A series of California-based bands shared the stage on February 26 at Brick & Mortar as part of Noise Pop’s 2016 Festival, which took place at various venues throughout the city of San Francisco.
First of three openers, Spooky Mansion, started a night that would ultimately consist of coastline vibes and catchy, palm-tree-swaying SoCal melodies. As the bar was barely filled, Spooky Mansions performed walk-in music while a full crowd crept in throughout the set. It was only until later in the night, that I realized the very goofy, good-hearted stranger who so kindly offered to take a group photograph for me was lead singer, Grayson Converse. Well-humored and thoroughly engaging, Spooky Mansions set the tone for the rest of the evening.
Next to flood the stage was a group of kids from LA known as Franky Flowers. With Xs drawn in Sharpie on the hands of some of the band members, these were clearly fresh-out-of-high-school misfits. After a comical sound check in which lead singer, also named Franky Flowers, reiterated the “Damn Daniel” meme into the mic, they began with “Blue Eyes”, showcasing a strong surf soul instrumental team behind an equally strong vocal performance. Although they exuded a Freaks and Geeks-ish awkwardness and disengagement with the crowd, the crowd was undeterred from (unsuccessfully) attempting to start a mosh pit where it did not belong. Also awkward was the end to an admittedly engaging set, when technical difficulties cued their exit instead of a proper good-bye.
The West Coast fun continued with our San Franciscan neighbors, French Cassettes, whose set was filled with choruses that instantly controlled the audience’s hips until the modest crowd was up and moving.
Lead singer and guitarist Scott Huerta introduced his brother Thomas on bass, and his two buddies, guitarist and keyboardist Mackenzie Bunch, and drummer Ben Isganites. Taking on a small stage, French Cassettes made it their own with a huge presence.
Starting with “Too Young,” they instantly transported everyone to a Santa Monica beach on a 72 degree afternoon. Scott Huerta delivered a truly mesmerizing vocal performance with crowd favorites including “Us Boy” and “Cousin’s Carpet.”
Thanks to a comprehensive, three-band California welcome as well as some good ol’ alcohol, a fully hyped crowd was finally greeted by the twin duo headliner, Cayucas. Singer Zach Yudin in a Hawaiian shirt (further alerting us of Cayucas’s allegiance to the Golden State) and bassist Ben Yudin began by singing about an “East Coast Girl” then smoothly yet quickly delved right into popular picks like, “Cayucos” eliciting early relief and excitement from crowd members who had long awaited older favorites from Bigfoot (2013).
Altogether, Cayucas proved they were capable of picking up the pace at any venue — from an intimate bar setting to a mid-sized theater. Lips sang along to “Mooney Eyed Walrus” and the Bay area befitting closer, “Hella”, both tracks of which were recently debuted on their latest album, Dancing at the Blue Lagoon (2015). Nearing the end, they played “Deep Sea” and then came a tambourine, signalling one of their biggest hits, “High School Lover.”
Closing the show was 2013 album namesake “Big Foot” a somewhat lukewarm way to end the set. They left the stage thanking Noise Pop, the fans, and friends and family present in the audience — notably, their mother who the brothers suggested should “take a shot” — but returned for an encore and ended on a more memorable note for fans who proved receptive to the band’s consistent and lively energy.
“Keep it moving. The night is still young,” they urged at nearly 1 a.m. It was in this way, and in the plays of the previous three acts, that California surf rock had been done justice on the first evening of the three-day Noise Pop festival.
Article by Myra Farooqi
Photos by Fiona Duerr