Show Review: The Velvet Teen with Silian Rail at Bottom of the Hill, 1/7/11

by Marie Carney on January 8, 2011

Fierce energy from The Velvet Teen
The Velvet Teen is a force of indie-noise-pop-rock to be reckoned with that everyone should know about.  This is something I spent years of my youth slowly convincing all my friends of, and now, finally, this show proved that people have been listening.  Bottom of the Hill was packed before the first band even started playing and the energy in the room was palpable.  There was no question that something great was about to be heard. 

I discovered The Velvet Teen in the best way possible, opening for a side project of the 90’s pop punk band Pollen in a glorified coffee shop in Sacramento.  And through all the talking, drink ordering and comedic stylings of my bff Will, at the end of the show I bought their cd.  Leading to a young girl’s obsession of epic proportions. In 2002 I followed The Velvet Teen around religiously for six months:  to teen centers in the south bay, shows in the north bay, and many many visits to Bottom of the Hill.  I thought they were going to be huge.

Fast forward eight years and I am watching openers Low Five play to an already packed house and an ever increasing sense of anticipation.  Low Five, for their part, did a good job, pleasing enough, but not quite mind blowing.  They played interesting and well executed noisy indie rock, making them well suited as an opener.  But the fire never built, as is often the case when you are the opener of a three band bill, and they left the stage to loud, but not thunderous, applause.

Silian Rail, on the other hand, did blow my mind.  When it was announced at the beginning of their set that there would be no vocals my hopes plummeted.  Other than “classical” music, I hate instrumental music.  I get bored, I look around, I think about what I could be watching on Netflix.  But not for Silian Rail, it was enthralling, mesmerizing and everything a good band should be.  It was just guitar and drums, but both were played with such skill and creativity.  The guitar lines were so intricate and beautiful weaving a melody over all the intense and frenzied drum beats. At the end of the set, realizing I hadn’t looked at my watch once, or ever thought about Dr Who, I cheered along with everyone else.

Silian Rail

Then it was time for The Velvet Teen.  I wasn’t the only one who was getting really excited to see them.  Apparently, since I used to watch them open for some good, but mostly nobody bands, they have built up a strong and loyal fanbase that is well deserved to say the least.  They opened the show with “Forfor” from the new EP No Star.  Since it was a record release show, it was an excellent choice, but the crowd, full of potential energy, didn’t explode until they started into “Caspain Can Wait” from their second album Out of the Fierce Parade.  From then on it was madness as they ripped through many songs from their most recent full album Cum Laude, with many old favorites mixed in.

Up front was a pit of jumping, dancing, sweaty bodies.  I spent the first half of the show there, taking pictures and being amused by the interplay between guitarist Matthew Izen and the audience.  Cheerful, joking, and un-miked, it was the treat of the people up front to hear him.  Even better though was that, as much as the audience was jumping around, so was the band.  Bassist Josh Staples is still a master of punk rock poses and singer/guitarist Judah Nagler danced about as much as possible when tied to the microphone.  In between the two, Matthew Izen bounced back and forth never stopping like a ping pong ball of rock energy.  Unfortunately from my vantage point all I could see of drummer Casey Deitz was a cymbal where his face should be, but it was his solid beats that kept the energy moving.  The band was on.  And it was appreciated.

Once I moved to the back it was a different world but still full of passionate fans.  At the bar the annoying talking guy even screamed “I fucking love this song!  It’s my favorite song ever!” when the band started into “Gyzmkid” and actually shut up for 90% of the song.  The rest of the audience was reverently silent, watching the band and lightly bobbing along.  It wasn’t until the final song, after Judah Nagler’s pronouncement that this is one to dance to, that most of the audience danced.  Though I, a die-hard dancer, could do nothing but stare and scream/sing along because they still, eight years later, close a show with “Counting Backwards” which will always be the song that I scream in my head “I fucking love this song!” every time I hear it.  Every time.

Leaving the show I’m still incredulous that The Velvet Teen never exploded onto the music scene to great acclaim.  Maybe they’re too good, too smart, too talented?  Maybe it is the varied style of their albums, the band continuing to re-invent themselves with a different sound and style that only their live show can really bring to a sense of cohesiveness. Or maybe it is just a simple case of circumstance and luck.  No matter what, I find myself feeling like I did at 23, wanting to follow them around, show to show, screaming and singing along, sure that they are going to be the next big thing in indie rock.  Thank you The Velvet Teen, thank you.

A proud owner of the world’s tiniest setlist:

And a set list with full song titles:

Fixing a Faucet
Caspain Can Wait
Noi Boi
Code Red
Building a Whale
We Were Bound (To Bend The Rules)
Naked Girl
No Star
Pavlovian Bell


Counting Backwards

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Vanessa Romero January 9, 2011 at 4:26 am

I wonder if the guy who made out with the setlist did end up with it…


Marie Carney January 9, 2011 at 8:27 pm

Oh no! Now everyone knows I might have lied! I do wonder who ended up with it too, and whether or not they know it was on someone else’s mouth.


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