By NATE WAGGONER
Friday, Nov. 9, 2012
Better than: Encountering a coven of witches who cast a hard-rock spell on you.
In front of the purple tentacles painted on the Rickshaw Stop, a girl discusses her Croatian fake ID while she waits in line. "It says my birthday is on Valentine's Day. It's like the McLovin' of real fake IDs." She is not using it tonight, but instead owning up to being under 21.
Inside, there is a rickshaw in the lobby, a disco ball hanging from the ceiling, velvet red drapes, and an ornamental old piano near the stage. This rock venue is relatively spacious and classy, and its atmosphere seems to inherently tamper moshing, which is perfect for a puny weakling like your intrepid reporter.
A glamour girl in heels and tights and a Those Darlins T-shirt lets her boyfriend -- perfectly trimmed beard, hoodie, ecstatic grin -- take phone pic after phone pic of her in front of the stage before the show starts.
Nashville's Heavy Cream storm the stage, and their lead singer, Jessica McFarland announces, "I need a whiskey!" before they launch into "Prison Shanks."
"I love it here!" she wails, "in women's prison!"
Onstage, McFarland is possessed. She kicks her heels, shakes, spits, grimaces, rubs her stomach, and Mick Jaggers across the stage. One wonders to what degree she is even conscious of any of it -- and that's a good thing. Heavy Cream's music is a simple but compelling Southern punk featuring distorted guitars and booming bass and drums.
Pangea, with its members' goofy stage banter, frequent time changes, and shout-singing in unison, is like a mature version of the guys you knew in high school who had a super-fun band together. Their brotherly camaraderie stood in stark contrast to the dark and mysterious femininity of the bands before and after them. "Sup?" their lead singer says. "I voted for Mitt Romney. I've been depressed for days."
"No, he didn't," insists guest guitarist Chad.
But while there's a feeling of high school fun to Pangea's music and stage presence, their lyrical themes, as announced by the lead singer before several songs, frequently focus around the concerns of an older man: impotence ("Too Drunk to Come"), death, and cats.
Jessi Darlin and Nikki Darlin share singing and guitar duties in Those Darlins, also from Tennessee. They both wore high fashion-y red and black outfits. Their music and aesthetic betrayed equal influence from Loretta Lynn and The Pretenders, and a comparison to their contemporaries the Dum Dum Girls -- equally glamorous and jangly -- seems fair.
They got some of their more recent, poppy songs, including "Hives" and "Screws Get Loose" out of the way early in the set. Jessi Darlin waded into the crowd during "Funstix Party" to play an extended solo. The set concluded with "Be Your Bro," the band's anthem of an unrequited platonic friendship: "I just wanna be your brother, you just wanna be my boyfriend."
The crowd demanded an encore. As Jessi took the stage, she deadpanned, "I'd like to read a few pages of my diary if you don't mind..."
"We do not mind!" shouted a man in the audience.
Instead, they performed "Wild One," which incited several young female fans to get up on the stage and sing along. Afterwards, Those Darlins politely kicked the fans off the stage and invited the members of Heavy Cream to join them on what they described as "a traditional witch song": "Dreams," by Fleetwood Mac. The classic rock-style singalong, complete with singers trading verses, satisfied the crowd.
Those Darlins write great songs, and their performance was solid. Pangea is a lot of fun, and Heavy Cream are absolutely a band to watch. At the merch table, McFarland from Heavy Cream said, "We love coming to San Francisco.... This was awesome, because there were a lot of people, and some of them were singing along, which is always like -- " she made an enthusiastic face, put her hands up, and shook them. Likewise, Jessica.