Last weekend, San Francisco was thoroughly rocked by the 16th installment of the Noise Pop music festival. For six nights, local favorites played alongside national stars at some of the city's greatest music venues. I had the pleasure of attending four of this year's Noise Pop shows, and this week, I've been letting you in on my Noise Pop diary. I've already told you about seeing The Magnetic Fields and The Mountain Goats and coming across Whispertown2000 for the first time. Today, I'll tell you about my final two shows of the weekend: Tilly and the Wall and She & Him.
Tilly and the Wall, 3/2, The Rickshaw Stop — Here's the biggest thing I learned upon seeing Tilly and the Wall live for the first time: No matter how you feel about the band, you've got to have respect for tap dancer/percussionist Jamie Pressnall. That girl works harder than anyone else, dancing for the full 45-minute set and hollering out the lyrics of the songs to boot. Plus, hearing tapping take the place of drumming live is really something — and it's definitely no gimmick.
The rest of the band seemed to feed off Pressnall's energy, loosening up and getting more and more excited with each song. In addition to playing favorites from their full-length albums Wild Like Children and Bottoms of Barrels — even the ones, like "Rainbows in the Dark," that they weren't 100 percent sure they knew how to play — they broke out several songs from their new album, which is expected to be out in June. One new track, the single "Beat Control," was pure, dancey fun — and I think it bodes well for the album that it was my least-favorite of the new songs.
The highlight, for me, was the first encore song, "Lost Girls." With all their peppiness, it's easy to forget that the Tilly girls are actually great singers, and Kianna Alarid's piercing voice almost made me understand the guy behind me who kept yelling for them to have his babies.
Up next: She & Him, so
She & Him, 3/2, Great American Music Hall — I'm maybe just a little excited for the upcoming release of the first album by She & Him, aka Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward, and luckily, their show, which closed out Noise Pop, didn't disappoint. It's clear they (well, specifically Zooey) are still new to the whole live-performance scene, but their music ultimately overwhelmed any awkwardness.
Deschanel took center stage — sometimes seeming tiny and uncomfortable there, often looking at Ward or her hands or her tambourine rather than out at the crowd. But again, all that was forgotten as soon as she opened her mouth. Their songs have a rollicking, old-timey feel to them, reminiscent of '60s girl groups and even The Andrews Sisters. Deschanel is the primary vocalist (and sometimes pianist — yes, she plays the piano too, just in case you weren't already swooning), and her voice can cover the full range of emotions, from happy and in love to down and devastated. That said, she and Ward should harmonize more; their voices are so unusual on their own, but they match perfectly together.
About midway through the show, someone called out "You're dreamy!" Deschanel thanked the woman, then paused: "Did you mean me or Matt?" The caller yelled back, "Matt!" and the resulting laughter helped ease some of the tension in the room. By the time of the encore, they were all out of original songs, but they gamely came back anyway for some covers — including a soaring "I Put a Spell on You" that isn't on the album but certainly deserves to be recorded.