The Hold Steady played a sold-out show at Great American Music Hall on July 21st. The Brooklyn band are supporting their most recent record, Teeth Dreams, but didn’t skimp on the old hits like “Your Little Hoodrat Friend,” “Stay Positive” and “Hot Soft Light.” Overall, it was a loud, frenetic, sweaty set., and few people in the crowd seemed disappointed.
Before playing “Constructive Summer” from 2008’s Stay Positive, singer Craig Finn mentioned that his first stage dive ever was as a teenager at a show in his native Minnesota, to the song “Celebrated Summer.” He didn’t name the band, but many in the crowd knew the song by fellow Twin City-ers Husker Dü. Eagle-eyed fans also spotted Bob Mould himself in attendance.
Alas, the only crowd surfer of the night was a bespectacled middle aged dude, who kind of just lowered himself into the audience. On is second attempt, he was dragged off the stage.
Bay Area dream-poppers Minipop celebrated the release of their EP Chances, as well as their 10th anniversary, at Bottom of the Hill in San Francisco on July 18th. After generating some great buzz with their debut LP A New Hope in 2007, Minipop had been fairly silent since, save for the Automatic Love EP in 2010. So it was quite a pleasant surprise when I did my semi-regular “I wonder what happened to Minipop?” check just a couple days before this show. Particularly as a displaced New Yorker who just moved to SF, it was a nice little bonus. The live music scene is one of the things I miss most about New York, and while SF certainly has a vibrant scene, there aren’t a whole lot of out-of-leftfield surprise shows like there are in New York. So this was definitely one in the “couldn’t have seen this in NYC” column. This was even more confirmed when the band mentioned their next shows were supposed to be in China (though those fell through, apparently).
After a long hiatus, and sporting two guest members on guitar and bass, the band still sounded super tight, with the new songs sounding as good as old favorites like “Generator” and “Like I Do.” Minipop always sounded like a long-lost 90s dream-pop/shoegaze band (that’s a compliment), and this was even more evident on an outstanding cover of Smashing Pumpkins’ “Rhinoceros.” Though I recognized the song immediately, it was still tough to tell if I was actually hearing it correctly, because it blended seamlessly with the rest of the set. Bottom line: great band, played a great set, and hopefully more shows and music to follow.
Oh, also, they handed out mini cupcakes. Bonus!
Check out 1 minute of “Rhinoceros” and photos below.
Canadian native/Brooklyn resident/indie rock it-guy Mac DeMarco played the second of two sold out shows at Great American Music Hall on July 9th. Fellow western Canadian Calvin Love opened, after a set by LA’s Meatbodies. Check out photos of Mac DeMarco and Calvin Love below.
Erica M. Anderson, aka EMA, played the Independent in San Francisco on July 2nd, in support of her recent record The Future’s Void. After a powerful opening salvo by Oakland’s Safeword (who played on the floor, because Oakland) and a more somber set by DJ Mas Ysa, the South Dakota Native and former Bay Area resident came out amid smoke, low lights, and carrying a potted plant. The lights stayed low, the energy high, and the emotional levels were all over the place. At one point Anderson had to leave the stage to compose herself after a particularly draining moment. Later, she asked for the disco ball to be turned on so the crowd could dance.
Brooklynite Sharon Van Etten played the second of two sold-out nights at the Independent in San Francisco on June 30th, in support of her new record, Are We There. (Also for sale at the merch table, according to Van Etten: Tissues with her face on them, and umbrellas). Van Etten’s music remains consistently good-to-outstanding, and–having seen her a few times over the past few years–her stage presence has really caught up to her music. Throughout the night she was conversational, funny, and downright charming, and claimed to be attempting to reign in her dry east coast wit for what she deemed a non-dry SF crowd. Random revalations from SVE: She was sporting a sandal tan (“Thanks, San Francisco”), she forgets the words to her mom’s favorite one of her songs, and she responds with a maternal aggressiveness when someone calls guitarist Doug Keith a pretty boy (“You call him doe-eyed splendor!”). Also, her dry wit shone in the intro to the song “Leonard” (paraphrasing): “I changed the name so the guy it’s about wouldn’t know it was about him. I think he knows it’s about him. His name’s Bleonard.”
Also, “Serpents” is an incredibly fantastic song.
In addition to Van Etten’s sublime set, an added treat was opener Jana Hunter of Lower Dens trying out some spooky new tunes, along with a cover of Hall & Oates’ “Maneater.”