I have no idea how to describe what just happened. This entire show felt like a crazy collision of surf, classic, psychedelic, and punk rock all interlocking and interweaving together to make Bleached, a veritable Voltron of music. Looked at individually, each of these groups are amazing reminders of angsty, dreamy, teenage Southern California rock days gone by. But their presence on stage here at Noise Pop unequivocally proves that this sound is timeless, and so, too, are the people who listen to it.
If Bleached makes up the entire Voltron robot, then Tropical Popsicle are the legs. They are the basis on which a lot of these groups stand on, with their long, driving bass lines and echoey sound. Opening to a completely cold crowd did not faze them as within moments they had everyone under a spell and swaying along to their hypnotic siren songs. Their song, “Havana,” was definitely a standout and brought a little island flavor and tropical sun to a cold San Francisco night. Something else that should be noted is their ability to roll with the punches, because right in the middle of their set, they broke their snare drum. A quick assist from Mystic Braves kept the show rolling without a hitch, and we were all thankful for it.
I had a really hard time trying to pin Mystic Braves down. Picture this: four guys who look like they stepped right out of the 70s into today, complete with awesome bellbottom styled wardrobes and ascots everywhere break into the kind of music that makes you swear you’re actually lying down in shag carpet in the back of a VW microbus. If that run-on sentence wasn’t enough, then I’m not sure how to express exactly how mystified I was to find myself swaying and smiling along with everyone else in the crowd.
If we’re keeping up with the Voltron example, then Mystic Braves would be the head. They definitely play with your mind and go in crazy, winding trails through the course of a song, often leaving you wondering what just happened and yet asking for more. Their sound is distinctly psychedelic. Their set had this great way of hypnotically pulling you in, starting you on this slow, peaceful journey through the desert that suddenly takes an unexpected turn and leaves you stranded wearing only a poncho and yet still asking for more.
At some point, we had to move on from the classic and psych and into the punk, right? Terry Malts absolutely brought it and absolutely wrecked the place with their set. They absolutely form the arms of this robot of a show, reaching out to break faces and expectations. The thing you have to understand about this entire show is that there was this one member of the audience who, no matter who was playing, kept trying to start a bit of a mosh pit. He’d be dancing around, but eventually the dancing would give way to skanking, and the skanking would eventually try to blossom into something resembling a pit. Each time, though, the music ended up being a little too mellow and the audience a little less receptive. But the moment Terry Malts broke out their absolutely traditional garage punk sound, this guy finally got his wish. A pit finally formed, and much joyous thrashing was had.
In standard punk fashion, their songs were loud, angry, and fast. They hit quick, one after the other, and they hit hard. Even when Phil Benson, their lead vocalist and bass guitarist somehow managed to yank the plug out of his bass, he picked up, plugged in, and kept going. After all, when your longest song clocks in at about two and a half minutes, you don’t have a lot of time to fuss with your stuff before it’s over and you’re counting in the next one. Their songs were short, but the set was absolutely well executed, and had every single person in the crowd wondering just what the hell happened (in the best possible way).
Finally, closing out the entire night, is the chest, the heart of the robot that was this entire Noise Pop show: Bleached. They epitomize scrappy and spunky, taking the stage in these adorable sundresses while wielding their instruments with a fierce impunity. After a quick introduction, they busted out “Waiting By The Telephone,” and we accelerated well past 60 miles per hour, never looking back. We sped through “Dazed,” and were absolutely rife with excitement wondering what our “Next Stop” would be.
Through the middle of the set, things were calm as they played some of their more tender songs. Well, as tender as a rock and roll post punk band can get. These songs included, “Think of You,” “Love Spells,” “Dead In Your Head,” and finally one of my favorites, “Searching Through the Past.” The latter is one of my favorites simply because it definitely has a great Southern Californian / Best Coast type feel, something that I’ve always personally held in a soft spot in my heart.
Alas, it would not last as the distortion kicked in again, and the opening chords to “Electric Chair” exploded from the amps. People were crowdsurfing, and the pit formed in the middle of a densely packed crowd, with our one man mosh pit hero gleefully throwing himself at everyone in the middle. There was this joyous, furious rapture as their surprise cover, “Horror Business” (originally by The Misfits) rolled out over the crowd like an impossible storm, electrifying the crowd and driving everyone wild. The pace continued, and perhaps poignantly so, they started playing “Looking For A Fight,” because let’s face it, with a pit as fully fledged as that one, who wasn’t?
Closing out their absolutely fantastic set was “Outta My Mind,” a slower, lovesick kind of song that echoed through all our minds as they wrapped up and left the stage. Of course, what’s a show without a little bit of an encore? They admitted to have pretty much gone through their entire repertoire of practiced live songs, so they busted out with “Dead Boy,” and left everyone floored anyway. Perhaps the best moment of the show happened right at the end, as Jennifer Clavin walked from the stage over to a piano on the side of the crowd and proceeded to sing and absolutely leave the entire crowd shouting for more.
The entire show, all 4 hours of it, had some of the most neck breakingly crazy tempo and tone changes between each of the bands. Put simply, I had never been more thankful to be so sore in my entire life. You have absolutely no idea how excited I am to see all of these bands live all over again.
Photos © 2014 Jessica Lachenal, unless otherwise noted.
Additional photo editing: Jonathan Pirro.