Popscene, SF’s premiere indie music club, has taken over (most recently) the Rickshaw Stop on Thursday nights for a decade. Hosted by LIVE105 music director DJ Aaron Axelson, this particular Thursday night was filled with billowing synthesizer hooks and psychedelic electric guitar riffs, complete with melodramatic lyrics. This week’s Popscene: The Lonely Forest, Semi Precious Weapons, Break Down Valentine.
Break Down Valentine, the first of the three bands, had the crowd hooting in approval to their dark industrial electro-pop introduction. After a shaky first song, nerves subsided, and goth-chic singer Olivia Barchard’s confidence and vocals grew stronger with each dark-wave, Depeche Mode-reminiscent track. The band’s 80’s flashback, post-industrial sound clicked with the Popscene scene; under-age front row fans got their dance on to the band’s slower and faster tempos, as heard on their debut EP Beautiful Distraction. Though their set ended right when they seemed to find their comfort zone, the SF-based band did a good job warming up the growing crowd for the second act of the night, Semi Precious Weapons.
By 11:00, a well-dressed frontman of Semi Precious Weapons stormed the stage with sassy swagger to spare, launching Popscene full throttle into their energized act, which included a guitar shredder and a bass animal. Commanding attention immediately with his unforgiving, fierce, animated stage presence, Justin Tranter caused a flurry of commotion engaging awe-struck show goers in his wake. Some youngsters shook, shimmied and sang their way closer to the stage while others kept the party poppin’ in the back.
Each member of the eclectic looking, new millennium glam-rock band dominated their role, adding a solid rock n roll element to the show. They were pros. Semi Precious Weapons bend genres throughout their catalogue as well as their live performance of songs plucked from it. Dropping club appropriate anthems like the catchy, chorus fueled “Drink”, the ever rowdy “Free Booze” and hyper-androgynous “Cherries on Ice” back to back ignited a party scene of which you couldn’t help but be a part.
With their punchy yet polished new-wave rock, Semi Precious Weapons owned not only the stage, but the whole show, stealing the spotlight from the closing (headlining) act. By the time The Lonely Forrest hit the stage, the club had cleared out considerably. It did seem odd that a purely indie-rock band was closing this bill after two danceable bands so obviously influenced by music of the 80’s. Lead singer John Van Deusen addressed just this when he introduced the band stating that it was “a good but weird night” before carrying on with the show. It was refreshing knowing that The Lonely Forest knew that they were following a tough support and approached it with a bit of wit. Rich with prominent falsettos, colorful percussion, clean expansive guitars and signature rhythms, their lighthearted indie characteristics echoed a Death Cab For Cutie sound throughout their heartfelt set. Sparkly, melodic, introspective songs from their Adding up the Wasted Hours album made up the set list as the band from Anacortes, Washington gave it their all.
The Lonely Forest returns to their home state for some shows in May but keep an eye on all three of these bands cause rumor has it one, some or all of them are playing LIVE105’s BFD on June 1st!
-Review by Nikki DeMartini and photos by Victoria Smith