For the un-Noise Pop-initiated, last night’s Admiral Radley show at Bottom of the Hill was an awesome introduction to the festival. The crowd was totally pumped to be there, and the club was filled with folks who love music enough to head out on a weeknight.
I was eating Mission tacos during Fake Your Own Death’s set, but arrived in time for local heroes Social Studies’ angular and psyched out math rock. The four-piece is fronted by Natalia Rogovin, who has a deceptively Karen O-esque persona while she sings and rocks double keys, but is sweet-natured and shy between songs. Most of the time it was hard not to focus on drummer Michael Jirkovsky, banging out the beats with such huge purpose (from behind a wall of bangs). All around a great set, and they probably should have switched set times with Typhoon to keep the energy going before Admiral Radley.
Portland-based ensemble Typhoon was up next, taking the stage with an assortment of string players, horn players, the requisite guitar and bass, and three drummer/percussionists. Lead singer/songwriter Kyle Morton gleefully told us that he’d just quit his job for this show, and they launched into a half hour of expansive chamber pop tunes. With so many instruments involved, it seemed like they had grandiose orchestration just for the sake of keeping everyone on stage occupied, making it difficult to pick out a single instrument’s contribution. But the band made great use of the string and horn sections to add atmosphere to Morton’s personal stories and shaky delivery — both of which will earn the band a few comparisons to Bright Eyes and Tallest Man on Earth.
Around 11 p.m. the crowd grew even more, with a contingent of fans forming by the front (assumedly friends of Admiral Radley) who egged on singers Aaron Espinoza (of Earlimart) and Jason Lytle (of the now-defunct Grandaddy) between songs. After listening to some of the tracks from Admiral Radley’s debut I Heart California, I’d warned my friend that this was going to be a mellow set (“not like Coldplay mellow, but we’re probably not gonna be dancing around.”). But after Lytle led the band through “GNDN,” they quickly proved me wrong. The rest of the night was a full-on rock show that would surprise Grandaddy and Earlimart fans alike (but especially the latter). Espinoza bounced and sweated around the stage — a far cry from his very even-keeled, sensitive indie guy persona at his day job — and we even got some crazy, un-Granaddy-like guitar solos from Lytle’s end.
Lytle, Espinoza, and third singer Ariana Murray (the other 50% of Earlimart) traded off guitar, bass, and keyboard duties between songs, while Grandaddy drummer Aaron Burtch sat in the back and played it cool with what looked like either a lollipop or cigarette hanging from his mouth the whole time.
The general onstage feeling was like a bunch of frat brothers getting together to drink tons of beer and play a party. There was even a song called “I’m All F***ed Up On Beer,” which Lytle deadpanned as “Crate and Barrel punk rock.” It was obvious the two frontmen were happy to just rock out with their friends.
The show reached that ideal state where the crowd and the band were feeding off each other, having an equally great time, and Espinoza put it best when he said, “you guys can leave if you want, but we’re just gonna keep doing this shit.”