Oh, Vetiver! The grass is green; not so the SF-ish band

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By Max Goldberg

As Andy Cabic and co. tuned up for another gentle folk-rock Vetiver jam Tuesday night at The Independent, my housemate gushed, "I feel like I'm at a real rock concert!"

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Indeed, there was something pro about Vetiver's set - it was some combination of a balanced, generous song list, tight arrangements, the Independent's sharply defined sound, and the large crowd swaying to music that so conjures Northern California's finest elements. Now that the band is totally famous having opened for Vashti Bunyan in Europe and playing Carnegie Hall at David Byrne's request, any chance to see them is a real treat.

This one felt like a homecoming: the band was fresh off a recording session at Sacramento's the Hangar, working on a series of covers, many of which (songs by Michael Hurley, Hawkwind, Jimmy Martin, and Biff Rose) were given workouts at the Independent. The tunes from the two albums - Vetiver and To Find Me Gone - felt well-worn and celebratory.

Cabic's quartet has a loose, rootsy sound reminiscent of prime '70s album-rock by Dylan, Neil Young, the Band, David Crosby, Graham Nash, etc. "My Maureen," was given a folksy harmonica lead, "Oh Papa" slowed to a purring lull, and "You May Be Blue," "I Know No Pardon," and "Won't Be Me" all given ample space to sparkle. The band was so relaxed and effortlessly tight that the set reminded me of an MTV-unplugged session in certain passages, but it hit me just the right way, gentle bay breezes and songs-like-old-friends all the way.

So lovely, and worth it, if nothing else, to soak up "Down at El Rio," still a perfect evocation of San Francisco summer twilight. Also, watch out for openers the Dry Spells - Shirley Collins-style vocal harmonies sure to make the psych-folk set swoon!