Sunday, March 25, 2012

Show Review: Poor Moon 23 March 2012 b/w Illusions EP

This past Friday, I made the trip over to San Francisco to see Poor Moon at Bottom of the Hill.  All evidence points to me being a huge Fleet Foxes fan, so I was right on top of things when it was announced that the band's bassist Christian Wargo was now fronting another band with fellow Foxes' multi-instrumentalist Casey Wescott along with friends (and brothers) Peter and Ian Murray.  And when these guys released an absolutely great free digital single several weeks ago, I knew that I had to see them when tour dates were announced.  For a couple days two or so weeks ago, they offered the entire Illusion EP for free download (I guess they didn't want to go out on the road with no material officially released yet), so that was well familiar by the time they took the stage.

But we're getting ahead of ourselves.

The Illusion EP will undoubtedly draw comparisons to Fleet Foxes.  Five folk-pop songs, book ended by two sparse acoustic numbers (the title track and the redemptive 'Widow'), Josh Tillman contributions, with many deep harmonies and plenty of reverb on the vocals in between.  Yeah, there's definitely some like-mindedness going on in the Foxes' camp.  Except for that one song right in the middle of everything.  'People in Her Mind' is just a wonderfully bouncy little slice of layered, catchy-as-all-hell, 60's inspired pop.  To say that it sticks out on an EP that could otherwise be described as moody and eerie is an understatement.  You just have to marvel at how complete and cohesive things are for a sixteen minute EP.  It's always nice when a band can put out such a perfect synthesis of what they do in the EP format.  There is a clear beginning, middle and end to the whole thing and I was going in to the show well-versed in its contents.  Except, I would be thrown a curve ball (not one that I wasn't prepared to take a mighty swing at, mind you; I just didn't see it coming).

We're getting ahead of ourselves again.

Going to shows in San Francisco means getting a good meal beforehand.  It just does.  The choices are endless.  Japan town is my pick for the concentration of good places all within walking distance of each other.  You can compare menus and prices in real time, on the spot.  The search for the right place is almost a show within itself.  Found a place in the mall (and it was delicious):

Time to kill after that, so off to the west bay it was:

After some thought, I realized it had been years since I had actually seen the Pacific Ocean (despite being close).  About a quarter mile straight downhill:

And then it was time to do silly things that I did when I was a kid, like draw designs in the sand with your feet and taunt the incoming waves:

Enough silliness, back across the city to the venue:

It's always fun to see shows at Bottom of the Hill.  It's a small enough venue that you can probably catch somebody from the band at the merch table or wandering about and shoot the breeze for a bit.  I did catch Christian, pre-set, at the merch table and he seemed pretty road-weary, but receptive to conversation.  I said my thank yous and let him know that his last visit to the Bay Area with Fleet Foxes was appreciated and that I was grateful for the good work he was doing.  

When Poor Moon finally took the stage about an hour later, they made the thing look smaller than it actually is.  With six guys and tons of gear, there was hardly room for anybody to move.  But you'd never know that from the absolutely perfect performance they put forth.  The only song that was played off of Illusion was 'People in Her Mind', late in the set — which was rendered in a slightly rocked up, less polished way that just seemed to bowl everyone in the place over.  I mean, after an eight or nine song set of unknown tunes, no stage banter, no titles announced and in such contrastingly exquisite form to the previous band, I don't like the lukewarm audience reaction they received, but I can at least understand it.  I have no titles to go off of here, but the first tune they played was such a grand shift in mood in the place that I dare say it silenced the crowd briefly.  The one I have given the stopgap title of 'The Tambourine Song' was smack dab in the middle of the set, and appropriately so, as it was the highlight for me.  A mid-tempo, percussion-oriented thing; I can't wait to hear it again.  Another one that I will call 'The Rocker' for now found Christian pounding away at his Rickenbacker in between brilliant vocal melodies and pieces of dead silent pauses for a downright stunning display of stop/start/loud/quiet shifts.  'People in Her Mind' got the biggest audience reaction and, I have to say, even though I never would've guessed it from being familiar with the EP, it was the most representative song that I knew going in.  The rest of the band's set was much in line with that sprightly little number.  Very 60's pop inspired material, very tightly arranged and played and all very heartfelt.  Although Illusion gave me a completely different picture of the band than what I was presented with on Friday night, I have to say that, if this band is going to go further (as it seems to be, with a full length rumored to be on the way later this year), they have tons of potential.  The songs were presented purely professionally, but there was no doubt there was an amount of silliness going on (I saw band members sticking their tongues out at each other between pitch perfect group harmonies!) and, despite all the between song instrument juggling and just an in-general rush that was in the air, I can't imagine these guys putting out a better "first taste" live showing.  Christian was excellent vocally (who knew!) and overall, I felt like the trip was totally worth that fourty five or fifty minutes of completely unfamiliar music.  


I hope that full length is not just a rumor and I hope to see them again soon.  

I was so pumped after seeing them that I walked out of the place and was able to stay awake for the four hour drive back to Reno.

Yeah, they were that good.

This video features the band playing some of those tunes that didn't show up on Illusion (and one that was not played at Bottom of the Hill).


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