Photo by Kelsey Winterkorn
Saturday nights in San Francisco rarely prove to be anything else but eclectic, exciting and a little bit extraordinary. The City by the Bay boasts one of the most diverse and all-encompassing arrays of tastes and sounds of any metropolitan area, not just in the national and international talent it brings in, but also in the plethora of local flavor it produces. Whether you’re looking for jambands and indie rockers or burgeoning electronic-rockers like BLVD and the innovative purveyor of West Coast dub step Tigran Mimosa, the Bay is in somewhat of a post-modern musical Renaissance. On this particular Saturday night, San Francisco’s The Independent played host to the aforementioned BLVD and Mimosa, along with opener Majitope, for one of the most impressive showcases of local talent I’d witnessed in some time.
Arriving shortly after Mimosa hit the stage to an elbows-to-elbows packed crowd, immediately the excited, hometown appeal could be felt throughout. The Independent’s intimate confines were colorfully filled with that decidedly Burner-esque feel that is San Francisco on the weekend: a decadently colorfully collage of hipster, hippie and hip hopper all bobbing and weaving to Mimosa’s deep bass filled barrage of dub step, littered delicately within melodious sound-scapes. Performing an hour or so set of carefully crafted mixes of West Coast dub step meets soulful swagger, his super energized set brought the crowd of roughly 500 into a heaping mass of sweat, fist pumps and fiery fervor.
By the time BLVD hit the stage, the room was so animated with anticipation that the roar of the trio hitting the stage was almost deafening. I’ve had the opportunity to see BLVD several times over the last few years, watching them grow and mature as a band along the way. Whereas as a year or two ago I would have labeled them Up and Coming, today I would say they’ve finally arrived. Fresh out of the studio from recording their 5th album with famed producer Jeff Saltzman (The Killers, The Black Keys, Fischerspooner), the trio of Dylan McIntosh (drums), Tripp Bains (bass) and Curtis Sloan (guitar) hit the ground running, offering an immediate dance party aroma that left few feet unmoved. After just a few minutes it was clearly evident that the band has worked tirelessly on both song composition and live group interplay. The rhythmic combination of McIntosh and Bains paved the way and provided that deep, pulsating electro pocket for guitarist Sloan to pepper mounting flavor and texture on top. By the time BLVD’s MC Souleye joined his crew on stage, The Independent became a passion fit of LED’s and booming beats complemented by Souleye’s lyrical versatility and onstage persona. Packing the first half of their set with fresh cuts from their upcoming release, Return to Center, BLVD showed that new songs like “Perfect Fit,” “The Wire” and “Cloud Nine” have luxurious legs just waiting to stretch out in the live setting.
It’s intriguing to see how the group balances their instrumental, driving electronic progressions with their MC-fueled, more rock-based sister sound on songs like “Music is My Medicine” and “Stamina.” On this night, the crowd seemed to lean more towards the former, erupting with BLVD’s ability to lift off and delve deeply into a refreshingly original sonic space that coupled concise compositional parts with exploratory excursions into a unified, effect-laden interplay. Incorporating funky bass licks and intelligently placed samples and loops with a clear chemistry and ability to build to a peak of tension, then release, the band tackled material from all their previous albums as well as several new, unreleased cuts with ease. 2010 is off to a great start for BLVD, with New Year’s spent playing in Fiji, followed by an extensive Australian Tour and now on to a club near you. I wouldn’t pass up the chance.