With Noise Pop just concluded, March has totally blindsided me with a number of can't-miss concert opportunities around the Bay Area. Catch buzzed-about local trio Grass Widow at The Knockout before their upcoming album causes them to blow up later this year. Laura Gibson returns to SF after a solo Noise Pop show, bringing collaborator Ethan Rose along to perform songs from their spectacular new album Bridge Carols. The Hemlock's back room hosts the addictive fuzz-pop of So Cow, whose music calls to mind weirdo pop titans Television Personalities.
It took less than a song to fall in love with SF trio Grass Widow at the band's recent Great American Music Hall show, opening for Thao Nguyen and The Thermals. Like those two bands, GW inked a deal with Kill Rock Stars -- a fitting home for their fuzzy mix of dark post-punk and good-time garage pop -- and they spent the Great American show bouncing from one brain-infecting nugget to the next, pausing only briefly to acknowledge one member's grandmother in the audience. By the time the night was over, I'd grabbed the band's recent 12" EP, later to add a copy of their first full length, now in its third pressing on Make A Mess Records. Grass Widow plays with punk enthusiasm, but it's the overlapping vocals (tons of harmonies and call and response) that seal the deal. Grass Widow will be at The Knockout on March 11 with Broken Water and Makeing Tents.
Portland singer-songwriter Laura Gibson has made a name for herself as a folk minimalist, so I wasn't exactly sure what to expect from her new collaborative album with avant-garde composer Ethan Rose. The duo approached Bridge Carols (out now on Holocene Music) in a surely-doomed-for-failure way, with Gibson improvising lyrics and sounds which Rose then de- and, subsequently, re-constructed. The dangers are likely apparent -- that the work wouldn't sound organic or that it might drift untethered into the atmosphere or that Gibson would be abandoning a perfectly good sense of melody for something different. Thankfully, none of these concerns bear fruit. There's enough structure here to allow us pop-inclined folks access, and the rewards are lush, rich textures that blend well with Gibson's languid and ethereal tones. This may well be the first great headphone record of 2010, so I'm curious to see how it plays out live at the Rickshaw Stop on March 31. Gibson and Rose will be supported by Emily Jane White and Garrett Pierce.
Any press kit that references the criminally underrated Television Personalities immediately gets my attention. Were there any justice in the world, the TVPs would be considered the "Weird Beatles." I recognize that doesn't have much of a ring to it, but suffice to say that few groups have managed to translate offbeat psych, bedroom pop and punk influences with anything resembling Dan Treacy's creative spark. Irish musician Brian Kelly, who records as So Cow, shares Treacy's love of chasing fractured pop gems, and he hits plenty of highs on Meaningless Friendly, his second proper album out now on Tic Tac Totally!. It's not all gooey ear candy, mind you, as Kelly's hyperactive songs buzz through brief passages of noisy dissonance as well. So Cow plays at the Hemlock Tavern on March 10 with Bare Wires and Dreamdate.