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Friday, February 24, 2012

Live Review, 2/23/12: Locals Fidlar and Shannon and the Clams Steal the Soft Pack's Thunder at Cafe Du Nord

Posted By on Fri, Feb 24, 2012 at 9:46 AM

Shannon and the Clams at Cafe Du Nord last night.
  • Shannon and the Clams at Cafe Du Nord last night.

The Soft Pack

Shannon and the Clams

Fidlar

Surf Club

Thursday, Feb. 24th, 2012

Café Du Nord

Better than: The homeless drum circle down the block, by far.

If the purpose of Noise Pop is to showcase lesser-known groups in addition to quality headliners, then the inclusion of Fidlar as an opener at last night's Noise Pop event at Café Du Nord was a glorious success. They dispensed a potent strain of raving garage-punk with deft execution and earnest vitality very early in the evening. Rarely pausing between songs, the surprisingly young band played with unhinged exuberance that was not once hindered by non-professionalism or any of the faults commonly diminishing new bands' performances.

From what could be made of the rather well-enunciated yelling, the songs celebrated juvenile activity with a charmingly obstinate attitude. A chorus like, "I drink cheap beer / So what / Fuck you," was typically followed by an absolutely unhinged solo. During the lead guitarist's savage throttling of his instrument, his greasy locks flailed over the sunburst finish of a vintage guitar body and the primal essence of rock 'n roll whipped the crowd into frenzy. Café Du Nord was already nearly full at this point, and the audience reacted to every Fidlar song with generous applause and even a youthful hipster mosh pit.

Following Fidlar was Oakland's Shannon and The Clams. The beaming positivity and elated demeanor of all three members was endearing immediately, as evidenced by their instant rapport with the audience regarding sound issues. Later in the set, mild bickering amongst each other and with the venue's sound person seemed to enrapture the crowd further.

Shannon and the Clams
  • Shannon and the Clams

With hyper-cute pop sensibility, relentless, syrupy harmonizing and enduring charm, Shannon and the Clams have carved a distinct niche. Having solidified a style that goes down easy but can't be ignored, they have obviously settled in to enjoy themselves. The guitarist's eyes seemed to roll into the back of his head every time he delivered his falsetto backups. With his guitar strapped nearly around his neck, a red bowtie and rainbow suspenders, he wasn't trying to shirk the kitsch qualities the group sometimes falls back on.

It's difficult to dismiss Shannon and the Clams as novel, however. They harmonize too well, their hooks burrow too deep in your psyche, and Shannon's singing is too impressive to derail their set as corny. She sounds even better live than on recordings, and her dynamic range is best appreciated live, where the impressive contrast between her husky, primal belting and melodic backups is clear.

The Soft Pack performed last, but the evening seemed more like a parade of headliners, rather than any one act being more anticipated than the last. In that spirit, The Soft Pack's show wasn't any more impressive than the groups they followed. In fact, having to follow so many energetic performances highlighted The Soft Pack's tendency towards derivative songwriting.

Their songs didn't reflect the endless summer pop that you might expect from a gaggle of San Diegans, but they weren't particularly introspective either. They aren't inspired by the warmth of the beach or the isolation of the bedroom. Rather, they seemed informed by the punchy spirit of '70s rock with a light dose of shoegaze.

The member's appearances certainly don't betray any influences, though. The singer was unassumingly dressed in a baggy, neutral collared shirt with slacks and a tuft of hair dangling in the middle of his forehead. With such an outfit and his vocals cutting through the mix, the result was something like your drunken history professor singing Gang of Four at a karaoke bar.

The other members excelled though -- particularly the guitarist, who hunched over his instrument, grimacing and recoiling from his own lead, precisely throttling the guitar every few moments, and providing the most redeeming moments of the set.

Critic's notebook:

Worst on-stage fashion mistake: It didn't detract from the performance whatsoever, but near the top of any list compiling clothing not to be worn on stage are shorts, oversized basketball t-shirts, and beanies. The members of Fidlar were adorned with all of these things, but judging by their music, I doubt they care what anyone thinks of their clothes.

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Sam Lefebvre

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