It was one of those happy accidents.
When I arrived earlier than expected for the San Francisco Noise Pop Festival at the Great American Music Hall on Saturday night, boy, was I glad. The aim was to catch the inaugural tour performance by Sallie Ford & The Sound Outside, but little did I know that the other three bands on the bill would delight me just as much.
Kacey Johansing led the evening with a charming set that melded her delightfully sweet vocals with jazzy guitar-driven accompaniments. There was even a xylophone player! I caught only the last couple of songs, but what I saw made me want to find out more. I’ll be checking out her new album, Grand Ghosts, for sure.
The next band up was Before the Brave, and ooh la la, what a treat. Massive amounts of sweaty energy based on acoustically driven beats and gorgeously tight harmonies. Jason Perry Stevens lead the charge with some well-written tunes layered with laid-back beats. They played several tunes off their 2012 EP, Great Spirit. My favorite elements of the band were the vocal harmonies and keys played by Beth Garber. Sweet.
Finally the band I walked in the door for took the stage. Sallie Ford & The Sound Outside combined jungle surfer beats with irreverent lyrics and a rumble that got the groove on. Sallie command the stage front and center, looking like a sexy guitar-playing secretary, Sea Foam Fender Jazzmaster in hand and a ‘50s croon that was regularly accented by yips, barks and yelps.
Opening with an instrumental “warm-up,” the set moved into some rollicking territory loaded with catchy riffs, butt-moving beats and a bit of tongue-in-cheek. Sallie was just a gas to watch, as she wasn’t afraid to shake it and get her groove on. It was a fun performance that was a fitting kick-off for their new album, Untamed Beast.
The cherry on top of this spectacular musical evening was Thao & The Get Down Stay Down. Holy moly. Why have I never heard of frontwoman Thao Nguyen?! Equally adept at electric, acoustic, banjo, mandolin, slide guitar and probably a whole bunch more instruments I don’t know about, Thao infused Asian scales and influences into blues, punk, ska, rock and anything else she set her mind to.
Celebrating the release of her new album, We The Common, she sang, screamed, coaxed, rapped and generally gave it her all. Accompanied by horns, keys, drums, additional vocals and more, the entire package equaled something I have never heard before. And it was electrifying. Check her tour schedule. You’ll want to catch her live. My next email is to her publicist, so hoping for more on this exciting artist soon!
Yes, every band had an amazing female musician as an integral part to their sound. But more importantly, every band knew who they were and lived up to that knowledge to the fullest. Go hear some of this new music. Right now! I mean it!
Laura B. Whitmore is a singer/songwriter based in the San Francisco bay area. A veteran music industry marketer, she has spent over two decades doing marketing, PR and artist relations for several guitar-related brands including Marshall and VOX. Her company, Mad Sun Marketing, represents Dean Markley, Agile Partners, Peavey, Jammit, Notion Music, Guitar World and many more. Laura was instrumental in the launch of the Guitar World Lick of the Day app. She is the founder of the Women's International Music Network at thewimn.com, producer of the Women's Music Summit and the lead singer for the rock band Summer Music Project. More at mad-sun.com.