Show Review: Kate Nash, Emmy The Great at The Fillmore 11/22/13

by Raffi Youssoufian on December 2, 2013

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All Photos by Michelle Viray

Oh great music philosophers, Sorockcrates and Rufus (yes dudes, I went there), I beseech thee.  Is there ever a good answer to the following question? Do you want your favorite artists to evolve or stay the same?

Unless you move to a desert island accompanied by your top ten albums of all time, there probably is no good answer.  But like anything, we must realize, no matter how much you want your adorable puppy to stay that adorable puppy, it’s going to grow up.  Being “excellent to each other” requires room for growth.  Without growth, the chance for something even greater might as well be stuck in a phone booth stuck traveling through time.  So unless you’re one of those people who go to great lengths to breed puppy versions of dogs (I’m looking at you desert island folk), I implore you to keep an open mind.

That being said, as a fan of both Kate Nash and Emmy The Great, this show proved a test for me.  I had never seen either live before, and to be perfectly honest, their earliest work is my favorite.  By no means do I have distaste for their newer material, but I cannot always help the sentimental fool that I am.

If you haven’t heard of the first opener Aquadolls, they didn’t leave you much time to think about it.  Pop/punk/grunge as only done by a group that, well, as my cohort and photographer for the show, Michelle Viray, said “look like they are 10!”  Personally, I may have gone with 15, but why bicker.  The crowd was definitely into the energetic foursome.  Lead singer Melissa Brooks has a charisma that outshines the rest of the band, so much so she’s almost destined to go out on her own at some point.  There’s a lot of promise there, as they develop their writing skills, but I couldn’t board the Aquadolls ship just yet.

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I’ve been excited to see Emmy The Great since her debut album in 2009, the strong, mostly acoustic, and story-filled First Love.  Now, unless your name is Pulp, it’s always difficult for an artist to live up to your expectations after you’ve waited several years to see them, so I kept them tempered, especially knowing she probably would not play a single song off that early album. Appearing on the stage in an arty whitish-grey layered dress, there seemed to be a problem in the sound set-up.  She sat down in a small wooden chair and waited quietly, while the audio crew fiddled.  I was fervently beguiled that anyone could just sit there, as comfortable as a cat on a couch looking out silently at a three-fourths sold Fillmore.

I’m not sure it’s something you acquire along a journey, or something you’re born with, but there is a confidence Emma Lee-Moss possesses, an ease, that many people wish they could have.  Throughout her six song set, she would look into the crowd, interact, and keeping track of everything, all the while focused, as she sat on her chair, imported directly from her England bedroom, singing, playing guitar, and fiddling with her ipad.  She had apparently “left” her band in LA, but that didn’t stop her from commanding everyone’s attention, and winning the crowd over while declaring her love for San Francisco, even asking if anyone has a spare room for a new roommate.

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She played what seemed to be all new songs, ones with electronic beats, more space and distance.  Some of the intimacy felt in previous songs seemed absent.  This was a more modern Emmy, singing songs about the caveats of texting and internet searches.  I can’t say the songs affected me the same way the old ones did.  Maybe with a full band, they would have garnered my affections similarly.  She didn’t come close to meeting any expectation I had, which isn’t a bad thing.  It’s just a different thing.  If she comes through again, it wouldn’t stop me from giving her a second chance.

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There’s been a sort of hubbub about this “new” Kate Nash for a while now.  The Spinning Platters Kate Nash authority Dakin Hardwick reviewed her show back in May in 2013 at the Chapel in San Francisco, and touched upon her updated profile. We had a discussion about it, and agreed, if you listen to the records, the progression is there: piano driven quirk pop on album one, to the addition of guitars and noise on album two, to full throttle rock (for Kate) on album three.  The evolution is fully visible.  I’m not sure if being a Kate Nash show newbie is a good thing or not, but the one thing I could see clear as day in every second of her performance this night, whether the music was different or not, was that Kate was having the time of her life.

From the moment Kate stepped out on stage for “Sister”, in her loudly patterned dress/jumpsuit/two piece number (?), she was at max power, pogo-ing about the stage in circles donning her dual ponytails.  But it wasn’t just Kate, her all girl band in cute matching white, almost bridesmaid-like dresses shredded the entire evening.  Sometimes watching the proud all-girl band was just as fun as watching Kate.

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Maybe my inner sub-conscience was fighting against the rocking Kate Nash, because the first five songs seemed a little uneven and a bit too loud.  Kate’s vocals were muddled in the mix.   But as the set progressed, so did the sound, and apparently my music scruples.  Sounding tighter and very comfortable, they just got better and better.  I wasn’t sure how much I’d like hearing older songs without the piano, but I couldn’t help nod my head to the new versions of “Doo Wah Doo” and “Mouthwash.”

I don’t know how free Kate has been on stage in years past, but the Girl Power was in full display.  Kate did everything from crowd surfing while playing guitar, to passionately declaring her disdain of the current music machine, to loudly supporting the girls of Pussy Riot, playing the absolute crowd favorite “Free My Pussy.”

Her latest release Girl Talk was released independently with the help of Kate Nash fans through PledgeMusic, because her previous label wanted to exercise some control on the music.  I applaud her for taking a stance and exercising some Girl Power of her own.  An artist should enjoy what they are creating, and more than anything this was a fun show because Kate was doing just that.  Laughter is contagious, and so is happiness.  As long as Kate is happy, I’ll keep coming back for more.

Setlist

Sister

Death Proof

Kiss That Girl

Mariella

Do Wah Doo

Mouthwash

Pumpkin Soup

OMYGOD

Fri-end?

Free My Pussy

Foundations

3AM

Underestimate The Girl

Merry Happy

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