“Last time I played a show with no shoes I had to get stitches between my little toe and the next big toe. It sucked.” And so commenced Forrest Day's show at Slim's last Thursday Sept. 9, the group's frontman (also named Forrest Day) clad in two mismatched gym socks for safety. He was also wearing a dress that most likely resulted from a trip to the big Goodwill on South Van Ness – a flowy number with an attached denim faux vest that Grandma had a hard time parting with after she lost all that weight. So there he was, head shaven, straight outta San Leandro, a man that hardly needs a dress to stand out musically. Oh, and the music? How about that music...
“So Forrest, how do you classify your music?” I ask. We're on the other side of the weekend from the Slim's show, and Day has fallen ill, answering my questions via phone from the comfort of bed. “I don't,” he tells me. Or rather, he does: on a song to song basis.
One is tempted to squeeze Day in under the “hip-hop plus” umbrella that is already occupied in the Bay Area by groups like Shotgun Wedding Quintet (who opened for Day at the show I saw) and on a national level by the Roots. All three groups are headed by charismatic frontmen eager to rap faster than you can say boo, sing, and occasionally cede the floor to a supporting cast of talented bass, drums, guitar, brass, etcetera, etcetera, to mammothly danceable effect. But the parallel minimizes the diverse influences all draw on, and in the case of Forrest Day, barely encompasses their show at all.
Because how many hip-hop artists bust out on the ska-rock tip? There are songs during the set at Slim's that resemble hip-hop about as much as the Roots resemble the Mighty Mighty Bosstones. Day throws his girth about in that dress like some sort of crazed Big Momma as his six-piece ensemble (comprised of sax, keyboard, drums, bass, violin, guitar).
Forrest Day guitarist Terrel Liedstrand rawks. Photo by Erik Anderson
And the crowd? Well it goes wild, duh. And then Day picks up a sax, and launches into some sort of psychedelic jam session, if such things can include saxes. Didn't you know he got his start as a high school saxophonist, back before he was producing beats for backpack rappers and fronting rock-ska groups?
It's kind of an awesome thing to watch. And I found myself bobbing my head next to a guy that, though a bit older than the rest of the early-to-mid twenties crowd singing the words around, was clearly enjoying the show. He leans over. “Hey, I just wanted to tell you, I like the way you're groovin'.” It's Day's dad. I ask him how he's enjoying the show, and he tells me it's great, and that he doesn't get to see his son in a dress every day of the week.
So the dress isn't part of the deal? Says Day, that was the first time he's performed in a dress... in this current band configuration. He likes dress up, particularly in muu-muus. For comfort or style factor? “It's both,” sayeth he. “They put me in a funny mood. It's nice to have all the air circulation between my legs.”
And Shotgun Wedding Quintet, were they copping fashion tips before the show? And how! “Yeah,” says Day. “They're my friends. They all seemed very attracted to me. Let's just say I got some action. Backstage was super hot that night.” Offstage and on, it would seem.
Forrest Day's got no scheduled upcoming shows in the Bay, but its eponymous first album came out earlier this year, if you're so inclined.