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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Kisses Seduce a Soft-Hearted Crowd at Rickshaw Stop

Posted By on Wed, Mar 9, 2011 at 9:00 AM

Kisses at Rickshaw Stop last night.
  • Kisses at Rickshaw Stop last night.
The Actors
March 8, 2011

Better than: A peck on the cheek.

Last night's headliner at Rickshaw was called Kisses -- a name of potentially offensive cuteness. None of this stopped the big bro-y dudes in back from confessing their affection for its delicate synth-pop, though. Pretty much from the moment this mellow L.A. three-piece stepped onstage, The Dudes in Back (as we'll hereby refer to them) howled for "steak dinner!" They weren't hungry -- they just really wanted to hear "Midnight Lovers," a deadpan disco come-on in whose chorus Kisses frontman Jesse Kivel coos, "I would like to take you out for a nice steak dinner."

  • Kisses
That's weirdly candid invite if there ever was one, and Kisses' songs are full of adorable trifles shared between Kivel and fellow member Zinzi Edmundson. Lavished with live drums and a computerized bass player, their cuteness got last night's crowd off to a mellow sway, seducing even those Dudes. Shouts of "We like you! We love you!" went up after one song, until Kivel started gushing about how "this is definitely one of my favorite shows." So much good will in this room! -- especially given that it was only about half-full. But when the band kicks off with an eponymous song that includes the line "you find a couple of girls kissing me," and when one of the band's songs is titled, sincerely, "People Can Do the Most Amazing Things," and when half the crowd seems to be making eyes, well, what kind of vibe would you expect? 

  • Kisses
Kisses themselves sounded pretty much like their album -- reverby, distantly infatuated, slightly Teutonic -- but ran into a few fake bass-player hiccups. Those technical issues were sorted by the time "steak dinner," er, "Midnight Lovers," sent the room into a huge sway, sweetly satisfying the Dudes -- and pretty much everyone else.

  • Altars
There's a gaping trench between singing karaoke and singing in a real band, and it wasn't clear last night that Altars vocalist Little Melanie gets that. She's got a powerful voice, but seems to know only how to turn it on and off. So while the band's angular disco was pleasant enough, her fountain of pitches sprayed over any subtlety in Altars' songs. Beatmaster Bertie Pearson was sick, sweating profusely in between bongo solos, so maybe this was just an off night for the S.F. three-piece.

The Actors
  • The Actors
We caught only the end of openers The Actors, finding them playing to a largely empty floor. The few people there were apprehensively staying away from the stage in that irritating pre-show behavior where no one will go up front. Actors dished out slightly awkward, but reasonably capable keyboard rock like those nice, sneaker-wearing boys you knew had a band in high school. They should've been meaner and made the crowd scoot up close -- it would have made things better for all.

Critic's Notebook

House sound: We let out a chuckle when a snarling Nick Cave came on the P.A. immediately after the nice boys of Actors finished up.

Personal bias: I realized at the start of Kisses' set that I went to college with its frontman, Jesse Kivel, and actually worked with him at the arts section of our college paper. Weird.

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