Noise Pop Show Review: Film School with Apex Manor and Gregory & the Hawk at Cafe Du Nord, 2/24/11

by Perry F. Shirley on February 28, 2011

Greg Bertens of Film School. (Photos by Abby Wilcox)

It’s certainly nice when one is soaking wet from the heavy downpour outdoors to go underground in a warm and friendly place such as Cafe du Nord and find a cute-as-a-button folk singer crooning softly, trading an acoustic guitar with a harp (!) for good effect. It helps warm cold limbs anyhow.

This was my entrance to Thursday night’s Noise Pop offering with headliner Film School, a band that acknowledged having its own breakthrough at the 2004 instance of the indie-rock festival, opening for Cat Power then. They ended the evening with its members hugging onstage and telling us, “we wanted to come down and play a really good show because we wouldn’t be us without San Francisco.”

Such was the tone of the evening: goodwill and gentle folks, even the loud ones earnestly playing their tunes for a crowd happy to be away for the cold and underground at that.

But back to the folk-singing supporting act Gregory and the Hawk, aka singer/songwriter Meredith Godreau and only her. Yes, that was confusing. As it turns out it was just a case of Miss Godreau not wanting to go by her own name and Greg is her brother’s name and the “Hawk” is just because. Something about the basement setting of Cafe Du Nord calls for an obscure low-light, red-glow atmosphere that was repeatedly talked about. Several photographers in front—including one for Spin magazine—were sighing about how dark it was, forcing them to shoot rapidfire just to get a couple workable photos. Gregory/Godreau warned us that she didn’t have much practice playing harp in the dark but we were all so entranced by the medieval artifact that it didn’t really matter. She charmed her way through lyrically-strong songs about crushes (“if you’ll be my boat/I’ll be your sea… Just leave me your wake to remember you by”) in a dreamy if optimistic tone.

The end of a set often comes abruptly or awkwardly but this was not that kind of evening. Film School’s hugs and nod to us made it easier to digest the lack of encore. Godreau warned us simply, “I’m just going to play a couple more and then the lights will come on” before heading into the new song Leche, singing, “I really wanna go to bed with the feeling in my chest like we’re lost again but this time for the best.” Aww.

Apex Manor was something different altogether, shifting gears to a (much louder) garage rock sound similar to Cracker in that very Nineties, anthemic way. The band includes the booming voice of Ross Flournoy and the very adept guitar skills of Brian Whelan his bandmate from their previous band The Broken West. While they play solid, muscular even, rock that melts together save for a few key tracks like Under The Gun which benefits from an acidic keyboard melody. I have to admit that I was impressed with their gear, especially the cream Fender Telecaster and the bassist’s particularly classy Rickenbacker 4003 with an endless rosewood neck.

Film School followed with a more farscape set that had them set in darkness with a green and red laser light show and smoke that heightened the tension of their shooegazey sound. (Know what I mean? Maybe you had to be there.) How wonderful & strange: there’s a nice fella who clandestinely recorded nearly the whole set and posted it on YouTube. Besides words and pics, you’ve got grainy video to round out the out-of-body experience of show reviewing.

That sort of YouTune activity is not what they teach you in film school.

One highlight was Meet Around 10, a jammy bit with a catchy bass line and a back-and-forth bit with the girl and the guy vocals. The band wanted to let the crowd have a little fun so they threw out some beach balls and glow sticks, which was may have been a mistake since people were chucking hard plastic tubes across the room, once nearly pegging the drummer in the head. Just after that incident, the inner Cure in Film School met up with update witticism in the song Sick Hipster Nursed by Suicide Girl.

The evening’s theme of goodwill went on when the lead singer couldn’t find his Capo (that clamp on the guitar neck used to change the key) and there followed a search in the dark for the device. The show must go on; that sort of thing. Someone in the crowd pointed it out on a pedal board and the bassist exclaimed, “yeah! This guy deserves a medal!” That very bandmember, the tall and slender blond Lorelei Plotczyk who shares vocal duties to good effect, had already gotten good reviews of her manners from a fan in the crowd: “What are you writing there?” she asked me, “It better be all good because she’s really polite.”

Speaking of which, I must make formal apologies to San Francisco opening act Melted Toys, a band with its own merits that I was unable to catch because, well, biking in the city in the middle of a wintry storm is not the easiest thing to do.

Lastly, I want to bring up one small annoyance: the narrow shape of the venue mean that there were only about ten people in the front row, three of which were photographers on assignment, at least one was a writer (that’s me), and several were hardcore fans who seem to be fiddling with shoddy iPhone cameras trying to capture the evening with photo keepsakes. All this leads me to wonder: in our quest to catalog everything, are we missing out on the show itself? This would be sad because some very good rock was played by very good musicians and they might not have feel too appreciated by a front line of notepads, phones and lenses.

Read Also:

{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: