Tourists love San Francisco, it’s true. My fine city has given people from the Midwest and Europeans novelty trolley car rides, overpriced food on the wharf, and illimitable photo opportunities that include blocking traffic in North Beach. I like walking up and down during these visitor months and watching dads with the biggest camera in tow arrange his family on the steps of Union Square’s courtyard.
The one thing I wish tourists would figure out, though, is when to visit. San Francisco’s summer is actually in September and October. I see people every year in July in cargo shorts and Hawaiian shirts freezing their collective asses off trying to smile for the family portrait. One of the best kept secrets is to track the weather in the middle of May and June for our annual heat wave, which coincidentally is happening now; the weather beautifully slathers everyone with a nice aroma of salt air, sunscreen, pot hole exhaust, and bum pee, not to mention our world-famous clam chowder. More importantly, though, who doesn’t love introducing a girl from Montana to the madness that is Bay to Breakers?
I mention this whole spiel because I really feel South is one of the U.K.’s best kept secrets – or worst kept, if you think about it. Wednesday night the outfit was in town for their second-to-last show on this tour leg supporting newly released You Are Here; as I perched in the balcony watching the show like a sniper, I wondered where the hell everyone was as I looked down at the thin sea of audience below me. It had been 86 degrees in the city that day, and my dress had stuck to the backs of my legs all day, but I still was there to witness an incredible band.
It’s an unfortunate predicament for a band that is so gifted; lead singer Jaime McDonald has the chops to both rock the house and lull into dreaminess, a rare talent I see in singers these days. McDonald’s voice is both tender and soothing during softer parts like in “Colours and Waves,” tinged with sweetness and harmony. And while You Are Here is a quieter record in terms of acoustics, tracks like “Lonely Highs” deliver a pure alternative sound live, and find the band strutting out the rock star as a result. During “Motiveless Crime,” a sense of urgency and a beguiling bass line captivated the mood, McDonald totally wailing it out during the bridge with sharpness and precision. Collectively, the band seems to know their material like the backs of their hands, which is a seemingly given but is something that is only obtained through hard work and practice.
So why has the band yet to catch on in the States? It’s a question I still ask myself. It’s not like they lack any sort of craftsmanship. South is seriously an honest-to-God, great Britpop band with grand hooks and wonderful rhythm. And I as sat with my feet dangling over the side of the balcony lost in the daydream of their melody, I hoped Britpop was still alive and well in my neck of the woods to recognize these blokes.