On Friday night, April 5, the Verdi Club played host for a concert benefit to help fundraise for The Roxie, San Francisco’s oldest art house theater. The club is described as “one of the city’s most beloved hidden gems,” an accurate description as it’s tucked away in a quieter more secluded part of the colorful Mission neighborhood.
After the folk group Assateague, Future Twin arrived to deliver the energetic jump start to our lo-fi/garage night. Vocalist Jean Jeanie brought the sequins and pink tights with a voice that shook the dance floor. Her bandmates churned ’70s punky California melodies on a quivering bed of scraping guitar distortion and thumping percussion. From start to end, their driving set which included “Sara” and “Landslide” along with other songs from their 2012 album, Resist 7, showed off a mixture of changes – at some points their sound pushed sunshine and hot days out to us, the next it brought down crashing thunder and helter skelter rain. San Francisco must be proud to have another spirit akin to Grace Slick and Jefferson Airplane.
Sonny and the Sunsets felt like a family, a fantastic eclectic family that jammed surf country tunes at their beach house of some sorts. Fronted by Sonny Smith, whose presence has graced San Francisco’s indie scene for many years now, looked easy and casual in light wash blue jeans. Warm and hazy tunes of the likes of “Planet of Women” filtered through the speakers like smoke as the audience swayed.
During one song there was slow dancing in the front, encouraged by Sonny as he described our prom-like surroundings (except the music was way better than prom fare and the audience, much cooler). Sonny’s mellow charm and candor is easily felt from the stage when he is addressing the audience or through the songs as he’s performing with his band. Sonny and the Sunsets’ quirky zing and twang was a good buildup to Thee Oh Sees, but kept us relaxed enough to save our energy, which we would definitely need.
Thee Oh Sees, one of the Bay Area’s most beloved and best indie bands, have consistently given us quality albums year after year, and now comes another new album, Floating Coffin in a couple weeks. It was easy to see why tonight’s show was completely sold-out as the ballroom was now very full. I found myself pressed to the front in the direction of Petey, the bassist. His cherry doc martens, Levis and suspenders lent to a very distinct, English type of punk style. As he held up a high five to my camera, a kitty cat tattooed on his palm greeted me.
When the chords got underway and the percussion kicked, it was like a lit match to dynamite. The crowd exploded and everyone was moving in an arc of chaos. We could have burned holes into the dance floor as Thee Oh Sees torpedoed through their dynamic arsenal of ’60s psychedelic garage that echoed with punky lo-fi edges.
The garage revival scene of San Francisco is strong, and Thee Oh Sees are such an incredibly important part of it. Former header designer for Dior menswear, Hedi Slimane, has even used “Tidal Wave,” for Saint Laurent’s recent winter collection. Their wide variety of fans is a sure sign of how far loved their music is, really.
Tracks from their last album, Putrifiers II, not even a year old, were met with ferocious enthusiasm. Acetone notes flew as Mike Shoun’s cymbals crashed and rolled, while the mosh pit crackled frantically with similar electricity and intensity. The reverb crushed everything to a fine dust and it seemed like we were standing on oblivion. Everyone looked to be drenched in sweat as John Dwyer’s howls and Brigid Dawson’s trills hit us like a train on a track, and the air was taut with the frisson of everything, only to be sliced by blistering chords especially on tracks like “Robber Barons” and old single “Block of Ice.” “The Minotaur” from the new album even made an appearance. Thee Oh Sees were here to tear up the Verdi Club, and that’s exactly what they did. They play as if every searing show is their last and leave you craving more even as you’re left exhausted and bruised.