PREVIEW Few had a clue about Little Joy as we watched them gather on the outdoor stage at Big Sur's Fernwood campground this fall. The Los Angeles band had slipping onto the Festival in the Forest bill the weekend before it was to perform at the Independent alongside Devendra Banhart side project Megapuss, and the ramshackle crew which included vocalist-guitarist Binki Shapiro, multi-instrumentalist Rodrigo Amarante (Los Hermanos), and drummer-multi-instrumentalist Fabrizio Moretti (the Strokes) as well as Banhart and producer Noah Georgeson took its time setting up. And why not? The sky was clear, the nightmarish Big Sur fire was behind us (though the Henry Miller Library was preparing to close for fear of mudslides), the green and gold mountains above the stage were a fantastic, organic distraction, and there was plenty of spectacular autumnal parkland to wander
As the group began to fiddle with its instruments in earnest, hipsters hailing from the Bay, Monterey, and LA suddenly materialized like headbanded, bejeweled elves in designer sandals from woods. Something special was going down. Yet little did we realize how sweet it would be: behind those scenester shades onstage came the most dulcet pop tunes, lightly scented with classic Brill Building songwriting and a whiff of Cali languor. Sounding for all the world like louche, beachbound Dion and the Belmonts, Little Joy sported an El Lay too-cool-for-you exterior that was simultaneously attractive and off-putting, but their songs now collected on a self-titled Rough Trade debut bid you to come closer, closer.
LITTLE JOY With the Dead Trees and Red Cortez. Tues/9, 8 p.m., $13. Slim's, 333 11th St., SF. (415) 522-0333, www.slims-sf.com