"I'm drinking in the middle of a lake on a rowboat," my friend Kim greeted me on the phone as I answered her call in between bands at the Lightspeed Champion show. Really? Could I get in on that brown-bagging action too?
It was a hard time last week in Jenzland, dear Tripwire readers. Ain't nothing like making an ass out of yourself in a drunken-yet-sobering confession to a guy you want to be make-out partners with, and ain't nothing like getting beat up by a makeshift loft bed the previous night while trying to put a high friend to bed after mischief in the cab that included the driver cussing us out for being obnoxious, but hey - it's all in a Good Samaritian's work, no?
Thus, I was very stoked to see Lightspeed Champion, Devonte Hynes' phoenix from the ashes of former outfit Test Icicles, and see what the U.K. bloke could bring to my little city by the bay for their first California show. I was in the mood for a bit of down time, and since San Francisco was experiencing a random heat wave again, bathing us in perspiration and sewer grate exhaust, watching good indie pop seemed like the cure.
South Carolinans The Explorers Club set the mood absolutely right opening at the Independent gig on Friday. Borrowing from the 60s era of sunny pop, incorporating soft plings of keys, and employing adorable vocals, the seven-piece are not just reminiscent of the Beach Boys, but arguably any fantastic pop group. They're sweet without being annoying, and being earnest works instead of being pretentious. "This is the roller-skate disco song," said the lead singer before launching into "Hold Me Tight," a melodic love song set to pretty harmonizing and up tempo beats - I simultaneously wanted both to eat cotton candy and neck with someone.
I quickly ducked out of second band Flowers Forever to catch up with my dad when Kim called. She's one of my best friends and she's also working three and a half hours from me up north for the summer in a lake town; I miss her terribly. She phoned to say she missed me and commenced drinking on said lake while she waited for some people to get off their jobs. I told her that I had massive bruises on my thighs from pushing my stoned friend up a bed wedged on 2x4s. We promised to coordinate a weekend hangout before disconnecting. I was able to catch the last part of Flowers Forever, signed to a one Conor Oberst's Team Love label, and was surprised at the post-punk feel of the project. Large cut outs of the group members' faces hung from the ceiling and were splattered with fake blood, illuminated by a black light from below. Pretty boss stuff.
When Hynes and co. finally made it on stage; the crowd was ready for some Lightspeed action. Hynes was decidedly both soft and energetic in his storytelling to the crowd in between shows, recounting getting sick off SF burritos ("But it was worth it; being 'ill' a good thing, you know") and adjusting his enormous gray fluffy hat occasionally. Songs like "Galaxy of the Lost" upheld the attitude that I came to witness, sincere and solemn lyrics written to straightforward indie pop: "Hate to think what would happen if I started to drink like you/maybe I will loosen up/Well...pour me another gin." Lightspeed maneuvered through acoustic and big band-feel songs, and I appreciated the duality of the craftsmanship. Midway through their set, though, I started to feel ill; I hadn't been sleeping well for the past few nights, and there's a case of the cold running around my work right now. Disheartened, I decided to throw in the towel for the night after I began to feel dizzy and popped in a cab destined for my apartment. As I was riding through the streets of San Francisco, I couldn't help but think that this is really is the city built on rock and roll, and that I was so thankful bands like the Explorers Club and Lightspeed Champion could be apart of that.