The Downer Party
Friday, February 25, 2011
@ Bottom of the Hill
Ice-skating down Lombard Street.
Word from various authoritative sources assured me this all-ages show would be a rowdy stain on the fair name of the San Francisco Noise Pop festival. My own experience with all-ages shows in ratholes great and small indicated a holy hullaballoo at the very least. Radio news chattered on the way over of reactionaries all over the planet now scuttling out of the way ahead of joyous revolutionary waves rolling over Libya, Bahrain, even Madison, WI. Worse, the National Weather Service was calling for snow in coastal California, an astronomically distant eventuality that had even my monolithically calm girlfriend a little distracted.
Though buoyed by news from the farther precincts, I remained flinchless to more immediate peril, recalling this exchange from Willy the Shake's Henry IV, Part 1:
GLENDOWER: I can call spirits from the vasty deep.
HOTSPUR: Why, so can I, or so can any man; But will they come when you do call for them?
Inside the BoH, things were pretty sedate for anybody's Friday night. Cute young girls in cat's-eye glasses and ponchos were failing to pay attention to guys in leather staring off into space. Add a few flagons of beer and that's how matters stood until The Downer Party clambered onstage and plugged in.
You may consult Google for any number of kind words about this talented indie quartet, but they might as well have been video wallpaper for all they got out of much of the gathering audience. The crowd -- a well-bundled haul of meek young pretties in various states of careful insouciance -- weren't into it, though their punchy, punky delivery did provoke the odd bit of spastic dancing, even out of me.
Next up was Exray's
, a trippy, techno-inspired successor of local indie rock mainstay Ray's Vast Basement. They lacked The Downers' will-to-rock entirely and sound troubles pummeled several interesting songs to mulch, with the uptempo numbers failing to move and the moving ones failing to register at all. Jon Bernson got off a few memorable wisecracks, including "Don't worry. In a few minutes you'll get to listen to the recorded version of us."
. This high-energy freakshow was what the kids were waiting for. It took a couple of numbers before the torpor finally shed, but soon the middle distance was all bobbing heads and upturned heels. A procession of bashful gigglies jumped off the stage into the crowd, only to be gently lowered to the floor by muscles too underdeveloped for serious surfing. The Bunny himself is one of nature's own whirlwinds -- a fuzz-faced Jackie Wilson in bikini briefs and girly leather jacket- and he went all Night of the Lepus
on the assembled young 'uns, even pulling them to the ground for the Gator. It was like Animal House without ROTC and the dean.
Temperatures rose and the last remaining floorspace vanished for
rolled out shortly thereafter, and the fans once again commenced to whooping. Even though these guys are the kind of raucous J. Geils/Mothers of Invention partytime that even New York critics can't get enough of, there was a trickle of people limping out the door from exhaustion toward the end of their long punk orchestral barrage. Released from Nobunny's spell, the people yet babbled and howled like a tent revival show and Battlehooch went into overdrive, with frontman Pat Smith vamping and stalking like Napoleon Murphy Brock reviewing the troops. The skronk shut down at about half past midnight and we walked out onto a 17th Street surprisingly barren of snow.
Jon Bernson: "It's great to see you guys. Even though I can't see you guys."
Pat Smith: "This song's called "Do the Fuck Yourself!"
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