April 24, 2002
Arts and Entertainment
March 28, Great American Music Hall
When the Jim Yoshii Pile-Up took the stage at the Great American Music Hall around 9:10 p.m., excitement wasn't exactly in the air. No disrespect to the Jim Yoshii Pile-Up; they played a likable enough set of melancholy dream pop. But I couldn't get over how the five members stood in a half circle looking so disconsolate that it was as if each wanted to be alone. "This is like a brood-athon!" my friend Jeff remarked, making the first of several observations that sounded remarkably right-on at the time.
Maybe we were antsy because the Great American was modestly populated, although it would fill considerably before the two other bands, Hood and cLOUDDEAD, followed, forcing staff to hesitantly open the balcony. It didn't help that the New Year, who released one of last year's best rock albums (in my opinion), Newness Ends, were playing their first San Francisco concert across town at Bottom of the Hill. After listening to the Jim Yoshii Pile-Up mope through a few songs, which I liked but really wasn't in the mood for, Jeff and I left the theater so I could get a quick bite to eat.
After wandering around Geary Street for 10 minutes, we finally happened upon a Thai restaurant whose name escapes me. Inside sat Tomas Palermo, editor of XLR8R, who was eating before his DJ gig at Julip. Small world! We relaxed too much and got back to find Hood mid-mostly instrumental set, playing songs from their extensive catalog, including last year's acclaimed Cold House. One of the drawbacks to that record was Chris Adams's flat singing, but on this night the U.K.-based quintet mixed down his vocals into their musical barrage, rendering them nearly indecipherable. Meanwhile, Richard Adams added reverberating tape loops of Chris's vocals and electronic effects. It all sounded fantastic, ending much too soon. Suitably chastened, Jeff and I stayed put until cLOUDDEAD's closing set.
Although Hood had been closing most of the shows on the tour, they graciously allowed Oakland-based cLOUDDEAD to headline in front of their hometown crowd. Standing together in a row at the front of the stage like the Three Tenors, rappers Dose One and Why? and producer Odd Nosdam, augmented by producer Jel (like cLOUDDEAD, a member of the Anticon collective), opened with "Apt. A," the first track from last year's self-titled debut LP. Why? sported a trucking cap emblazoned with the letters "USA," while Dose One wore a bronze chain with a massive replica of a penny around his neck. "Apt. A" 's plaintive poetry and airy textures, backed by an omnipresent rhythm reminiscent of Saafir's "Light Sleeper," led Jeff to shout, "Dude, this is like dream-hop!"
Not satisfied with replicating their album in concert, cLOUDDEAD remixed most of its tracks, eschewing the atmospherics in favor of gritty new arrangements marked by Odd Nosdam's boisterous drum machine beats that had the mostly docile indie rock crowd bouncing in place. Dose One often glided from whiny speed-raps to brash, volcanic proclamations in a moment's time, filtering his voice through a wa-wa pedal he manipulated beneath his foot. Why? opened "Bicycle" by announcing, "This is for the children of America." Although there weren't any children in attendance, cLOUDDEAD's, Hood's, and even Jim Yoshii Pile-Up's overall brilliance made the adults feel giddily young. (Mosi Reeves)