Show Diary: Neko Case/Jason Lytle, Peaches, Juan McLean/the Field, Telepathe, Handsome Furs, Au Revoir Simone
Juan, two, three: the Juan Maclean. Photo by Troy Bayless.
By Kimberly Chun
Impressionistic sketches, hazy watercolor memories of the way I listened last week, before the veil of forgetfulness falls.
Dang, I wish I had a proper camera in hand to get my shutterbug on at Peaches. The lady wasn't going to let a little vault fire get in the way of her Grand Ballroom performance on June 5: she remains one of the most riveting performers to come out of electroclash on a sheer show-womanship level, and now that she has her live band, the Herms, complete with a leggy, black corseted blond guitar player who obligingly shimmies along to the boss lady's "Shake your tits, shake your dick," she's pretty unstoppable. Essentially - no lie - everyone in the room could not tear their eyes away from Peaches' ever-shifting spectacle, even if Vault Fire II broke out in the next room.
One-man UK opener Drums of Death made me consider suicide, but Peaches made up for it with a bout of crowd-surfing, a romp at the outer edge of the balcony, a slew of impressive costume changes (she poked fun at herself by coming out onstage in a robe at one point), and plenty of brain-teasing visuals, including a video-projected duet with Shunda K of Yo Majesty for "Billionaire" and a dance with super-shaggy Cousin-Its to the tune of "Talk to Me."
The next night, June 6, saw Stockholm's Axel Willner, otherwise known as the Field, hunkered down behind the decks at Mezzanine, opening for the Juan Maclean. Love the dreamy new long-player, though the show drew more from a minimalist techno vein, with assists from Dan Enqvist and Andreas Soderstrom. Still, it was mesmerizing - especially accompanied by video art that spliced images of shipping containers stacks with book piles. I stayed for just a dab of the Juan Maclean, who rocked the Human League-y robotic-pop vibe with mucho energy. Kudos to those who can pull off a nice, big Romulan shoulder pad - I'm scouring the thrift stores for mine soon. The kids were dancing as I departed amid complaints of pop monotony from companion Prof. Fluffy.
Next up: Handsome Furs at Great American Music Hall, June 8, and wow, does that duo know how to rock it. The husband-and-wife twosome dispelled any accusations of chilliness - or too-cool-for-school-ness - with Alexei Perry's headbanging, full-body thrusts into her keyboards: she held onto her instrument like a barre and performed balletic leg extensions while hubby Dan Boeckner flailed on guitar, resembling a particularly wired, wiry refugee from some '80s-era anthem-rock combo. The street might have been deserted outside - repairs were still in full swing regarding Friday's electrical vault fire - but inside crowd was understandably riveted.
Away we go to Neko Case and Jason Lytle on June 9 - I'm glad I got there right at showtime for Lytle, who was right there onstage at 8 p.m. Lovely recreations of songs from his new solo album - and Grandaddy tunes, too - although his smallish touring combo couldn't quite fill out the full-throttle pop orchestrations of, say, the recorded version of "Brand New Sun." Nonetheless the Apple-label-esque song stylings shined through.
I stayed for the first third of Case's set, full of girlish gabbing from backup vocalist Kelly Hogan while Case appeared to be wrangling with troubles with her instruments, hair fizz (which she joked about good-naturedly). The woman - and her women - were generally in fine vocal form - Case's voice can truly dazzle when she's in major songbird mode - though she noticeably struggled for the stray high note on at least one of the newer numbers. Another quibble: Case's current touring band made me nostalgic for the Sadies: their locked-in, more aggressive attack was noticeably lacking. The backing visuals - a crowned owl with glowing eyes bedecked a framed screen that unveiled some beautiful animations for recent songs - were also so eye-catching that they tended to take away from Case and company's performance. Is it just me - or is Case much better in smaller, more intimate venues, with fewer multimedia bells and whistles?
Can you read my sleep-addled mind: Telepathe. Photo by Kimberly Chun.
Synth-pathy for the duo-trios: the week closed on a more synthy note with Telepathe at Bottom of the Hill, June 12. I thought I missed the whole enchilada when I headed out at around midnight. Shows start so early these days, don't they? I'm guessing, everyone is busy trying to hold down their 9-5's - and San Francisco's concert-going demographic is likely aging (as all humans do, but additionally, that's what happens when noncommercial creative types get priced out of housing, folks!). Telepathe like it loud - ear-bleed, really - and the female duo kept the flow going, in spite of the sparse attendance. I particularly got into the glittery, jittery hip-hop beats paired with their guileless-ish vocals.
The next night, June 13, I braved wharf winds to catch the Antlers and Au Revoir Simone at Bimbo's 365 Club. The Antlers certainly generate impressive swells of sound with surprising interludes of almost Coldplay-like pop: the men know how to craft a contemporary pop hook, for sure. During the Antlers' set, Au Revoir Simone's Erika Forster mingled in the crowd, toting a homemade flannel-shirted doll with Antlers member Peter Silberman's face. Afterward, onstage, she showed it off to the audience: "Heather thinks it's creepy, but isn't it cute!?" she asked sweetly.
Forter seemed to having a tough time keeping her in-ear monitors in those ears - regardless she stood out in the otherwise well-behaved trio, as she swayed, danced in place, and whipped her long hair around with abandon, a wide smile on her face. Au Revoir Simone are still a little rough around the edges, in terms of their playing - their janky keyboards might be the key - but it's hard to deny the tug of the trio's synthpop melodicism. Au revoir, for now.
Heaven-o, Au Revoir Simone! Photo by Kimberly Chun.