5:15 pm: Down on the street and back on the scene. Some delays at home keep me from getting downtown earlier, but the plus side is that I can just feed the meter an hour's worth of change and be good on parking for the rest of the day. I've got on my tight black Soft White Sixties T-shirt--thankfully, I'm still young and slim enough to wear stuff like this without looking grotesque (at least, I think so).
I take my jacket and Clif bars and head down to Grove Street and the Treefort main stage.
5:40 pm, Main Stage: Talkdemonic
First up on this gloriously bright and warm Spring day is Talkdemonic, a two-person instrumental music band from Portland, OR. Drummer Kevin O'Connor lays down fluid mid-tempo beats while Lisa Molinaro's keyboards, loops, electric recorder and electric viola build waves of alternately soothing and dissonant textures that blend together to form simple, catchy tunes. Makes me think of an earthier, warmer, more loosened-up Gary Numan. A good start to Day 2. (talkdemonic.com)
6:20 pm, Main Stage: K Flay
I want to stay for K Flay's whole set, but I don't want to miss the great local band playing at the Red Room at 7. I take off around 6:50 and make a note to remember this lady.
7:00 pm, Red Room: a.k.a. Belle
I get to the Red Room just as the members of a.k.a. Belle are going through their soundcheck. Wuthering Heights with Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon is playing on one TV, footage of a Red Hot Chili Peppers concert on the other. Ziggy Stardust plays on the PA system. Did I mention how much I love the Red Room?
Their set begins a little late (they apologize for that), but any complaints one might have are swept aside as soon as they start to play. Since I went to their CD launch show at the Neurolux in February, a.k.a. Belle has joined the handful of local bands that I want to see as often as possible. Their sturdy country tunes have a lot going for them. There are the pretty three-part harmonies. There are the funny, heartfelt lyrics. There are Sam Merrick's tactfully raw Neil Young-ish guitar and genially sardonic singing. Most of all, though, there are Catherine Merrick's (a.k.a. Belle's) full-bodied, bluesy, sultry lead vocals. Highly recommened to fans of the Knitters (or, rather, to anyone who may know who the hell the Knitters are).
8:00 pm, Red Room: Cheyenne Marie Mize
"Wow, this lady kinda sounds like PJ Harvey," I think two songs into Cheyenne Marie Mize's set. Before she and her band launch into their third song, she announces, "This next song is a PJ Harvey cover."
Mize sounds much more grounded than PJ Harvey does typically, though. It may help that she hails from Kentucky and hence comes by American roots music more naturally (culturally speaking). In any case, Mize boasts a voice that's both pretty and tough as well as a knack for writing sharp, no-nonsense, arty yet catchy songs steeped in blues and country. Her fast ones galvanize, her slow ones enthrall, and her solid bassist and propulsive drummer back up her guitar and keyboard every step of the way. Mize makes me think of what Robert Christgau wrote about Lucinda Williams back in 1988: "[S]he seems just an inch's compromise away from a hit. But that inch is why her rock and roll traditionalism still sounds fresh." Here's hoping that it doesn't take Mize as long as it did Williams to find an audience.
(Sidenote: I have to share this song of hers, which knocked 'em dead at the Red Room. Go ahead and listen to it now, but be prepared to have it stuck in your head for the next few days.)
I leave the Red Room to see if I can catch the Maldives at the Neurolux. When I get there, I find this:
So, with that idea shot, I head over to Mulligans. After a drink and some Tom Waits and James Brown on the jukebox, I head across the street to the Crux, a coffeeshop that opened just recently, and catch the tail-end of Tim Blood & the Gutpanthers' set.
As soon as I'm two steps inside the door, a wave of heat and B.O. hits me. "Yes," I think, "this is a proper hardcore punk show." It makes for an interesting contrast, seeing a group of younger kids moshing and stomping around in this nice, clean coffeeshop. Don't catch enough of the band to form a solid opinion, but they seem decent enough.
When the show ends, I swing by the Pie Hole on 8th Street for a couple slices of pizza. I've really grown to like this place: decent food, cool atmosphere, nice people. Speaking of people, its employees include Eric Larson of the excellent local band Red Hands Black Feet (who are scheduled to play on Day 3) and Eric Gilbert. Think about that the next time you feel like being mean to some poor schmoe in the service industry.
Geez. I start thinking that I should just head back to the Red Room now to make sure that I'll get to see the Soft White Sixties play at midnight. This turns out to be a wise move: I get back in just as it starts to get really crowded. I watch the last 20 minutes of a set by an alt-country group called Sons of Guns. Not bad--some Dylanesque harmonica, nice bluesy solos.
11:00 pm, Red Room: Hot Bodies in Motion
It takes balls to name your blues-funk-rock band something like Hot Bodies in Motion (not to mention give out free guitar picks with your band's name and Bill Withers' face on them). Thankfully, this four-man group from Seattle makes good on the challenge they set for themselves (first Pickwick, now this group--what are they putting in the water over there these days?). Ben Carson's baritone has a suitable amount of grit and drawl, lead guitarist Scott Johnson has clearly paid attention to his Stevie Ray Vaughan records, and bassist Zach Fleury and drummer Tim LoPresto lay down a solid, steady 4/4 beat. They make the kind of music that's best heard in a hot, low-lit, crowded room. In other words, a place like the Red Room tonight.
12:00 pm, Red Room: The Soft White Sixties
Here we go--here comes one of the bands that I'm most eager to see at Treefort. I saw these guys when they played the Red Room last December. By the time they neared the end of that show, things kinda looked like this.
This five-man San Francisco band plays music worthy of their hometown's history--a loud, raucous, joyous mix of psychedelic hard rock, pop, funk and soul. Frontman Octavio Genera can croon and rasp with the best of them, their streamlined twin guitar attack makes your hair stand up and their rubbery, hard-driving rhythm section gets you up and moving. The second time around, they don't disappoint. They show the audience love tonight, and the audience gives it right back. For their encore, they bust out a righteous cover of "Instant Karma," and by the time they reach the song's outro, Genera is literally swinging from the rafters. The gentleman who chats with me about spending time in Haight-Ashbury back in the day is quite impressed. You couldn't ask for a better ending to a great second day of Treefort.
(Sidenote: For those of you in the San Francisco area, the Soft White Sixties are scheduled to play the Cafe du Nord on Friday, April 6 at 10 pm. Go see them if you can. You won't regret it.)
You can find more info on these bands on Facebook and on the websites listed.