Face it, many opening bands suck. Usually, most people hang by the bar waiting for the big show. You think that Britain's Groove Armada would allow that to happen during their first visit to S.F in five years? No! They brought along fellow U.K band Fenech-Soler who drew in the crowd and set up a night of dancing.
I didn't expect a random collection of people at this San Francisco dance show. Hardly anybody dressed as part of a scene, though a handful wore shiny costumes or fluorescent doo-dads in their hair. Aside from being normal-looking few were younger than their late-twenties.
The crowd grew larger during Fenech-Soler's set. Some raised their hands up early. Soler consists of guitarist Ross Duffy, bassist Daniel Soler, drummer Andy Lindsay, and singer Ben Duffy. The music contains many synthesizer parts which they played without any extra musicians. The two bands flowed well together. Like Groove Armada they combine different genres. Unlike them, they came off lighter and poppier.
Besides the upbeat music, singer Ben Duffy's charisma energized the crowd. Dressed in a sequined unbuttoned shirt over a white t-shirt, Duffy whipped his face at the microphone while singing one vocal hook after another. Many curious people asked the name of the band which was strangely missing from the tickets. Fenech-Soler cemented themselves in the minds of the crowd, ending with songs like "Lies."
After their set, the Fillmore balcony looked the emptiest I've seen in while. Concertgoers pressed up tight for the duo of Tom Findlay and Andy Cato a.k.a Groove Armada. However, it's the two singers in their backing band that heighten the live act.
The first, SaintSaviour, was the most visually shocking. Imagine Blondie as a campy James Bond villain/alien wearing a gold and black bodysuit. Then, throw in more spastic dancing than Karen O and you get the idea. She sang the band's disco songs, but on "Paper Romance," from Black Light album, she also sang a duet with Ben Duffy. The more conservatively dressed MC M.A.D handled the reggae/hip-hop songs. His performance focused on calling out to the audience who erupted into a frenzy, especially on fan favorite "Superstylin.'"
With smoke, moving lights, and '70s-style laser beams, Armada's light show immersed everyone in a cinematic dreamland. Suddenly, the work week faded as the audience jumped collectively. The experience felt surreal at times, the floor seeming to roll and turn rubbery with the beat. The night also felt complete with Groove Armada's solid choice for an opener. While I thought the band's sequined outfits unnecessary, the crowd accepted Fenech-Soler rather than view them as an obstacle. Once people learn their name (pronounced fee-nick soler), the band can expect less Google translating and more dancing the next time they come to San Francisco.
Photos taken by Kevin Gustafson
Groove Armada's Myspace page
Groove Armada's website
Fenech-Soler's Myspace page