When: October 5th, 2016.
Where: The Independent – San Francisco, CA.
Came for the main course; coming back for the appetizer
I walked up tho The Independent to one of the bouncers singing along to what was going on inside. This was something I had never seen before in all the concerts I had been to there. Usually, he was going about his business, checking tickets and stamping people, but this time, he was bouncing around excited as we were. I knew this was a good sign. Once I got inside I saw Jon Gunton, sitting alone up on stage with an acoustic guitar in one hand and a bass drum under his foot. Immediately, his voice cut through me like a sharp breeze. Jon is what I would call classic folk singer. His particular brand of rocky folk, often about sex, drugs, and oddly enough, rock and roll, was a great take on folk, and one that had people hooting and hollering, myself especially. Like most folk singers, between the songs he gave us some background about them almost warming us up for the real stories which were his songs. After a few songs, he brought up another guy who played guitar as well. He was a great tenor to the chilling raspy bass that Jon is. After a few more, another of the posse showed up, an accordion player. This really brought about the gypsy feel that they had dressed to and really rounded out the sound. Despite being a young guy, Jon has a really experienced and mature vibe. I got a chance to talk with him outside the venue after the show and he was very gracious and enjoyed fraternizing with his fans. I cannot speak more to his talent and pure joy of sharing it with others. The guy is a champ. As hard as the folk scene is to succeed in, this guy has what it takes. I expect to see him on bigger and better stages soon, and I cannot wait.
The second opener, Landlady was a real change of pace. I have no idea why they’re touring with Okkervil River. These guys were way out of left field. They’re eclectic strange brand of acid trip pop was very reminiscent of Animal Collective. Unfortunately this was neither in the vein of the act that preceded or followed them, and thus left me unprepared and caught off guard. Given a different context I feel I would have enjoyed this more. The lead singer has a very smooth and calming voice, and the amount of sound they are able to produce from the 5 of them was impressive, but much like a bull in a china shop, the set these guys played was out of place and left me with more questions than answers.
By the time Okkervil River took the stage I was ready to get back to some more of what I came for, some good ol’ Austin, TX Americana.They’re acoustic paired with electric sound spans genre and dare I say it, generations. They have an old time feel, that lends a hand to youthful excitement and wonder. Very early into the set they blasted us with “Unless It’s Kicks”, one of their stronger songs. These guys were super true to their sound. They were able to reproduce almost studio quality which was very impressive, however lacked a bit of soul. Seemed to me like they were just playing their songs verbatim, which don’t get me wrong, was still awesome. But it just lacked that “I really wanna go see these guys rip it up” feel that I always hope for when going to a live show.Soon they slowed it down for a song off of their new album, “Mary on a Wave”, a heartfelt love song that really accentuates Will Sheff’s calm, majestic voice which feels as though someone adjusted his speedometer to show a couple hundred fewer miles than he actually had on him. After all, these guys have been touring for a long time. You can really see the way Will has adjusted his sound an image over the years and, personally, I feel as though he has found his niche quite well. The bands attitude was very subdued and calm, almost a noncalant don’t care vibe, but you could tell they did. They played a lot of their hits, new and old, and gave the crowd what we came for. Towards the end of show, they started to pump some soul into it and left me, as is the case in many shows, wanting more.
TL;DR: STAY ‘TILL THE END