Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile aren’t there yet, but they could be on the verge of something great

Courtney Barnett & Kurt VileBy Pedro Paredes //

Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile with Jen Cloher //
Fox Theater Oakland – Oakland
October 18th, 2017 //

Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile have both released albums that I count among my favorites of the 2010’s, so when I heard they would be performing together at the Fox Theater Oakland, I made sure to quickly clear my schedule and get ready for a night out.

On tour in support of their new collaborative album Lotta Sea Lice, the duo took the stage to almost-packed venue. Australian singer-songwriter Jen Cloher (who is also Barnett’s partner and musical collaborator) opened the show and played a fantastic set that left the audience ready for the main act.

Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile

Around 9 p.m., the duo and accompanying band members (which included Sleater-Kinney’s Janett Weiss on drums) were eagerly received by the crowd. Their set included almost every song from the new album (sans “Peppin Tom”) and a few extras, such as a rendition of Kurt Vile’s “Pretty Pimpin” and Barnett’s “Avant Gardener”, which was among the best received songs. My personal favorite was “Continental Breakfast” (I recommend you watch the video clip here if you haven’t already).

As much as I enjoyed the show, I have to admit that the sensation I got was more like being a witness to the beginning of something great. Just like their album, their live show felt like two talented musicians still getting to know each other as they playfully experimented with their sound, but still not at the point of flowing as one cohesive unit. Although this union might be far from over, I can’t wait to hear what’s next.

Setlist:
Over Everything
Let It Go
Fear Is Like a Forest (Jen Cloher & The Endless Sea cover)
Out of the Woodwork (Courtney Barnett cover)
Continental Breakfast
On Script
On Tour (Kurt Vile cover)
Depreston (Courtney Barnett cover)
Life Like This (Kurt Vile cover)
Blue Cheese
Dead Fox (Courtney Barnett cover)
Untogether (Belly cover)

Encore:
Elvis Presley Blues (Gillian Welch cover)
Pretty Pimpin (Kurt Vile cover)
Avant Gardener (Courtney Barnett cover)

Cate Le Bon lets her music do the talking in SF

Cate Le BonBy Pedro Paredes //

Cate Le Bon with Mega Bog //
The Chapel – San Francisco
May 16th, 2016 //

With the release of her fourth studio album Crab Day last month, Welsh singer-songwriter Cate Le Bon played the final stop of her North American tour in SF on Monday night.

Opening the show was Mega Bog, Erin Birgy’s Brooklyn-based project that just released a new LP entitled Happy Together.

While it took a while for guests to arrive at The Chapel, the room was full by the time Le Bon took the stage. Most of the songs she played were from Crab Day, but she also incorporated a few older tunes like “Are You With Me Now?”, which seemed to get an enthusiastic response from the crowd. Though to be fair, her fans were pretty enthusiastic the entire night.

Cate Le Bon

Le Bon’s interactions with the audience were pretty short and polite, offering some simple thank you’s during her set. The crowd answered her by shouting excitedly, but she didn’t engage in any conversations. Instead, she let her music do most of the talking because the 33-year-old now based in Los Angeles is one excellent guitar player.

I arrived at the show only knowing her 2013 record Mug Museum, and by the end of the show, I was impressed by how good both she and her band were live, even during songs I wasn’t all that familiar with. Immediately after the show, I made sure to listen to the rest of her albums, and I have to say that I am loving all of them now. Le Bon will definitely be on my radar going forward, and I can’t wait to hear more from her in the future.

Julia Holter digs into her latest album at The Chapel

Julia HolterBy Pedro Paredes //

Julia Holter with Circuit des Yeux //
The Chapel – San Francisco
January 31st, 2016 //

A sold-out crowd descended upon The Chapel on the final night of January for Julia Holter, the Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter who has collaborated with other musicians such as Nite Jewel, Linda Perhacs, and Michael Pisaro in the past.

It’s always nice when The Chapel sells out. It’s a small and cozy venue, and when the place is at capacity, you can really feel the room’s energy.

Circuit des Yeux


Circuit des Yeux

Opening the show was Circuit des Yeux, Chicago native Haley Fohr’s solo project. When the venue’s lights went out and Fohr quietly stepped on the stage with her 12-string guitar, there wasn’t much of a reaction from the crowd. Fohr appeared rather shy and didn’t interact with her spectators a whole lot, but she let her hypnotic music do the talking — and consequently, the audience was blown away by the end of her set. Fohr has a very unique voice with a deep baritone, and at times, she created distorted sounds by increasing the intensity of her vocals and using other noises/shouts to bring her sound to another level, turning the volume up and then down like the tide rolling in and out.

Holter arrived onstage next with a few sidekicks, including a double bass player, drummer and violist, the latter of which also contributed some impressive backup vocals throughout her performance. Much to the audience’s delight, the ensemble played a majority of material from Holter’s latest LP Have You in My Wilderness, which received favorable reviews and was one of my favorite albums in 2015, along with some songs from her previous records. Holter’s songs are multi-layered, well-produced and full of arrangements, and with her band in sync, her SF performance was one that definitely delivered.

Setlist:
Horns Surrounding Me
Silhouette
Marienbad
In the Green Wild
Feel You
Betsy on the Roof
Everytime Boots
Don’t Make Me Over (Dionne Warwick cover)
Night Song
So Lillies
City Appearing

Encore:
Vasquez
Sea Calls Me Home

We can’t stop loving this honeybear who goes by the name of Father John Misty

Father John MistyBy Pedro Paredes //

Father John Misty with King Tuff //
The Fillmore – San Francisco
April 17th, 2015 //

Bay Area music fans had a tough choice to make last Friday. As The Fillmore filled in to see Father John Misty, alt-J and Tycho were playing to a sold-out Greek Theatre across the bay in Berkeley.

At The Fillmore, you could overhear a few people in the audience saying that it was hard to choose which show to attend, while other FJM fans knew where their allegiances lied from the get-go, arriving at the venue early in hopes of standing in the front row.

King Tuff


King Tuff

Opening the night were garage rockers King Tuff, which proved to be an interest pairing with FJM. Though the audience wasn’t all that familiar with them, plenty of people dug their music, following lead singer/guitarist Kyle Thomas’ lead by their bobbing their heads to the beat. The band played a mix of tunes from its 2012 self-titled record and 2014’s Black Moon Spell, but the highlight of its set was “Anthem”, an appropriately-named tune given its sound. You could really tell that the three-piece was putting it all out there and enjoying every moment it was on stage.

The energy inside The Fillmore didn’t let up after King Tuff, as FJM and his bandmates opened with the first song off I Love You, Honeybear (read our community review here), which had the crowd quickly singing along. Between his power poses and stage antics, Joshua Tillman’s showmanship skills, of course, never disappoint — he could probably be a stand-up comedian if he wanted to, given the banter that ensues after each song. That, combined with Tillman’s music, make FJM one of the most entertaining shows you can see live nowadays. Yet, the question still remains: is Tillman simply playing a character?

Belle and Sebastian take crowd participation up a notch at the Greek

Belle and SebastianBy Pedro Paredes //

Belle and Sebastian with Real Estate, Perfume Genius //
Greek Theatre – U.C. Berkeley
April 12th, 2015 //

It’s always nice to go inside the Greek Theatre at U.C. Berkeley. The background is great — you can see the Golden Gate Bridge and there are a lot of nice eucalyptus trees on the horizon, too.

It was a sunny Sunday last weekend when Scottish indie-pop band Belle and Sebastian headlined the Greek in between their two performances at Coachella.

One of two opening acts on the bill, Perfume Genius (aka Mike Hadreas) got the show started before the venue filled in, and those who arrived early were in for a treat as the Seattle solo artist played songs from 2014’s Too Bright and 2012’s Put Your Back N 2 It, delivering an intense onstage performance.

Ridgewood, N.J., indie rockers Real Estate followed, and every time they play, they put on an amazing show. They played the usual tunes from Days and Atlas but left people smiling by the end of their set. It all comes from the music — they don’t move around too much on stage, but their music makes up for it — and people listen.

Belle and Sebastian

Real Estate paved the way lastly for Belle and Sebastian, which featured a lot of people on stage. Lead singer Stuart Murdoch and company were joined by a group of roughly 50 fans who were invited by the band to register online along with a string section of 4-5 players. They played songs from their latest album Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance and also pleased fans with some other classic tunes, including “The Boy with the Arab Strap” in which they invited more audience members to jump on stage and dance. About 20-25 people obliged, making for a memorable show at one of the Bay Area’s most majestic venues.

JEFF the Brotherhood beef up with expanded touring band

JEFF-the-Brotherhood_The-Independent_032915_Pedro-Paredes-Haz-7By Pedro Paredes //

JEFF the Brotherhood with Bully, SCRAPER //
The Independent – San Francisco
March 29th, 2015 //

Nashville-based JEFF the Brotherhood are usually a duo, but they beefed up their sound with two additional touring members in support of their new LP Wasted on the Dream. Even though their sonic style reminds you of some rock and metal bands from the 70’s, these guys sound fresh as fuck. While they were playing, I looked around to notice everybody with a big smile on their faces. We all knew we were getting a real rock ‘n’ roll/heavy metal concert experience, and we were all digging it.

JEFF-the-Brotherhood_The-Independent_032915_Pedro-Paredes-Haz-21

To have this type of experience, not only does the band needs to do their part, but also the audience. And since both of the parties were bringing it, the result was awesome. On the band side, there was a lot of hair, guitar riffs, rock power poses, beer drinking and drum diving — Jake Orrall jumped into the drums helmed by his brother Jamin toward the end. On the audience, I witnessed a lot of “air guitar solos,” crowd surfing and mosh pitting. There was one drunk guy that took the mosh pitting too seriously, which almost started a fight, but since he was being a drunk asshole, the rest of the peeps sided up and got rid of him.

Bully_The-Independent_032915_Pedro-Paredes-Haz-4

Even though they are from Nashville, second opener Bully sounded distinctly “Californian.” Polished and melodic, their music reminded me of Best Coast. Frontwoman Alicia Bognanno seemed very shy in the way she interacted with the crowd, but whenever they started playing, it was like she transformed into a rock-star queen.

They had some fans in the crowd that knew all of their songs, and it feels like this Bully are going places, especially when you consider Bognanno was invited on stage with JEFF the Brotherhood for a song.

Scraper_The-Independent_032915_Pedro-Paredes-Haz-2

The first opener of the night, SCRAPER, was a nice surprise. The three-piece (guitar, bass, drums) punk band from SF are raw, gritty and unpolished, and their stage presence, song lyrics and guitar riffs could not help but remind me of The Ramones. The interaction with the crowd was mostly through the music. Between songs the most the lead singer would say was “Thank you very much!” in a very heavy-metal type of voice, which was kind of funny. The highlight of their set list was a song called “Lick Me”. Yes, that’s right. “Lick me”.

BØRNS charms The Independent after going from opener to last-second headliner

BØRNSBy Pedro Paredes //

BØRNS with Handsome Ghost //
The Independent – San Francisco
March 12th, 2015 //

Sometimes it’s about being in the right place at the right time. For BØRNS, that was the case on Thursday night when New York City indie-pop act MisterWives was expected to headline The Independent.

But with an illness in the band forcing MisterWives to cancel their set, it was BØRNS who was quickly elevated from opening act to the show’s headliner. The Independent did their best to rectify the situation, making the show free for all guests to attend via RSVP and saying that it will honor any tickets that were bought when MisterWives return to SF for their rescheduled show in June.

Nevertheless, the show went on and still sold out in a blink of an eye. There were many, in fact, who had bought tickets to the original show because they wanted to see BØRNS just as much as they wanted to see MisterWives.

BØRNS

Inside the venue, nobody complained about MisterWives’ late scratch. Instead, they gave their full attention to Handsome Ghost, who got the audience warmed up with an acoustic guitar and a variety of electronic arrangements.

By the time BØRNS, Michigan native and current LA transplant Garrett Borns, arrived onstage with his four other bandmates, the crowd was ready to let loose — and let loose they most certainly did as he opened with his hit single “10,000 Emerald Pools” off his 2014 EP Candy. It’s an infectious song that everyone has come to love over the last several months, and coupled with BØRNS’ charismatic stage presence, the room immediately came to life.

Already signed to Interscope Records and on several “Artists to Watch in 2015” lists, BØRNS has yet to release a full-length album. And for that very reason, his show ended up being relatively short. But as many who were there can attest to, it never lacked excitement.

Setlist:
10,000 Emerald Pools
Seeing Stars
Broke
Past Lives
Benny and the Jets (Elton John cover)
The One
American Money
It’s My Party (cover)
Electric Love

Rainbow Girls headline first all-female show at The Fillmore

Rainbow Girls


Rainbow Girls

By Pedro Paredes //

Rainbow Girls with The Hot Toddies, The She’s, Kendra McKinley //
The Fillmore – San Francisco
January 31st, 2015 //

For the first time in its rich history, The Fillmore hosted an all-female show last Saturday with the five gals from Rainbow Girls leading the way. Accompanying the Santa Barbara/Sebastopol band was a large contingency of female musicians who currently call the Bay Area home, including Oakland’s The Hot Toddies, SF’s The She’s and Kendra McKinley.

And when The Fillmore said that this would be an all-female night, the venue certainly meant it. Even the people working the venue’s soundboard were women. Better yet, the keyboardist from The Hot Toddies, who was the only male to perform on stage all night, wore a dress and a wig. But despite all the bands being mostly female, their musical styles were quite different from one another.

Kendra McKinley


Kendra McKinley

SF singer-songwriter Kendra McKinley got the night off to a mellow start, plucking her guitar gently as violins, cello and a couple of backup singers played alongside her. Yet, McKinley’s set was in stark contrast to what would come next from The She’s and The Hot Toddies.

The She's


The She’s

The She’s would be the most “punk rock” band of the night, as they won over the crowd with their high energy and exciting stage presence. Knowing nothing about them before the show, they were the surprise of the night for me.

The Hot Toddies


The Hot Toddies

The Hot Toddies, on the other hand, offered a sound reminiscent of the first-generation “riot grrrl” band Bratmobile. These four girls from Oakland were in a particularly good mood during their set, as they were celebrating their 10th anniversary as a band. To rightfully celebrate the moment, they asked the audience to get them whiskies from the bar so they could make a toast — and the small, but passionate crowd quickly obliged in getting them those libations.

Rainbow Girls


Rainbow Girls

Far from any of the bands that preceded them at The Fillmore, Rainbow Girls brought an entirely different sound to the table, offering their unique brand of gypsy folk. Making up for a lack of people in attendance, the band did their best to engage with the crowd, asking it at one point to make the room feel like it was at maximum capacity. And even though I didn’t feel quite as connected to their music as some of the other bands, their energy was contagious. On a number of occasions, I found myself moving my feet and dancing to their songs. But just watching the group’s accordion player, who appeared to be in a trance while she played, was enjoyable enough for this spectator, even if I was only one of the few non-females in the building on this historic night for The Fillmore.

Things get rowdy as Shannon and the Clams storm The Chapel

Shannon and the ClamsBy Pedro Paredes //

Shannon and the Clams with Earth Girl Helen Brown, Magic & Naked //
The Chapel – San Francisco
January 23rd, 2015 //

Oakland’s Shannon and the Clams brought plenty of their youthful fan base from across the bay to play a sold-out show at The Chapel last Friday night.

Opening the night was psychedelic soul/folk band Magic & Naked. These three guys from Switzerland showed a rather quiet side to them, as they did not interact with the crowd much, but their music was well-received by those who arrived at the venue early.

Next up was Earth Girl Helen Brown, bringing a huge stage presence that featured her charismatic voice and engaging banter as more attendees started filing in. With their old-school, groovy sound, the highlight of Brown’s set was “I Walked All Night”.

By the time Shannon and the Clams hit the stage, The Chapel was absolutely packed, with quite a few fans scrambling to get a spot up front. It was surprising to see the venue change so drastically from a subdued audience during the first two acts to one with such high energy, highlighted by a number of crowd surfers. For this concert photographer, it was hard to remain toward the front of the stage, as I was quickly forced to protect my camera with people jumping straight at my head. Needless to say, the garage-punk trio put on one hell of a show.

Allah-Las close 2014 with festive vibes at The Chapel

Allah-LasBy Pedro Paredes //

Allah-Las with The Tyde, Light Fantastic //
The Chapel – San Francisco
December 30th, 2014 //

Following the release of their second album Worship the Sun this past September, Los Angeles’ own Allah-Las made their way to Northern California for their two-night New Year’s Eve residency at The Chapel. While it may have been December 30th on this particular night, it already felt like New Year’s Eve inside the diminutive venue.

Outside The Chapel, the streets remained empty, but inside, there was definitely a party going on. The vibes, for one, certainly felt festive for a Tuesday night, as openers The Tyde and Light Fantastic got things started slowly. Yet, once it was time for the Allah-Las to start, the sold-out crowd quickly showed its enthusiasm for the garage rock four-piece. With two projectors flanking the room, the band dug into its latest material as trippy shapes and colors lit up the stage. The mostly 20-somethings in attendance dug it all, making for quite a memorable ending to 2014.

Old Crow Medicine Show’s sweat sound & punk-rock energy even gets security dancing at The Masonic

Old-Crow-Medicine-Show-Pedro-Paredes-Haz_postBy Pedro Paredes //

Old Crow Medicine Show with The Deslondes //
The Masonic – San Francisco
September 20th, 2014 //

Old Crow Medicine Show’s music has been called many things: bluegrass, country, folk, mountain style, and so on. As someone who is rather new to the whole blue-grass scene, I wasn’t quite sure how to define it myself.

I’ll admit my senses were a bit confused, and not only because of all the beers ingested previously to the show: my ears heard the sweet sounds of an Americana string band, but my eyes saw the energy of a punk-rock band taking over stage and audience.

Pedro Paredes-Haz-13

My feet were standing in SF’s Nob Hill, at the newly renovated Masonic Center, but my mind was wondering through the green pastures of Tennessee. Even the venue’s security people got a bad case of the Southern charm; at one point near the end of the show, when an overly enthusiastic fan invaded the stage, one of the bouncers could not resist his dancing feet and decided to start his own country “kicker dancing” session to the delight of the band and whole venue. Definitely, a show to be remembered.

Craft Spells fill the Chapel with their magic

Craft-Spells_postPhotos by Pedro Paredes // Written by Kevin Quandt //

Craft Spells with The Bilinda Butchers //
The Chapel – San Francisco
July 17th, 2014 //

A sold-out crowd greeted the return of once-local band Craft Spells to the heart of the Mission for a stellar evening of post-new wave tunes – new and old. Leader of the pack, Justin Paul Vallesteros, came out swinging with quick jabs, playing with a rabid enthusiasm on his meticulously crafted songs from most recent release, Nausea (Captured Tracks), as well as old favorites peppered in. It was evident that the majority of the room were familiar with these cuts, and showed their adoration to this rising star.

A recent move to Seattle was a shock to fans, but on this night, it was as if Vallesteros was the current local rock hero, never missing a beat. His sound was infectious to those who were new to Craft Spells as he wove the classic sound of Robert Smith and the Cure with more contemporary acts such as DIIV and Beach Fossils. Expect to hear more from Craft Spells as they settle back into a regular routine of touring.

PHOTOS: Crystal Fighters at the Indy 5/29

Crystal-Fighters_post

By Pedro Paredes //

Crystal Fighters with Wunder Wunder //
The Independent – San Francisco
May 29th, 2014 //

Last Thursday night, San Francisco welcomed back british band Crystal Fighters, who performed at a sold-out Independent after a year since the last time they played in the Bay Area. Even though their return was not accompanied by new material (their last release was Cave Rave, 2013) their show was anything but old news. Crystal Fighters have established a reputation for their energized live performances, and Thursday night was no exception, with an upbeat crowd that danced and sang along to the electro-folk sounds of a band that the Bay Area will probably be seeing again.

Chet Faker’s soulful performance takes the short road to body & soul

Chet-Faker_post

By Pedro Paredes //

Chet Faker with Sweater Beats //
The Independent – San Francisco
May 26th, 2014 //

A sold-out Independent gave Memorial Day weekend a smooth farewell last Monday night, as an eclectic crowd danced their troubles away to the soul-influenced sound of Australian producer Chet Faker. Arriving to San Francisco by the hand of Built on Glass, his first LP, Faker delivered a solid performance that made some of us fall back in love with R&B, as the notes coming from his Rhodes piano took the short road toward your body and soul. Starting the show on his own and ending as a 3-piece band, the native from Melbourne kept the audience energized and engaged until the very last moment, when it was time to go and say goodbye to a Monday that felt more like a (groovy) Friday.

READ OUR REPORT FROM THE LOS ANGELES SHOW.