Oakland’s hometown heroes, indie rockers Rogue Wave released their new album, Delusions of Grand Fur, last week, and to celebrate, they’re playing a weekend of Bay Area shows. Tonight was their first one, at the relatively new venue, The Starline Social Club. It was the band’s first show in three years, and they’re first in Oakland for as long as they can remember.
Delusions of Grand Fur, from LA’s Easy Sound Records (Fruit Bats, Vetiver), was recorded and engineered by the band themselves in their longtime rehearsal and recording studio in Oakland. Over the years, many individual tracks have been recorded there, such as “Eyes,” their song from the Just Friends soundtrack. According to Pat Spurgeon, one member of the core duo of Rogue Wave, recording in their own studio gives them as much time as they need to take the songs where they need to go. It’s a freedom they can’t necessarily get in a different space.
The band is about to head out on a national tour with support from Hey Marseilles in the first half and Floating Action in the second half. It’s going to be a real rock and roll, “five guys in a van” kind of tour — technically seven with the tour manager and merch guy. And this time out, they’re even bringing their own light show. Masanori Mark will be on bass again, Jon Monahan is on guitar, and Nyles Lennon of Film School is joining on synths and backing vocals.
Last night’s tour kickoff opened with Cellar Doors, a band that sounded like a bunch of early ’80s British bands I never spent enough time listening to, like Echo and the Bunnymen or Joy Division, for example. Tinged with a fair amount of psychedelia as well, their set was excellent, and I expect them to become a regular of the Bay Area music scene.
Rogue Wave came on at the later-than-announced time of 10:45, and jumped right into the opening track from Delusions, “Take It Slow.” The layers of sound on this track blend in unusual ways on the record, and the live performance was able to recreate this beautifully. The new record was the focus of the set, with 8 or 9 total songs played. (The set list seen below doesn’t show “Endless Supply,” but I remember hearing it, but it’s a really good song so maybe it’s just in my head anyway.)
The stage at the Starline Social Club is pretty tiny, and the band was jammed onto the stage along with their equipment. Mark, who likes to jump around when he plays, was caught in between his synth and amplifier with hardly anywhere to go. When the band finished their main set, they didn’t even leave the stage for an encore break because they couldn’t really get off the stage and back on without a fair amount of effort. The room has excellent sight lines from everywhere, a good sound system, and a hardwood floor for dancing. Dance music this wasn’t, though, but the more aggressive numbers such as “Lake Michigan” and “Harmonium” did have people moving their feet and clapping along.
The Bay Area has seen its fair share of indie rockers come and go throughout the last 10-15 years, with stops and starts along the way, and Rogue Wave has been a consistent force on the scene, a hometown success with a national following and a few bonafide hits along the way. Bands that continue for this long, getting in the van and playing shows to small enthusiastic crowds are a rare treat these days, and it’s a true labor of love for the ones that still do it. You can see it in the many smiles on Zach Rogue’s face every time he talked about the three years they’d been away, and in the joy of the music, both new and old that they play every time Rogue Wave is on stage.
Rogue Wave also plays tonight, May 6th, at the Sweetwater Music Hall in Mill Valley and Saturday night May 7th at The Independent in San Francisco. The national tour continues through June, and they return home to play Outside Lands Music Festival in August.