[Live Review] The Soft Pack @ The Rickshaw Stop

11/15/2010

The Soft Pack
When the Soft Pack began playing last Tuesday evening at the Rickshaw Stop, it was clear they weren’t there to chat. They played a great show, barely taking a break between songs, except to name them. Rickshaw Stop feels like your friend’s parents let him set up a stage in their garage and have all his favorite bands come over and play. Only it’s a lot bigger than anyone’s garage and has way better beer. It’s intimate, and offers the band and the audience the ability to snuggle up while they rock out. The Soft Pack, whose sound could appropriately be referred to as “garage rock” sounded terrific and looked every bit at home in this setting as they performed the clean, tight, high energy music.

Much noise has been made of The Soft Pack’s “SoCal surf rock” sound. Yes, these very talented gentlemen are from San Diego and their music does make use of the slightly distorted guitar and clean bass sounds typically associated with The Beach Boys, Surfer Blood, and everyone in between. “Mexico” is probably the most pertinent example of this. Slightly slow and pleading, it made the audience feel like we were dancing at a beach bonfire in 1971, though still decidedly fresh and of-the-moment. Luckily for listeners, there’s a lot more to it than that.

Comparisons can be drawn easily to everyone from smart (and slightly silly) pop rockers like Pinkerton-era Weezer to classic punks like The Buzzcocks (“Down on Lovin’” or check out “Flammable” which they didn’t play but boy do we wish they did). While you can hear reflections of other artists in their music, it still sounds like their sound. Consistently clever yet honest songwriting like “Answer to Yourself”, which made the most of lead vocalist Matt Lamkin’s slightly nasal croon and guitarist Matty McLoughlin’s devil-make-shred attitude, are a dime a dozen in their arsenal. “Pull Out” has a political bent but really showcases the skills of drummer Brian Hill (he stands) and bassist David Lantzman, with the controlled shouting vocals seemingly just there for support. All of these things they do well on the album were amplified, polished, and enriched in their live performance. Each song just sounded better than you’d ever heard it before and with a show that good, there’s just no need for a lot of talk.

The full gallery is below, and includes photos of co-headliner, Kurt Vile & The Violators.