It’s a Sunday night and they’re thirty minutes behind schedule. Christopher Heinz walked straight from the bar to his seat behind the drum kit, and Walking Shapes took off, running headlong into “Whoa Tiger,” the premier single and opening track to debut release Taka Come On.
“It’s our first time in San Francisco,” lead singer and soon-to-be shit disturber Nathaniel Hoho announced proudly, before the band layered on cymbals and guitar thicker than the recorded version of the single. Hoho had the energy and stage antics typically reserved for an established band from the get-go, despite the smaller crowd gathered in two uniform lines before the Brick + Mortar stage. He sang (and on “Milo’s Shell,” screamed) like a singer whose voice hadn’t yet worn, and Jesse Kotansky played cleanly, as if he’d yet to chip a nail or wear out his fingers.
The Brooklyn five-piece was excited to say the least, and this collective feeling translated directly to their lively opening set for Moscow’s Pompeya. Hoho was all over the stage, climbing speakers left and right; then he was off the stage and flailing his mic stand. Kotansky, in the meantime, pulled out his violin on “Feels Gold,” while dodging Hoho’s spirited baton twirling.
On “(no),” a hard segue finally sparked some crowd appreciation, as the audience began to see past Hoho’s hypeman antics and into the musicianship displayed by the band. This is not to discharge the lead singer; he was simply engaged in behavior better suited for Lollapalooza than a half-full Sunday night in San Francisco’s Mission district.
Walking Shapes covered much of Taka Come On, but they didn’t neglect their earlier mixtape entirely. A uniform rendition of “Bison” received fair crowd approval. Towards the end of the set, Hoho stepped over a couple of stools and accepted a patron’s drink. Meanwhile, Kotansky clutched his violin haphazardly with his shoulder and chin while finishing “In the Wake” on guitar. The duo lived on the edge while bassist Dan Kyrsa and keyboardist Jake Generalli kept it classy in the back.
After saying that they were “from New York” for the thousandth time and clearing the stage for the headliner, Hoho sought out his supplier and apologized for taking the drink. (He’d only meant to touch her hand, he said, and then he’d accidentally knocked the drink over onstage.) He returned moments later with another. For all the commotion as a performer, Hoho was remarkably calm and friendly in conversation. And that, in essence, was Walking Shapes’ live set: enthusiastic and wild, but musically collected and sound.
Both bands put on this funky, groovy air – Walking Shapes with a wholly more American sound rooted in electric guitar and walking bass, and Pompeya with a Eurodance flavour built from a keyboard hook.
In fact, Pompeya presented themselves in Russian and distinctly European cigarette pants. Their keyboardist, Sasha Lipinsky, was seated and, twenty minutes into Pompeya’s set, it became evident why. A regular Rachmaninoff, Lipinsky set off playing glossy thirds and twelfths as the band delivered “Nobody’s Truth” from Tropical (2013).
The introductions on tracks like “Пицунда” channelled Gardens & Villa, whereas “Wait” was more reminiscent of Battles or Fischerspooner. They weren’t fazed by a dissipating crowd. At times, Pompeya relocated to Jamaica, incorporating steel drum tones and sparkly keys. Hear Tropical for yourself.
Sunday, Pompeya brought paradise to San Francisco by way of Russia. Walking Shapes brought Brooklyn and Lollapalooza to the Mission. Tuesday night, the two bands will be celebrating the premiere of Taka Come On in Phoenix, Arizona. Catch them if you can on their remaining tour dates.
Article and photos by Joanna Jiang