The Gods Bring Rain, Smallpools and Magic Man to San Francisco

11/25/2014

It poured last Thursday evening in the city, and the fortunate ones found refuge at The Independent. I welcome being stuck indoors if the entertainment includes Panama Wedding, Magic Man, and Smallpools.

Panama Wedding got the night started, and I can’t stress enough how surprisingly good these guys were. They played a rich set highlighted by some of the smoothest vocals I’ve heard in a while, courtesy of lead singer Peter Kirk. They are a moderately bouncy synth pop band, but they bring a decidedly softer, more soulful sound to the stage. I could write a whole review just on the New York based foursome, but I know they will be back as headliners sooner rather than later, so for now, if you want a taste, have a listen to one of my personal favorites, “All of the People.” 

Although not the headliners, New England-based Magic Man owned the night. This was due in large part to their superstar-to-be lead singer, Alex Caplow. Caplow is a mad man with a pair of skinny jeans standing in for a straight-jacket, and he spent all night busting loose. He pawed so much at his product styled hair that I swear it grew two inches down his brow in the first 10 minutes. Spinning about, he also essentially booby-trapped the stage with the mic cord, wrapping it around his body and any equipment that stood in his path. At one point, the stagehand sprinted up there to ensure everything remained upright, as Caplow had managed to lasso one of drummer Joey Sulkowski’s cymbals. Lastly, the man isn’t afraid to go airborne – making for one helluva show.

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A couple things are certain. One, Alex Caplow has some serious pipes. Two, if a Magic Man show is defined by Caplow, then he is defined by the immensely talented outfit behind him. Their deadly combination of synth beats, clean and energetic guitar riffs, and hammering drums had the sold out crowd moving from the get go. On paper they are a pop band, but make no mistake, this is a ROCK show. And no one enjoyed the show more than one lucky girl in the front row. The heart throb Caplow paid special attention to her, seductively taking her hand during their performance of “Apollo,” and running his hands through her hair while serenading her with a performance of their smash, ultra catchy hit, “Paris.” And to top it all off, she will forever be immortalized in a Magic Man music video. Before performing “Tonight” – a perfect song to get you primed for a night out – we were instructed to bust out our smart phone flashlights to provide a glimmering constellation of technology as a backdrop for the shoot. After killing it, Caplow assured us that it would “definitely be making the cut.” Your fan up front and I are holding you to it, Alex.

By the time Smallpools strolled on to the stage, it had been fitted with some new toys: four rectangle floor lights designed to mimic flash-bangs and knock you on your ass, and two multi-colored death rays positioned above the band to scan the dance floor. They opened with “No Story Time,” as guitarist Mike Kamerman dropped to his knees for maximum shreddage. The rest of the crew followed suit, hitting us with a feel good brand of synth pop featuring vivacious synth beats, upbeat, high – pitched vocals by lead vocalist Sean Scanlon, keyboard melodies and crushing drum bass.

The show is a very engaging one, as founding members Scanlon and Kamerman have great chemistry. There was a fair amount of playful shit talking between them that brought laughs and a deeper connection to the band and their story. At one point before they played their new single “Karaoke” they played a dirty trick on all those in the house who’s guilty pleasures include the New Radicals. Confessing that their first summer in LA consisted mostly of drinking whiskey and torturing the karaoke circuit with the 1998 hit, “You Get What You Give,” they seemed to jump right into a nostalgic cover of the track before cutting it short. This drew chuckles from most, but there were definitely some disappointed souls out there.

They did, however, totally redeem themselves with a solid cover of College & Electric Youth’s hit, “A Real Hero.”  And, they made all the animal lovers happy by setting a few inflatable killer whales free to surf the crowd. But for me, the highlight of the show was when they performed their new track, “Bruce Lee.” This was just a fun song, leaving you no choice but to put your hands together and sing along.

Why all this sunshine, can it rain again already?

Photos by Bob Patterson.