Grizzly Bear and HWGM: Good to be in SF

Grizzly Bear
Here We Go Magic
The Fillmore
San Francisco, CA
June 21, 2009

Special Correspondent: Senior Musicologist Edie Hofmeister

Here We Go Magic!

Here we go! Magic! If you are seeking a psychadelic-indie earful after a warm summer day in San Francisco, this is the band for you. At times the repetitive rhythms conjured a Close Encounters call to alien life forms – which apparently included much of the college hipsters in the audience at the Fillmore. But it was good to be back in SF amongst the alien life forms.

HWGM sports a do-you-think-I'm-sexy lead singer, in a pretty hot cross between Chris Martin (Cold Play) and Greg Kinnear, in Luke Temple. Luke Temple has released a couple solo albums including one called Here We Go Magic which provided the spark behind the forming of HWGM. Luke is flanked by a loose-haired Princess Leah on keyboard and a 60’s-esque Twiggy on the bass who sported a tea dress that did not do her justice. Both women go by single names, so clearly, they have larger ambitions. But, at least, they looked good compared to the mediocre lead guitarist.

The band combined a brave attempt at 2, 3, 4, and 5-part harmonies in an all-band chorale effort at times ending in a cacophonous crescendo over a rolling beat that was more conducive to swaying than dancing. Their set came to a strange climax during “Tunnelvision” in which the band behind Luke nodded their heads violently, banged on their instruments and, throughout the song, whispered incomprehensibly – kind of like speaking in tongues in a monotonous cadence.

Here We Go Magic was more good than bad, but the band needs a little more practice. Perhaps some alien intervention is called for, or the Holy Spirit. More convincing was headliner Grizzly Bear.

Grizzly Bear

The Bear Band of the Hour. (See, also, Minus The Bear, Bear Claw, Big Bear) Grizzly Bear’s recent album has been number one on the college/indie charts for weeks and the show sold out so quickly that the band needed to add another on Monday night to appease disappointed fans.

On Sunday night, after HWGM warmed up the crowd, GB did not disappoint the loud, appreciative crowd. Lead singer Daniel Rossen, also of Dept. of Eagles (which is a side project for most of GB's band members) and looking like a young Paul Simon, was soaring on vocals and immediately engaged the audience. After opening with "Southern Point," the first track on their new album, they played "Cheerleader," a throbbing, pulsating dirge that had no semblance to actual ‘cheerleading.’ Nor did the regretful refrain, which sounded like "Should have sung my song. Should have made it matter," (though it could have been "I'm cheerleading myself. I shouldn't even matter,") - in either case, it didn't conjure up any notion of pom-pom waiving Go-Team airheadedness. There is a good chance I missed the point if there was one.

One thing that Grizzly Bear did well and seemed to enjoy was the incorporation of multiple instruments not normally associated with an indie band--lap harp, flute, clarinet, bass sax. The wind instrumentalist, a jack of many trades, but a master of none, sometimes overindulged himself, but he mostly kept the music relevant and interesting.

The band played a haunting rendition of “Knife” with Rossen channeling a soprano from the St. Paul's Boys' Choir. Then “Colorado”--a different kind of Rocky Mountain High that sounded a lot like a song John Denver might sing from six feet under (no disrespect to JD or JD fans). Other tunes were upbeat and even sounded a little "poppy" such as the keyboard-driven “Two Weeks” that showed off the band's vocal range and tight harmonies.

All in all, a terrific band with a lot of energy, ambition and range. Check them out the next time they are in town. But don't wait too long to buy tickets!

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