January 6, 2011
Better than: Heating socks up in the microwave for frozen toes
It was aberrantly chilly last night. Too cold to go out really, to leave the safety and warmth of home, but for Kyle Field, also known as Little Wings, the people of San Francisco made the trek to Amnesia. A crowd packed the tiny Mission club, mostly swathed in thick winter coats and wooly caps. They were a mixture of bearded Central Coast men and tights-wearing, dark haired women.
Before Field crawled on stage, looking every bit like his audience with a beard and oversized winter coat, San Francisco's Prairie Dog warmed up the audience. This five-piece recalls The Breeders, thanks to stunning dual female vocals and plucky guitar. Prairie Dog's sound is fuller though, largely due to the multitasking musician who, during each new song, alternately played the saw, harmonica, and bass clarinet. After a well-rounded set that also included a vaguely European-sounding oom-pah song, Prairie Dog closed with a cover of Neil Young's "Unknown Legend."
During a brief break, the audience refilled its drinks at the crowded bar and Little Wings set up. Field has been gaining recognition lately because of Look At What The Light Did Now, the Feist documentary named after of song of Field's, in which he plays a duet with the star. But while he's gained momentum in the past year, Field's been playing music as Little Wings for quite some time without major national attention -- really good music. He's maintained a cult-like following of hippie surfers and laid-back freak-folkers, true to his coastal California origins.
On stage, Field looks like he could be Bonnie Prince Billy's younger, less frazzled brother, and delivers sparse folk vocals similar to Devendra Banhart. He kicked off the set with "Magic Wand," off his eponymous 2004 album. He told the audience, "This one is about mystery and fog -- you know, joyful."
Throughout the set Field crooned sweetly, settling into his mellow songs, which were backed by the standard bass, drums, and guitar. Occasionally he used dubby delay vocals to add a hazy, fuzzed out layer. For this effect he switched back and forth between microphones, double fisting them, with and without delay. As the show came to a close, Field bid adieu and the crowd slowly made its way back out into the frozen night.
Personal bias: I could easily be lulled to a pleasant, dream-heavy sleep by Field's voice, which made standing and watching attentively difficult.
Overheard in the crowd: "When is he going to get big already?"
Random detail: Field told my companion he loved his cable-knit sweater, which was adorned with thickly crocheted math symbols. It made me laugh, though, in all fairness, it is a pretty great sweater.
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