Who knew before the end of the night, I was going to go gay for a girl? But before Cupid struck me silly, there were other pressing matters to attend to, like furious text messaging and drinking beer. Popscene was hosting its Saturday Night Sessions with the debut of UK quintet The Long Blondes, along with San Francisco locals Minipop and NYC transplant Nicole Atkins & The Sea opening. I arrived to the venue a few minutes before Minipop took control; singer Tricia Kanne looked particularly anxious about approaching her microphone, but soon eased her way into “Generator” and “Ask Me A Question,” two gems I know she and her band mates can nail and did. A new song that debuted included finger snaps, and I was immediately smitten (I love it when bands ask audiences to participate). Kanne led the way to a solid indie pop – emphasis on the pop – ending a la Metric proportions, with her black guitar almost dwarfing her petite frame.
I was in the coat check talking to the girl who runs it when I heard the low warble of this absolutely stunning voice – confused, I paused and determined that it sounded as if Amy Winehouse, Shannon Wright, and Ella Fitzgerald had warped into one woman and then popped it up a notch with some bad assery. I immediately ran back onto the floor to bear witness to this tiny girl named Nicole Atkins with a monumental voice – the sheer capacity that she was filling 330 Ritch was astounding, considering this venue is really hard to conquer in sound. Watching her on stage smile, giggle, strum her guitar acoustically and effortlessly, but still project this deep and sensual vocal arrangement totally made me have a girl crush on her. “War Torn” has a slight and steady build up on the drums complete with quiet guitar, while “The Way It Is” features a bell that sounds like it should be in Notre Dame and the line “If I was smart, I would never call you again” and “He’s the only one I ever loved” being wailed from the depths of her belly. I can’t remember the last time (a) I remember a musician’s set being that strong and (b) having ever seen someone who had such a voice that resonated throughout an entire venue. I saw Atkins get a drink at the bar later and was too nervous to speak with her afterwards. What a nerd, I know.
Somehow, it was hard to get into Long Blondes afterwards, but with lead singer Kate channeling her inner ’60s soul crooning side mashed with a dash of rockabilly, it was also hard to ignore. It was a seemingly weird realization halfway through “Five Ways To End It” that it hit me they sort of sounded like a cool hybrid of Franz Ferdinand’s first album and when No Doubt was good. Kate was a total pro at working the stage, completely looking confident and sexy, strutting from one end to the other with arms extended, over her head, shimmying her shoulders, but always remembering to thank the audience in between songs. Such high energy and dance movement was being exuded – which is always a good thing – but I couldn’t help but shake that they didn’t sound as good live as they did on record. Needless to say, the Blondes finished out the night with a bang and I still had fun.
But seriously, Nicole: let’s be BFFs, if that’s cool. Hearts!
By Jenn Hernandez