When I last caught Parenthetical Girls in SF, singer Zac Pennington closed the show in a memorable way: traipsing around the room with a single drum stick, tapping out the solemn beat of “Stolen Children” on every available pint glass, shattering them and covering the floor in shards.
It made for a good show, but I had to imagine that someone – particularly the person that had to sweep up – was not happy. Pennington took time to tell his side of the story while opening for Los Campesinos! Friday night at the Great American Music Hall. With a typical wry petulance, Pennington said it was a reaction to an engineer who did little more than sit and eat pizza during the sound check for the his band, which hails from Portland, Ore. (a place that, the singer remarked, “has taken the crown for white liberal self-importance in the last few years”).
Whether or not that’s a valid reason for his antics, Parenthetical Girls remains a worthwhile live band largely because of Pennington’s theatrics, which combine Rufus Wainwright’s flair for drama with Mick Jagger’s vamping. Between wandering through the crowd with complete disregard, worming his way across stage face down on his stomach, and deep-throating the microphone, it was a surprise that Pennington found time at all to sing (he’s a multitasker).
Only the band’s drummer made any attempt to compete in terms of physical energy Friday, the other two members consistently played with an aloof cool, particularly keyboardist (and Susan Ann Sulley doppelganger Amber Smith,) who managed to stay blasé even as Pennington suggestively wrapped his mic cord around her pale neck. “Point of fact, the only time we ever get to play nice venues in San Francisco is when we play with Los Campesinos,” Pennington noted. “God bless those guys.*”