
Fortunately, the band underneath the production of that amazing album is tight as hell and charismatic to boot. Live, they embodied my thoughts about what I imagine a mind-blowing performance from Television in their prime would be like: Two guitars weaving hooks expertly in, out, around, and through each other. Rhythm players in lock-step on angular, head-bobbing beats. The singer/bass player [!!!] had a voice that wore some of the gravel from the road with grace, but there was also a baritone there I hadn’t picked up on the album – and reminded me in the best possible ways of Mark Lanegan.
While the first show of the night captured the youth and energy I was looking for out of both band and crowd, I felt like the crowd at The Rickshaw Stop didn’t know what to do themselves – and definitely weren’t into dancing or even aggressive head-bobbing, really. It was the only slightly disappointing aspect of the evening, but couldn’t come near crashing the pleasure of seeing both bands. And of course my wallet took a massive hit at the merch booths from both shows.