Live Shots: La Sera at the Chapel

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It was nice to see that “Kickball” Katy Goodman hasn’t grown up too much since leaving the Vivian Girls. Her big smile, bubbling stage banter, and virginal attire—a lacy white dress to match her white Fender bass guitar — added a saccharine candy coating to the dark, jangly pop of La Sera, her Los Angeles-based solo project.

Swaying and hopping across the Chapel stage last Saturday night in all black Converse All Stars, Goodman whipped her all-male backing band through a surprisingly short set, clocking in at just around 45 minutes.

La Sera was within the first ten bands to grace the stage at the Chapel, San Francisco’s newest music venue at 18th and Valencia in the Mission; the venue celebrated its opening in conjunction with this year’s Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival last month. The Chapel is a stripped down, well, chapel — complete with stained glass windows and an arching, pitched ceiling with beautiful dark wood rafters.

As an added bonus, in contrast with everything I know and understand about music venues, the Chapel is astonishingly clean. For now, it smells of wood stain instead of stale beer. The 500 capacity venue also offers a small dinner menu and seating spread around the room at simple, wooden tables that match the hardwood floors.

The audience during La Sera was extremely engaged, if mellow, watching with quiet attentiveness and occasionally chuckling at guitarist Tod Wisenbaker’s bad jokes (“He writes his own material,” quipped Goodman. “It’s pretty impressive.”)

La Sera’s newly released sophomore effort Sees the Light picks right up where the last left off, sounding a bit like a co-ed Dum Dum Girls or, as you might expect, Vivian Girls. The live show, like the new album, offered few surprises. Goodman, despite being a veteran of the stage, was surprisingly tame and uncharismatic for a frontperson. For the last song, however, she jumped off the stage and sang directly to some excited audience members, giving a stronger finish to an otherwise good, but unremarkable show.
 
The real highlight of the night was the opener, San Francisco’s own the She’s, a beach-tinged girl band with a slightly doo-wop vibe and a seriously good groove. So good, apparently, that La Sera’s drummer bought a the She’s shirt between sets to wear for his own performance. If the She’s next album is as good as the material they played Saturday night, they could definitely be a band to watch out for.