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Abe Vigoda & Wild Nothing Play SF's Popscene, Which Was Quite The Scene Indeed! Or, A New Sauna Opens In San Francisco Featuring Live Music...

Abe Vigoda live, these guys are definitely not by Robert Celli

This past Thursday perennial indie party Popscene turned San Francisco’s Rickshaw Stop into a sauna. That’s right, complete with steam coming off the walls, shvitzing hipsters, and RAWK so good it cleaned your pores! The night featured two decidedly different bands with different sounds and approaches who shared one member. Los Angeles’ Abe Vigoda kicked things off, delivering a tight and pounding set of their unique blend of indie cum world beat tunes. Live, Abe Vigoda comes off a lot more aggressive and bare boned. The afro-calypso elements are still inherent in their sound but stripped of some the recorded production that I associated with them. What they do extremely well is staying rooted to the underground scene that produced them. By avoiding fay indulgence in the same influences a band like Vampire Weekend co-opts and markets as “indie-world music”, Abe Vigoda are more art school cool than Ivy League elite. Their set was a lot more groove-based than I was expecting and contained that hard to define element of “punkness”. One of a handful of the early bands to emerge out of LA’s art collective The Smell (along with other notables No Age, Wavves and Best Coast), Abe Vigoda may have the most original and uncompromised sounds.
Juan Velazquez of Abe by Robert Celli
Singer-guitarist Juan Velazquez leads the band whose sound is sonically akin to a tropical downpour of shimmering guitars, which clear to reveal the first rays of sunlight through a cloud-filled sky. That blend of percussive thump, hazy vocals and guitars that sound like steel drums are the heart and soul of Abe Vigoda. There is an infectious energy that makes you feel like you just washed up on an island made entirely of concrete after a rough night lost at sea.

Between bands the Popscene DJs mixed yesteryear’s inducers of lock-kneed sway and oscillating dance like the Psychedelic Furs and The Smiths with more current reproducers of the late 80’s-early 90’s music that is currently in vogue. The crowded, slightly affected smart phone tapping attendees responded to both generations of music with equal vigor. I found this slightly bemusing given the supposed penchant the iGeneration has for ironical detachment. But, HEY, a good song is a good song! We are nothing if not our own cultivated pastiche.

Wild Nothing from the side at the by Robert Celli

Up next was Virginia’s Wild Nothing who was no doubt responsible for the line that stretched around the block outside the club. Last year’s release Gemini was a fixture on critics’ top ten lists. Indebted to Robert Smith and The Cure but devoid of the over-emotive vocal drama Smith is known for, Wild Nothing’s frontman Jack Tatum writes incredibly catchy hooks built around cascading guitars and pulsing bass lines. The young girls and much to my surprise men in the crowd, to borrow the Morrisey lyric, “oscillated wildly” from the opening notes. Wild Nothing’s sound is built on the effect-laden guitar interplay between Tatum and guitarist Nathan Goodman. Drummer Michael Skattum employs some electronic triggers but this is a decidedly straight ahead rock band live. The night’s MVP was Abe Vigoda drummer Dane Chadwick who filled in on bass and played a seemingly flawless show for both bands.
Jack Tatum by Robert Celli
For a band (truly, this is Jack Tatum’s project) that garnered so much attention for “playing” the recording studio, they were well-suited to a live setting. Guitars shimmered, while voices hung in the air like smoke rings over the blissful ongoing shimmy in the audience. Songs like “Summer Holiday” and “Golden Haze” are lovely swirls of melodies with just enough muscle to them to not sound wimpy. Their sound is a bit one-dimensional but it is one helluva a dimension. Judging by the reaction they were receiving this was right hybrid of shoegaze, indie pop and just enough retro-New Wave flourishes. There is nothing wrong with giving the people what they want.

Blurred vision of Wild by Robert Celli
Sometimes it is black and by Robert Celli

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