Noise Pop Happy Hours are once of the better kept secrets of the festival. They all happen at Bender’s Bar & Grill in the Mission- a great spot that serves some of the cheapest drinks of any music venue in town. They also serve tater tots. And who doesn’t like tater tots? It also gets you some really intimate performances for free, and set times that are early enough for the fans to get with day jobs to get to bed at a reasonable hour, or the hardcores can tackle two shows in one night! On this Thursday evening, I managed to battle rush hour traffic in order to head out to see a couple of bands over a delicious grilled macaroni & cheese.
I walked in just in time to catch LA’s underage wunderkinds Kitten. I have spilled a lot of virtual ink over this band, but they never cease to amaze me. When I first stumbled across them, their lead vocalist, Chloe Chaidez, was 15 years old, and she managed to perform one of the single most destructive sets to ever grace the Lilith Fair stage. Three short years later, the band’s sound has progressed from their riot grrl roots and have evolved into a much more complex, layered sound. Despite a maturing in sound, Chaidez is still a beast of a performer. They opened with a pairing of brand new songs that were full of amazing layers of synth and beats. The band’s solid rhythm section kept the groove going while Chaidez flailed about the stage maniacally. Her voice has matured amazingly well over the course of the last three years, too! Her range is quite big, and at times her voice was chilling.
During the track “G#”, Chaidez was inspired to jump on the bass rig, and then jump off the bass rig. Thus breaking the bass rig, and she spent the course of the rest of the song fixing the bass rig while singing. That’s how you rock out politely. As a thank you for putting up with this behavior, she convinced the band to cover “Purple Rain.” Not many bands can pull this song off, but Kitten managed to make this one work with aplomb. Despite the battering of her band (she manged to kick both the guitarist and keyboardist numerous times), and despite the fact that the mic wasn’t securely attached to it’s cable, causing her to lose vocals entirely a few times, the managed to pull of a solid set that was far too short. A mere 7 songs, including a second cover (“Policy Of Truth” by Depeche Mode), and it wasn’t until the bitter end that the 21+ crowd was dancing to this group of teenagers invading their bar. Kitten are bound for greatness, and every hear knows it.
After a Kitten pummeled our senses, we got to enjoy a set from another band visiting from the southern half of the state: Francisco The Band. Unlike Kitten, this set began as a very subdued affair. This band was loud and calm, with swirly, fuzzy guitars, helium infused vocals, and rich, complex rhythms. I will admit, it was a little harder to get “into” this band after Kitten’s ferocity. This was a subtle band. A shoegaze band by every definition. However, they had one stand out member. Drummer Nestor Romero was the bands hero. He kept things as a tightly controlled unit, allowing the band to meander when they wanted to, but also kept them tight, too. He encouraged the other guys to get more aggressive, and was the most animated fellow on stage. They managed to crank out a handful of punk rock bangers in the midst of the swirls and fuzz, too! By the time they finished their 40 minutes, they place filled out quite nicely, and managed to elicit a lot of sways and cheers. And, when we left, it was only barely getting dark, so ther was plenty of time to enjoy some fine rock n roll elsewhere and work off the carb coma brought on by all of the beer, fried potatoes, and cheesy goodness that is Bender’s.