Saturday night, San Francisco. An unexceptionally brisk evening stood to be made swampy from down home revelry. The Independent, Alamo Square’s intimate, inky chamber, stood to facilitate the subdued, sweet swelter. Everything happened so fast. One stride past the evening’s threshold and…
“How we doing?”
Boom! A swell of supersonic rock-and-roll erupted inside the belly of The Independent; the backdraft of bowling bass and erratic electricity swooped through the venue’s history-laced entranceway. The perpetrators of the aural Hadoken: Solwave.
A blooming local outfit, Solwave is the combination of sprinting, catchy songs abundant in character and charismatic onstage bombast. Every surging, swollen, hyperactive song twanged with serious frivolity. With any slip – a microphone stand almost flew crowdward – or mechanical failure – snapped strings – the motley quartet would roll with the punches like a dripping welterweight. Danny Ferdon and Moise Seri exploded with formidable moxie and precision, respectively. Tommy Ferdon weaved sophisticated, unfettered riffs through the thick foundation. John Collins, though, takes the cake (and then whips it into the air before shooting it like a clay pigeon). A sleek, stylish frontman with indubitable magnetism, Collins possessed all desired tropes for rollicking vocalists: energy, flexibility, pipes, presence, jubilation. As the anthemic gurgling, 21st century blue-eyed soul rumbled, the puckish rapscallion would whirl his wired weapon with youthful glee and abandon or writhe with emphatic ecstasy.
Great White Buffalo weren’t afraid to get loud. Their sharp palette, plodding-to-finesse rhythm and striking guitar melodies provided guttural, mid-fi, take-it-or-leave-it soundtracks for looking to the sunrise horizon. The Los Angeles quatro had a flair for layered arrangements, modulating misdirections, and heavy, heavy groves. Great White Buffalo boasted robust vocal parity between frontman Graham Bockmiller’s gruff timbre and lead guitarist Stephen Johnson’s mellow serenity as well as tremendous drum-guitar interplay. Coy and brooding in terrific nonchalance, the band made sure to balance deft musicianship and tongue-in-cheek sentiments (often to past lovers). While clearly modern, the band dipped into sonic territories unheard since the Clinton-era, adding an overall amorphous timelessness to the reverberant, atmospheric billow.
Where to begin on the end of the night? In desperate avoidance of clichés or highfalutin halfbaked rhetoric, lets start with some truths: The Revivalists are a multi-dimensional, seven-piece outfit hailing from New Orleans. New Orleans, the overtly refracted piece of Americana, nestled in our idiosyncratic middle child known as “The South”, that is far too complex – historically and culturally– to cover in a live music show review. Whatever you or I would imagine about NOLA is irrelevant; the Revivalists, like a space program, transcended the definitions of the surrounding region, while evoking local pride.
“San Francisco! Did y’all come to party tonight?” David Shaw, lead singer, asked.
He meant it. For almost two hours Shaw and his cohorts played full forced, tense, taut, riotous cacophony. Overloaded, overdriven, the Crescent City collective made all demands, no concessions. The Revivalists are undoubtedly influenced by a milieu of eclectic genres ranging from country to jazz to funk, simultaneously permeating. Its result is utterly tantalizing and confounding; even with trained, perked ears, the sound mystifies like trying to find a phantom in a vibrating, house of mirrors. Of all the possibilities presented, the least expected rung true: The Revivalists are ostensibly a hip-hop band.
Behind the masquerade of metamorphic indie rockabilly, the group’s live-lineage feels more akin to Stetsasonic and the Roots than Jerry Reed and Kings of Leon. Bone fide rock, sure, but on Saturday night, San Francisco, everything was mired in “in-the-place-to-be” confidence, bravado, crowd control, and blitzing energy. Shaw’s bouncy, boogie-woogie swagger commanded connection with sincere sentimentality; his unassuming bluesy resonance could peak to “‘Cause I Love You” soul-wailing or dipped to cool, lyrical, mid-90s new-jack-swing chiming, depending on the Revivalists’ pressing proclivities. Concurrently, the group’s alchemy, jamming with commendable verve and stamina, raised the stakes through proficient bombardment. Michael Girardot, keys/trumpet, blew as hard as Rob Ingraham’s saxophone(s). Ingraham “shredded” as hard as Ed Williams’ pedal steel guitar. Hopes that the Revivalists would “give the drummer some” to Andrew Campanelli, failed to manifest substantially as solos were allotted stingily. Their gumbo inspired greed.
The encore was expected, the second encore less so, and the third confirmed previous suspicions. After amassing a gaggle of femininity on stage, The Revivalists belted a ridiculously accurate rendition of Dr. Dre and Eminem’s “Forgot About Dre” with Shaw and Ingraham playing mentor and protege respectively. Respectfully, the talented septet has time before their opus – both in studio and onstage – but they were determined to bring the house down, searing and blistering and without a doubt.