With SF Popfest firing up this Thursday -- and spring tour season in full-bloom -- show-goers should anticipate plenty of hot opening bands this week. Here are five that deserve a solid effort on your part to get there early. Remember, you'll have the whole summer to swill PBR on long afternoons.
Please, God, not another sensitive indie-rock quartet from Portland! But the skilled songs of these innovative rockers prove surprising. Synth textures you don't hear daily, gorgeous mutlipart vocal harmonies, acidic guitars and acres of negative space sound like, well, sorta like the product of brothers who grew up loving both Kraftwerk and The Beach Boys. Though they belong under the umbrella of indie rock, Hosannas prove far more interesting than most bands wearing that badge.
With the quirk of indie-folkies but the instrumentation of some past era's gypsy-jazz misfits, The Mumlers play a seriously weird and ridiculously fun brand of soul. Known for gettin' down at gigs, this San Jose group deserves its reputation as one of the Bay Area's best up-and-comers. If you're not hooked after "Coffin Factory," you might be dead already.
Known for his work with Menomena, Brent Knopf's side project Ramona Falls rolls mainly through more folky alt-rock -- but interrupts the scenic route with layers of digital noise and triumphant, brassy climaxes. The contrast between familiar and disturbing, stark and strident, makes for a rich listen, especially when Knopf's soft-edged singing voice boils into a full blare.
North Carolina hip-hop duo Little Brother may be throwing in the towel after this tour (heavy sigh), but SF rhyme-slayer Richie Cunning is just getting started. His songs are packed with classic beats and smart, taut lines about life in Cunning's beloved city: "It's kinda sad when I'm in my city walking around/ And all the places I grew up in, they knockin' 'em down/ So they can build a new scraper with a million-dollar sky-view/ And fill it with people who don't love the city like I do," he sings on "Gobstopper," from a 2009 mixtape. Current album Nighttrain flaunts SFC pride like a gleaming medallion, with startling production and shout-outs to Cunning's favorite Muni lines, zip codes, and even Kaiser Permanente.
"We're like little kids/ we live to have some fun," sounds like an admission when D. Crane sings it in "Name Tossers," but this Seattle four-piece issues its kid-humor with pride. (Crane teaches seventh grade, so he's got plenty of experience with fart jokes.) Topping its juicy, three-chord guitar pop with jokey lyrics and an Apatow-era frankness -- "I was eating nachos/ sitting with my mother/ talking about nothing" -- Boat's songs are nothing if not fun. Just don't get the band confused with Yacht, another group voyaging to SF this week.