"Well, look at you tonight!" the cab driver said after he screeched to the curbside inches from my feet and I kamikazed into the back seat. He then whistled a really heinous and terrible catcall that made me cringe. I looked down at my simple dress and boots and rolled my eyes. About four minutes previously I had been attempting to hack chunks in my work's bathroom, so I shot back "Dude, shove it. O'Farrell and Polk" before glaring at him. He shut up.
Oh, it was going to be that kind of night.
Despite both fighting the beginning stages of the flu and almost getting killed by said cabbie as he barreled down the Sutter Hill at 72 miles per hour (I was pressed against the seat like an amusement part ride that goes loopty-loop), I arrived at the Great American Music Hall in one piece to attend the St. Vincent/Foreign Born show. Sunday I was still battling the epicness that was Valentine's Day, but St. Vincent's music is just so pretty, I couldn't turn her down.
Foreign Born was well into their set, so I decided I was going to be "that guy" and wedge myself up front to get a better glimpse. I thankfully made it in time for my favorite track "Union Hall," a somber and cult-like tune that marries the use of chants, clapping, and grandiose singing for a slow-tempo-meets-folk anthem. Much plaid was being worn on stage as well as a strong presence of beards, which made me like them all the more. The band played several more songs before expressing their adoration for St. Vincent's Annie Clark and tumbling off stage, their Kasabian/folk fusion completely winning me over. Next time, boys, I will punch the cabbie when he's making small talk so I can watch more of your set. I'm hooked.
Here's the thing about St. Vincent - coming into the show, I knew I couldn't hate her. After catching her open for The National last year, I dug around ye olde Internets and found an impressive resume after the fact: apart of the Sufjan Stevens/Polyphonic Spree instrumental army, trained multi-instrumentalist, opened for Jose Gonzales, sensational voice, really, really pretty. It's like the girl at your work that can do her shit and talk about your favorite fantasy sports team while also wearing a killer set of heels. You can't hate her because she's simply perfect and nice.
"I'm sorry I have to wear my guitar like a progger - a prog rocker," Clark said a few songs in to the amusement of the audience. "I don't know any other way." Her dry, witty bits of sarcastic and yet cheeky humor were sprinkled throughout the night. "Welcome to the rock show," she said with a cute smirk as she ended a ballad.
Backed by a band adorned in what I can only describe as mariachi suits for calculator nerds (the girl behind me said it looked like they were going to play bocce ball), Clark and co. ripped through songs off debut Marry Me. The GAMH show marked their third time in San Francisco in almost a year, and I don't think that record is going to get old for a long time. It's a precise and woozy full-length, every cymbal bang, triangle clink, and distorted voice perfectly placed to evoke a sense of passion and wonder at every turn. It has romance, anger, regret, and power, and that translates well on stage. Crowd favorite "Marry Me" talks about "doing the thing married people do" and carries a slower cadence peppered with brass. I am more partial to songs like "Paris Is Burning," a carnival-meets-folk tune that opens with ominous brass and carries a furious and immediate tone, and "Jesus Saves, I Spend," a soft drum beat popping in between rhythm-keeping vocals and that features a small handheld keytar hooked up to a distortion. "What Me Worry" is a great example of the simple, old school ballad with a pop orchestra element.
"You guys were such a treat, such a delight," said Clark as the band geared up for closer "Your Lips Are Red." "Now here's a song about murder, thanks for coming!" After some technical difficulties ("What is the deal, friend?" she demanded to her amplifier as the cord did not fit in), she ripped through her guitar strings to the point I thought she was going to snap a majority of them.
A fan handed Clark a bundle of tulips at the end of the night as she was walking off stage. She looked completely off-guard and thanked him profusely before tucking them under her arm, disappearing into the backstage area. It was the perfect ending to a spectacular show. All great stage performances should end with a standing ovation and a bouquet of flowers, regardless of medium.
Photos by JENZ