When I went to see YACHT, a couple years ago during the Treasure Island Music Festival, it was playing outdoors in the afternoon, and it seemed like the wrong time and place. Last year at the Fox, the conceptual electropop band seemed stifled by the combination of the large venue and sparse crowd, and also mired by the same lackluster audio conditions that made headliner Hot Chip sound like it was playing underwater. But Saturday at Slim's, on my last night of Noise Pop, it seemed just...
Fuck, I've wandered into the Goldilocks cliché.
Anyway, YACHT likes to keep it personal. Personable? The duo of Jona Bechtolt and Claire L. Evans (bolstered by other band members on tour) affect a borderline cultish air — utopian ideals were all over its last album Shangri-La and lead track, um, "Utopia" — that plays better when the audience is kept close, in a intimate venue.
"Ahhh, your hair is so long!" a woman in the sold out crowd screamed, when singer Evans first appeared on stage during the sound check, dark roots showing under what was previously close cropped and bleached blonde. It struck me as the kind of thing you say to a close friend you haven't seen in a while. ("She's much better looking than the last time I saw her," someone else near me judged later in the show.)
This friendly rapport makes a lot of sense, given how much effort the group makes towards fostering it. Hopping off stage and tangling the crowd up in a mic cord has basically become a rock party trick at this point (probably because it's an almost foolproof way to charm the crowd). Evans employed it as a starter, but went on to continually flatter fans and solicit questions, indulging in requests for hugs and spare beers. Throughout this course of events, singer, multi-instrumentalist, and YACHT founder Bechtolt competed for the larger cult of personality with a hopped-up glee.
Somewhat listless at the Fox performance, YACHT was nothing but efficient on Saturday. Maybe it was limited on time to begin with, but the set clicked by, highlighted by high-energy renditions of "I Walked Along" and "Utopia" — better than any I've heard.
An obvious encore followed (right after Bechtolt assured someone — probably the guy up front waving a sticker sheet and Sharpie since the sound check —that he'd sign anything five minutes after the show was over) with "Ring the Bell," a super snappy version of shout-along "Psychic City," and "Second Summer." It was all done with an intentionality that could be either super endearing to a fan or off-putting viewed as an outsider, but I'm increasingly finding myself group with the former.
Shock: "We only have two minutes left and our songs are like seven minutes," singer and bassist Terri Loewenthal of Shock said, after playing three tracks of slinky synth funk with slow vocals and lots of glissando. Five or so minutes later, the ground finished its set and she added, "So that was the short version." Which was pretty satisfying.
Future Twin: Future Twin was precociously San Francisco, noting that one song was about trying to find affordable housing and cracking dead on delivery jokes about the nudity ban only applying out on the streets. But with dynamic singer and guitarist Jean Yaste — whose voice recalls equally parts Corin Tucker and Exene Cervenka — and drummer Antonio Roman-Alcala, this band can get away with saying whatever it wants during mic breaks. Its upcoming benefit for the Roxie at the Verdi Club with Thee Oh Sees and Sonny and the Sunsets has it in good company.
Tussle: It's been three years since I last saw Tussle at Milk Bar, and given the recordings the group released since then I had high expectations to see it much improved. But trouble with setting up a ton of equipment and subsequent delays really hobbled its start, and the group never seemed to quite overcome it. Unintentional tempo shifts seemed common, the double drummers never quite seemed to sync, and the generally structureless songs seemed to only end when every member came to the sudden realization that someone else was cuing them to wrap it up.