Kids On A Crime Spree
Sunday at The Rock Shop was no different. The festival organizers wisely pushed to start of the show forward to 4:30, giving people with morning jobs a chance to hear some music and still call it an early night. The show began slowly, but at about 8:00 the showroom got packed, and stayed that way until, at around 11:15, Fan Modine began the last set of the night.
Surprisingly for such a small festival, Popfest attracted interest from well outside the metro area. On Sunday, only one band represented New York; the others were from Connecticut, Illinois, North Carolina, California, Canada and Australia. Their varieties of pop were just as diverse. The Hairs mixed Shoegaze haze with bubblegum simplicity. Fan Modine played southern rock sound with a tinge of Soul and Synth pop. Silver Swans created brooding electro-industrial pop full of dark grooves.
Silver Swans were definitely one of the standouts on Sunday’s lineup. Ann Yu’s dreamy vocals slide effortlessly along minimalistic grooves manufactured by DJ/composer John Waters. The effect is haunting and hypnotic; Silver Swans’ songs came and went like ghosts.
Unfortunately, their set was plagued by technical difficulties. There was an initially long setup time, which was magnified by later problems with the vocals. On some songs, they had unintended delay; on others, they were far too low in the mix. Their live show ended up feeling stop-and-start. Some audience members got annoyed, and while others were more understanding, everyone became impatient, with good reason. Which was really too bad. When Silver Swans got going, they were fantastic. Luckily, they’re playing tonight at The Mercury Lounge, and Tuesday at Pianos. I’d like to experience their set when it goes smoothly.
The definition of "shoegazers." - Panda Riot
Another standout was Panda Riot. I’ve heard a lot of bands recently that approximate their sort of My Bloody Valentine fuzz pop, but Panda Riot did it with an enthusiasm and natural confidence that was simply blissful. Their music felt – for lack of a better word – authentic. Rebecca Scott’s vocals are simple and effective. Her voice isn’t virtuosic, but you could tell she weighed the meaning of every lyric, and her directness worked perfectly in its context.
My favorite band of the night was the Melbourne group The Motifs. This Twee Pop quintet plays bouncy, purposefully childish arrangements. They clap their hands a lot, play a toy glockenspiel and a little handheld synthesizer, and sing doo-wop syllables. But their amateur demeanor is balanced by the exquisite craftsmanship of their pop songs, their four-part harmonies, and surprisingly powerful synth lines. "Night Sky" was the best example of this, and one of my new favorite songs (you can hear it on their myspace page). The Motifs grew on me quickly, and completely won me over by the end of their set. The crowd agreed with me: The Motifs got the biggest response of the night.
Popfest 2011 is over, but the music lives on. I already mentioned that you can see Silver Swans tonight or tomorrow night at The Mercury Lounge and Pianos. The Motifs are coming to San Francisco, and will be playing at The San Francisco Popfest on Wednesday the 25th, at Café du Nord on Thursday the 26th, and in Dolores Park on Sunday the 29th. It doesn’t look like Panda Riot has any upcoming gigs in the near future, but keep a watch on their Facebook, last.fm or myspace page for more opportunities to hear them live.
And this dude had a one note synth solo - The Motifs