Live Shots: Gardens & Villa and Waterstrider at Bottom of the Hill


Rarely, if ever, do I see such unbridled joy at shows these days, at least not in the way I saw it last night for every band at Bottom of the Hill.

Even for barefoot Berkeley Afropop openers Waterstrider (this week's Localized Appreesh) – not that the band isn't excellent, because it is – but when was the last time you witnessed ecstatic masses losing their shit and screaming for "one more song" during the opening set of a Thursday night rock show? Perhaps it was the uncharacteristic heat. (Strange how strange it is to see San Franciscans out at night wearing little more than a strappy sundress or stretched-out tank top.) That kind of warmth and freedom does something to your endorphins. But I also chalk it up to the 'Berkeley co-op factor.' Waterstrider mentioned the co-ops (where it was spawned) and got a rousing reply. Like a hippie frat.

My show companion reminded me halfway through the night that one of our earliest visits to Bottom of the Hill was for Pretty Girls Make Graves, Your Enemies Friends, and Atom and His Package. Don't jump to protest, the music of these bands and last night's bill cannot compare sonically (the former was during the post-rock Aughts, a time when I was the one with the 'X' scrawled on my hand). But the youthful energy, and excitement, this is what triggered such memories. The kids throwing their hands in the air with abandon. I caught a young woman headbanging, swinging her hair back and forth, last night to music you wouldn't expect.  And she was all smiles.

That ecstasy continued for touring headliners Gardens & Villa, hitting San Francisco with two stops left before its return to Santa Barbara. Opening the set with shuddering album opener, "Black Hills," the five-piece began smooth and calm, soon sending the crowd into yet another tizzy with the more anthemic "Cruise Ship." It moved along through other tracks off the recently released self-titled album, including "Spactime" (heavily profiled in print this week), and broke out a new, more upbeat dancey jam, to boot. The crowd ate it up, like ravenous heat monsters.


All photos by Chris Stevens.

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