There’s always that one show you always kick yourself for missing. In the span of our lifetimes, some end up more important than others. Yes I still kick myself for missing that second night of Portishead at The Warfield back in 1998. Oh, I’ll catch them next time they come around I said. No big deal I said. 10 years and another Portishead show later, I vowed not to make the same mistake.
In 2009, Still Light, Still Night was one of my top 5 records of the year. They played Bimbo’s and what did I do? Lazy Raffi took over for some reason that night, and I laid still. Oh, I would see them next time. What idiot misses three girls playing three keyboards! Four years later I wasn’t going to miss that opportunity again.
I was in the dark about the opener, CallmeKat. I was standing alone at the front until she introduced herself and her Danish heritage and encouraged the crowd to come closer. I don’t have enough adjectives to describe how much I enjoyed her set. It may have been because I had zero expectation, but let’s give her more credit than that statement allows! Alone with a keyboard, and sometimes a kazoo, her melodic content and heartfelt vocals were a breath of fresh air above the average synth pop selling for a dime a dozen at any show, any night of the week. Among the pre-programmed beats, Katherine Ottosen, as some call her, allowed her genuine spirit to shine through and let loose. Infusing a reggae step here (nod to Wild Belle), a folk touch there, she wasn’t afraid to even jazz up a song and have a Sade moment as I like to say. So often is seems like artists aren’t having fun while performing, but she enjoyed and appreciated every minute of it.
The second opener, Genius, which appeared to be somewhat local, with ties to Davis, CA, was a duo that fit the bill fairly well. Matching the all too familiar uniform of tall skinny guy holding down the beats with female singer fiddling with a smaller contraption, Genius played to a portion of the crowd that seemed solely there as support. They started strong with a spacey and ethereal dynamic, but they seemed to wane as the beats slowed down. The lead singer’s voice was a bit low, making the songs appear to sluggish at points. There was definitely a good foundation, but nothing in the music distinguished them from any other artist in the genre.
I’ve seen artists who only play keyboards, but there is just something that is extra novel about Au Revoir Simone. Maybe I’m shallow, maybe it’s because I watched Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure about a hundred times on VHS growing up (the band’s name is a reference to the movie), or maybe all of my nerd girl crushes as a kid all culminated into one when I discovered this band. But three beautiful, and talented (!) ladies all playing keyboards and singing at the same time is what dreams are made of.
Why wasn’t there a sign up at the front door reading “No Guitars Allowed”? The lone guitar was a bass shabbily leaning up against the back wall, an utter wallflower at the school dance just hoping someone would ask it to dance. Having only heard the new album, Move in Spectrums just recently, I recognized they jumped right into the new material once the stage was sufficiently stormed. Erica Forster on the left, Annie Hart in the middle, and Heather D’Angelo on the right, each member had their own flare and stage presence. Annie smiled and danced up a storm as she played in her glittery sliver disco ball dress, while Erica in a white jacket and black tie floated on the stage with a confidence you couldn’t buy unless you were from NY and knew “a guy.”
My favorite aspect of the evening was the absence of set dressing, extras, or frills. It was a peek into the window of the band setting up their gear in their own apartment, dancing around, and playing for fun. The crowd started to move once they got into oldie “Another Likely Story” but even then, it seemed a little bit of SF “I’m not supposed to dance if you aren’t” crowd syndrome took over. Blind to conformation, I followed Au Revoir Simone’s wisdom, “Only you can make you happy,” and danced away regardless of what faux hipsters might have concluded.
They covered a good portion of the last two records, throwing in a fully unexpected all keys cover of Mazzy Star’s “Fade Into You” in the encore. Nod to Hope Sandoval in the Bay Area? Maybe?
Sometimes you’re never sure what you’re going to get at a live show. As Bill Murray might tell you, when recorded music is translated, sometimes something gets lost. This was by far the cleanest album to live interpretation I’ve seen this year. The show mirrored the albums seamlessly. That’s not always a good thing, but a jam band Au Revoir Simone is not.
They are just one of those bands you can’t hate. Equal parts cute and energetic, with perfectly crafted pop tunes; they are nothing less than, well, an anime cartoon? Hmm, that is a good idea. Patent pending!