Monday, March 18, 2013

OM - The Independent SF CA

Crisp clear nights of late in SF and the short walk to the Independent put a bit of a spring in my step along with the anticipation for this show. I missed Sir Richard Butler though because apparently I don’t take the venue listing ‘show at 8’ seriously. So I arrived at 9:15 and Om was already set up but yet to take the stage. The room was suddenly awash in the sweet and pungent fumes that seemed obligatory for this kind of event and I started weaving in my spot as they launched into their first song. It didn't move me but I was entertained, and home with a glass of my favorite Irish Whisky in my hand by 10:45. I would think that other more devoted fans might have found the set quite short and the effort a little underwhelming.

OM - official site

Sunday, February 10, 2013

1 Quiet Night (of 2) at The Vortex Room 02/09/13

I went to the Vortex Room in San Francisco on Saturday night. It was on the advice of good friends who live near and far away. Smile Productions put together a fantastic show and it moved me to try and describe some of what I heard and saw, everyone was in good spirits that night and the show was still going at 2am. The bands mentioned below are in order of their appearance.


When these women first became noticed by me they sat together in a round booth near the bar, and as they looked for each other they pressed hands on the others heart, making a circle that both surprised and delighted me but for no reason I could conceive. The matchless way they took the stage in a group but with no apparent stress in any way, I was immediately aware of the intensity. The 6 women then began, both together and separately to weave an incredible, improvised fable. I felt as though parts of the songs they did I knew as a child and was dully comforted, where other passages became lost before I even heard them and I was nearly sad with regret.

The moments they sang were most obviously movements that everyone in attendance understood as complete, but only when they were done completely. What they gave to us, or to me at least was much more intimate than I was predicting. The singing brought me to emotional pivots that felt raw, leaving me with a self-conscious vulnerability where I thought I should turn away, when in an instant the mood became my safe house and had me for tea and cake. Flexing their ranges and projecting at times with heart-bending strength these voices together could not be better matched, each building on, competing against, holding tightly to and breaking apart all at once. More than once I felt the urge to join them, as they kneeled and made such rich and powerful sounds together.

                                                      Lutra Lutra on Bandcamp


Some small device, electronic brain case, was audibly paired to the monitors while he stepped back and joined the audience for a moment as the soundtrack began. I found this 'music'playing on my ears was interesting but was so very busy waiting for the new breath or the next thought that must follow I couldn't concentrate. Later being told that the backing tracks were simply objects found he played in repetition and recording with purpose, it was nearly alarming that no conventional instrument had been used owing to the satisfying arrangement under the singing.

There was then a tentative charmed shuffle up and around the microphone as he breathed and toned his voice through and over the tracks, as if Syd Barett had the soul and pipes of a walrus.  I was cheering for Bernardo, urging him with my hands and voice because of that fine intrigue playing out over all of us. He soon started breathing in the crowd, raking in the air around us and an invisible contest for oxygen quietly built. A moment of croon, then lowering with trouble and mooring to shadowy corners of the dim room, all of us became still together.

This is cocktail music, but no fruit or umbrellas, deep thoughtful drinks with nothing more than some bitters and rocks set like small electric shocks within liquored depths. No longer feeling the wood of the bench I sat on, immersed he reaches for another leaning low swing at the mic where even night fits could be a re-birth of lightning. Slowly he builds to a mezmerization level you wouldn't think possible from canned tracks and a vocal, but Bernardo starts off lurching and looming into his set and simply swells his character and voice to fill the room. Nearing the end of the set it bloomed in my thoughts I no longer needed to root for him as I was completely taken; the performance had me feeling inspired for my own aspirations, with feet that could now take me anywhere.

                                                 Bernardo Devlin on SoundCloud


On a chair in the middle of the stage she sat, with a guitar and microphone golden hair and sunshine eyes marking the room with light. Xylophone, second guitar and stand up bass accompanied her voice and guitar laughing and hiding behind that voice and manner, and they moved so sweetly through a set that was slightly unbalanced but lush and human in it's accomplishments.

There was time to drink and reach for the hand of your date, to relax your thighs and arms and swing in the sound while reclining with the others around the room. My companions all silently toasted each other and some stepped out to smoke and bask in the confidence of Sasha and bands clear arrangements and lilting washes into the back of the room. Formerly of Cannibal Sea on Merge Records from Berkeley, I wondered how much more powerful they might be with a drummer, and was thankful that this wasn't the case in that small room.

                                                             Cannibal Sea