The weather has turned here in Portland; this past Saturday was the first real day of spring. A palpable thaw seems to have wound its way through the city; through alleys, past parks and backyards of old craftsman-style houses, past the sounds of goats bleating, chickens clucking, and the would-be prey of stalking cats, be they bird or rodent loudly forcing their way through new and tall brush amid the backdrop of deciduous trees still barren, save for the oft-instagramed cherry blossoms erupting their way throughout the city; these streets no longer stung with the briskness of the evening chill that still flirted coyly with ice, and yet would disappear at the end of the night– all of this fickle caprice finding its way into the steps, into the hearts of us all, and it seems somewhere, in some way, be it overt display or even an unused corridor in the minds of the dour, there is a beach somewhere in all of us. San Cisco is this beach. Or is the music for this beach. Or maybe I had it right the first time, it is this beach. Light, colorful and young, with a breeze implying the slightest hint of gravitas, instead of the flighty and light-hearted image the term “breezy” conjures.
But enough feeble attempts at poetry, there’s a show to talk about. I show up at 10 till & BS outside with Matty & John for a bit before heading inside, eager for a promising Monday night show.
Now for Chaos Chaos…or not. Seriously? I get here at 10:00 & miss the opener? I’m proposing Fecklight Savings Time which means all shows start 1 hour later than they’re listed. Wait, what? NO, WHY DON’T YOU JUST TRY SHOWING UP ON TIME!?!. Oh, wait, you do? Ok, my bad. Still…
So, San Cisco take the stage, all at once, instilling just the faintest air of rock & roll drama. Despite the approachability of the band, there’s just a slight touch of theatricality to them, but not in an obnoxious, pretentious or off-putting way.
Their sound is a light jangle, with two sets of keys, (in addition to the standard two guitars, a bass & drums) each helmed by the bassist & the guitarist.
Really great harmonies. Especially from drummer Scarlett Stevens who provides a driving edge as a foil and counterpoint to the more fey sunny tunes put forth by the stringed instruments and keys.
“Bleach” opens with an indie take on a stadium-styled beat, further echoing that sense of slight theatricality, yet intermingled with an earnestness that showcases the vast expanse between Western Australia and West Los Angeles, where even the most earnest have industry bloodthirst, and anyone with any kind of sense of integrity has long since fled. These are songs that are really meant to be heard over a beach radio in the blaring sun against the backdrop of the surf. If you didn’t know they were Australian, you might suspect it…that or Californian…but there’s the trick, no one from a place can write such yearning music of a place, unless there’s a time anachrony.
(I mean, a band can write a song about San Francisco, but San Francisco won’t come *through* the song unless the song gets picked up as a quasi anthem by the people of San Francisco or some group of people somewhere thinking *about* San Francisco and thus altering the meaning.
Or a group can write a song about San Francisco from San Francisco & have it really be of that, but …this may all be bullshit. Yeah, it is. Really. Just utter tossing nonsense. I’m leaving this in here so you all know that I at least occasionally have the good sense to quit when I’m doing the writing equivalent of talking just to hear the sound of my own voice…Also just realized that this band is probably named for having a laugh at a kid trying to say “San Francisco” and not having it go quite according to plan.)
“Reckless” (“about not being reckless w/ people’s hearts” whoa, what a DAMN GOOD idea) begins with a dream-poppy guitar line than turns a fast corner as the drums kick in and a synth line drives like an undertow through and past the bounding surface feel of the song.
Almost feels like a steel drum could go comfortably into these songs & make the implicit tropical feel explicit. Yet there’s a sincerity to it all that other groups fetishizing the tropical seem to miss when their work gets diverted into camp. Perhaps this is what I was really trying to get at with my earlier bullshit paragraph: that it really is hard to sincerely just be *of* a thing without in some way *performing* that thing, and that the performance somehow alters the initial thing. The best articulations can only hope to acknowledge their swerve, and by doing so, allow their essence to separate from the camp. Or some quasi-academic bullshit like that.
Everyone leaves the stage save for the lead singer, Jordi, who remains to sing a song called “John’s Song”. It’s a moving paean to friendship with just the slightest hint of Springsteen. Takes real guts to pull this off in a town that’s as chatty as this one is during quiet songs, especially after such danciness preceding. Also, as the band returns, it occurs to me that this was one of the danciest shows I’ve been to in Portland where people WERE ACTUALLY DANCING and it not being explicitly *dance* music. What’s up, Monday night? Nice to see you, too!
The set closer is a song called “Awkward” which may be the sweetest-sounding song ever written about a stalker. In the middle of the song, two young women, dressed in awesomely outlandish indie glam come out and sang & danced with the band with wild exuberance. I’m gonna go out on a limb & guess these were two members of Chaos Chaos & if that’s the case then I *definitely* need to see these guys because that kind of enthusiasm is exactly what I’m drawn to in music. Go ahead and stand at the back of the room and look cool; I wanna hear from the people wearing their hearts on their sleeves and feeling their feelings in a way that’s un-fecking-afraid of what the hell anyone else has to say. It’s not your stoicism or sneering that makes you cool, it’s your enthusiasm. Anyone telling you otherwise is just trying to steal your lollipop & throw it in the sandbox for kicks. Feck ’em.
San Cisco. A late night beach party with new Australian friends, curious, at-ease and approachable. Summer music at the mere harbinger of spring.