Thursday, June 7, 2012
Better than: A Facebook party featuring anyone.
Tanlines percussionist Jesse Cohen's been slinging Internet-based one-liners all night. He introduces new music as "not even on Rdio, what they call a 'net exclusive.'" He understands that this crowd -- invitees to a private Rdio party -- needs to be on its phones all night, even encourages it. "Go ahead, guilt free, knock yourselves out." The funniest line of the night gets no laughter though. Not necessarily because it carries a sliver too much truth (c'mon, like the phone line didn't), but because folks are so wrapped up in their conversations and booze.
"Any angel investors out there? Give yourself a round of applause." (Silence). "Been waiting for the right opportunity to use that, this is the first time."
He is joking. This isn't an over-40 black tie affair. No one claps to self-identify as an angel investor. But the setting for this Dirty Ghosts/Tanlines/Twin Shadow show is strange. During Tanlines set, there's a noticeable space in front of the stage at least one person deep. It's an effortless struggle to get to the front (you pay attention to these things when taking pictures; it's highly unusual). Anyone interested could navigate a standing sea of cardigans, Win Butler haircuts, and Warby Parker eyewear (okay, we're guilty as charged on the last one), and get whatever position they pleased during either set.
In light of some recent All Shook Down reflection on the potential gentrification of the S.F. music scene, it's hard not to notice a major lack of concert normatives. Tanlines offers a strong set, but even "All of Me" can't get the crowd dancing. Okay, perhaps their worldly electro isn't for everyone. But one song into Twin Shadow, the crowd still lacks a pulse. There isn't even applause as the band walks out; only a confined pocket of dancers near the stage gets swept up in the infinitely danceable new wave.
Now, perhaps the lack of atmosphere is due to a limited number of people at the show. Or maybe each band's scattering of new tracks catches everyone off guard. But people are also getting caught up in a steady stream of Jello shots, or stepping outside for some free Mexican from the night's partnering food truck. Yes, the acts are getting paid no matter what, and playing an Rdio party isn't like shilling for some no-name startup. But bands deserve better, particularly these two bands in light of these two performances.
Tanlines brings a surprising amount of energy to its laid-back dance tracks. Cohen is funny between songs (he thanks the local deli in addition to all the 'net humor), and lead singer Eric Emm has a demanding stage presence whenever he starts wailing. A song like "Not the Same" slows the tempo but showcases what's engaging about his voice -- just the right amount of echo, strength in the high registers, and a lot of passion.
Twin Shadow proceeds to put in its bid in as a top act of 2012 (just wait for its new album in July). George Lewis Jr. and company display a high level of showmanship and real ability to play. Their weird hybrid of soaring, danceable synths and over-the-top romanticism feels epic when performed live, accented by Lewis Jr.'s energy and vocal prowess. When the band hits the chorus of songs like "Five Seconds" or "When We're Dancing," you can't help but lock in -- unless, that is, you're 80 percent of the people at this gig.
Luckily for concert diehards, both Tanlines (6/26 at Brick and Mortar) and Twin Shadow (8/16 at GAMH) will be back in San Francisco in the coming months. Those shows are guaranteed wins: two bands that combine musicianship with flair. Not to mention that they can muster up energy even for a glorified late Thursday happy hour.
Twin Shadow setlist:
1. Shooting Holes
2. Tyrant Destroyed
3. Five Seconds
4. When We're Dancing
5. I Can't Wait
6. New song (possibly "Patient" based on LA set this week)
7. New song (possibly "Beg for the Night")
8. At My Heels
10. New song (possibly "Run My Heart")
11. Castles in the Snow
I've been here before: Maybe it's too many viewings of John Hughes movies, but Twin Shadow's set felt oddly like a prom night. Groups are clustered off in circles, people stand awkwardly on the dance floor, and the place clears out before the last song finishes. The band's light show adds to the feeling occasionally, with a lot of purples, greens and yellows (prom theme: Mardi Gras?).