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Sunday, March 3, 2013

Noise Pop: Thao & the Get Down Stay Down Charm the Great American, 3/2/13

Posted By on Sun, Mar 3, 2013 at 2:35 PM

Thao & the Get Down Stay Down at the Great American Music Hall for Noise Pop 2013. All photos by the author.
  • Thao & the Get Down Stay Down at the Great American Music Hall for Noise Pop 2013. All photos by the author.

Thao & the Get Down Stay Down
Sallie Ford & the Sound Outside
Before the Brave
Kacey Johansing
March 2, 2013
Great American Music Hall // Noise Pop 2013

Better than: DJ sets.

Noise Pop has been doing its homework. Saturday's show at the Great American Music Hall was a thoughtful billing, with a variety in the openers that helped to set the stage for a multitalented headliner. It was as if each opener was an ingredient to make up all of the flavors of Thao & the Get Down Stay Down. The recipe of the night: Kacey Johansing's feminine ballads, plus Before the Brave's Americana twang, plus Sallie Ford's rock 'n' roll, equals Thao & the Get Down Stay Down. The evening was made up of new songs, as all but one of the groups released a new album in February.

Headliner Thao Nguyen quickly upped the enthusiasm when she stood onstage in a signature red dress (very similar to the one pictured on the cover of her newest album), looked into the crowd, and said, "Hello, home." Greeted with cheers, claps, and whistles, Nguyen exploded with energy, waving her hair wildly and stomping her cowboy boots while strumming the banjo.


Instruments outnumbered musicians onstage for the headlining set. There were as many as eight or as few as four people on stage at a time, depending on whether the indie-folk tunes called for the occasional tambourine (courtesy of opener Kacey Johansing), horn, saxophone, or xylophone.

Nugyen's set was made up of songs off her new record, We the Common. Thao claims the record includes the only love song she's ever written, "Every Body," with gooey lyrics like, "save my bed for the big ideas." The crowd was encouraged to chime in during "We the Common (For Valerie Bolden)," inspired by an incarcerated woman serving a life sentence.

See also: Jailed Heart: Thao Nguyen Finds Inspiration in Prison


The most pleasant surprise was when the singer infused an ode to Ludacris into an instrumental break. After elegantly rapping off a vulgar bit of "What's Your Fantasy," we're not sure there's anything Thao Nguyen can't do.

Portland-based band Sallie Ford & the Sound Outside started their five-week tour with Thao in S.F.
  • Portland-based band Sallie Ford & the Sound Outside started their five-week tour with Thao in S.F.

Sallie Ford & the Sound Outside released a wave of surfable, psychedelic rock 'n' roll on the Great American, drowning the crowd in righteous riffs and serious girl power. Sallie Ford's vocals must have been stored in a time capsule since the late '50s and recently introduced to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' Karen O, creating Sallie's retro wail and modern attitude.


Whenever Ford was not ripping serious rock on her seafoam guitar (which matched her seafoam-rimmed glasses), she acted a diva and danced the jive. If Sallie's loveable curls, slinky shift dress, lace tights, and precious golden pin weren't enough for the crowd to fall in instant love, her geeky-cute personality and mom jokes absolutely won them over. At the beginning of her set, Ford described her love for "noise pop" in the literal sense, explaining that if music isn't poppy it's not catchy enough, and if it's not noisy it's boring.


Songs from of her newest album, Untamed Beast, dominated Ford's set, but the crowd favorite was an older hit, "I Swear."


San Francisco folk-rock quintet Before the Brave was bright with smiles and plaid shirts. The folk-heavy duets between lead singer Jason Perry Stevens and keyboardist Beth Garber was reminiscent of Conor Oberst and Emmylou Harris' collaborations, except a whole lot happier.


Kacey Johansing's dreamy set of jazzy, classical pop put the crowd in a trance with her sweet lullabye voice. Kacey played songs off her new album, Grand Ghosts, released only a few days prior.

Critic's notebook

Precious moments:
 1. Lead singer of Before the Brave takes a moment to capture a photo of the audience to send to his mom.

2. Before the Brave exchanges hugs and high-fives on stage after their performance.

3. Nguyen stopped after her first song to explain that a couple who first met at a Thao Nguyen show got engaged at the Great American last night. Congrats to them!

-- @eringobro
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Erin Browner


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