I hate beginning reviews. If you put in something too personal, the haters hate. If you jump right into the action, it feels like you leave out a large part of the experience. In the end, you'll end up writing some lame set of words like I have just done. Anyways. While we missed the previous night, the second night of the Fat Tour in San Francisco was a great time, and everyone should catch this as it comes through your state.
We rolled up to Slim's about halfway through the Soviettes' set. When seeing them, it's easy to see why Fat signed them. They've got a good, solid sound, not unlike the mid-`90s "Fat sound" so many people feel the need to knock the label for. They're a lot of fun. I don't know if I'd go chasing down every show they play in the Bay Area, but they're definitely not to be missed on this tour.
Smoke or Fire came up on stage next and proceeded to rip apart some songs from Above the City and Worker's Union. I'd seen them the first time they (ever) played San Francisco, with the Lawrence Arms, at the Bottom of the Hill. I got to interview the singer/guitarist/songwriter Joe (coming soon!) and generally found him to be a great guy. Their brand of RVA punk rock Ă¡ la Avail mixed with a tint of Hot Water Music rocked Slim's pretty hard. While the drums and bass were perhaps a bit too high in the mix, overall, their sound was pretty fantastic. One complaint that I have, and I've seen this in every review of the band, is that they didn't play "Culture as Given." This is one of their strongest tracks, and while not crucial to their set, would make a fair addition and solid it up even more.
As Seattle's finest new wave band took the stage, I was told to be prepared for a spectacle, and boy was I told right. The Epoxies present their blend of cheesy `80s keyboard parts mixed with straight ahead poppy punk rock with a style that's all their own. While they owe a lot to the heyday of new wave, with the silly glasses, taped up outfits and bizarre dancing, they manage to take it, run it through the filter of mid-to late-`90s punk and come out with a pretty compelling live show. If I were to have any criticism about their set, it's that it went about 4 songs too long.
I've seen Against Me! about four times now. The first was with the Lawrence Arms at the First Unitarian Church in Philly and the second was at Bernie's in Columbus. Both of these spaces are about as small as you can get without being in a person's basement (Bernie's is a distillery basement, after all). Since moving to San Francisco, I've seen them at the Great American Music Hall and Slim's, both of which are fairly larger, less intimate venues.
It's interesting watching a band while they're on the way to "the top" (for lack of a better term). For those who don't know, AM! is getting huge (selling out, blah blah blah). I mean getting to the point of "what the hell are 'those kids' doing at my anarcho-punk show?" big. However, the band just doesn't seem to realize this. Tom, Andrew, James and Warren play the crowd, play the songs, and play each other the same way they did when I was working "security" at Bernie's, pushing kids off of James while he played. They put every single fiber of their being into the songs. If you've heard AM! on record, then you know what you're going to hear, except magnified by 100 times over.
However, there are some noticeable differences.
Tom has gained some voice control, as where he used to break out into a full on growl and scream, he's honed it to be able to croon and actually sing the parts live as he does in the studio. Their set was uncharacteristically short, but I suspect that may have been due to it being the second night of their stay in San Francisco. It'd be easy to list the songs that they failed to play, but I don't think it's possible to please all the fans all the time. The large difference is the fan. There's less bike-punks, more teeny boppers. More trucker hats, less messenger bags. This isn't good or bad, but it's the reality that as this band is growing, they are definitely gaining a different audience.
Go see this. It's worth it. The younger bands are great, and the headliner is amazing. You won't be disappointed.
Photos from the Show