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The Matches – [Live]

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Monday, 31 December 2007

Whether you referred to the current waning year as the year of the pig or simply as 2007, it was my year of Minipop. I first saw the dreamy indie pop four-piece when they opened for faux-French rockers Nous Non Plus at Cafe du Nord back in May. I bought Minipop's self-titled demo album at the concert and it hasn't left my stereo since.

Since that fateful night in May, I've caught San Fransisco's local darlings only one other time, at the smallest stage of Live 105's BFD Music Fest this summer, and watched vocalist Tricia Kanne sweat under the hot South Bay sun. Months have passed, so I was excited to learn they were playing Slim's this past Saturday and jumped at the opportunity to see them again—this time hot off the release of their debut album A New Hope with Take Root Records.

But this writer didn't do her research. The other bands joining Minipop for the evening—Cold Hot Crash, Panda and The Matches—are all young Bay Area bands with ever-expanding fan bases. No one, band members or fans, seemed to be over the age of 15. (Now, before I come off sounding like an old bitty, I'm only 26 and so it wasn't that long ago that I was the underage punk dragging Mom to pack the minivan full of my friends and drive me to San Francisco and sit quietly in the back and pretend she didn't know us. I get it. And I'm a huge supporter of all-ages venues. I just was not prepared—emotionally, fashionably or otherwise—to be in a sold-out space teeming with teenagers who knew every word to what I can only assume are their friends' bands.)

Cold Hot Crash opened the evening promptly at 7:30 p.m. with a sound—but not quite a look—that is sure to shoot them up the local ladder of fame. I walked in during “I’m Just Waking Up,” one of twelve infectiously catchy tunes off their self-titled debut released earlier this year, after spending 10 minutes outside persuading the bouncer to let me keep the chocolate Santa in my purse despite the club’s no-outside-food policy (I won). CDs flew off the group’s table at the merch booth, which looked like it was manned by one of the kids’ dads, so I’m guessing we’ll be hearing a lot more from these guys. (Sidenote: Was it just me or was that Minipop’s bass player Nick Forte filling in for Adam Schuman? I think it was!)

The biggest surprise of the evening was youngster quintet Panda from Oakland. They may sing about things like notes passed in high school classes, but they’ve got a bit of old school jazz and soul to their pop catchiness and the lead singer reminded me just a bit of Jack White on songs like “Chinatown” and “Carry On” with his scratchy vocals. On other tracks he was all charisma and stage presence—something all five guys have in spades—over exaggerating hand gestures and spewing comic banter. Their act is rough and they occasionally come off as trying too hard, but they walked off stage leaving me impressed by their musical ability and potential.

And while I’d say Minipop didn’t disappoint, I have a feeling some of the others in attendance might disagree. The quartet’s melodic, sometimes atmospheric pop tunes didn’t mesh well with the exuberance of the other bands and it was obvious that abundant energy is why most of the audience was there. Their set was like taking a nap in the middle of a marathon—something I myself appreciated but found others rudely talking through. Singer Kanne’s searing voice pierced the stuffy air through songs like “Precious” and “Like I Do” from A New Hope. The low lighting suited the soft songs, but added to the disconnect between Panda’s bash over the head and Minipop’s sweet hugs.

More polish than Cold Hot Crash and Panda and more panache than Minipop, The Matches set was inspiring in its cohesiveness. The four guys—Shawn Harris, Matt Whalen, Justin San Souci and Jon Devoto—wore complimentary red outfits and played each song without incident. They worked their way through a number of tunes, like the melodramatic opener “Salty Eyes,” from their latest Epitaph release Decomposer. Hard-core fans sang along to the rock/pop/punk inspired tunes from their two previous albums, and the band also premiered a couple of new songs (one titled “We Are One” echoed something you’d expect from a military band) from A Band In Hope, their forthcoming, as-yet-unreleased album they just finished recording.

Definitely a night to remind Bay Area fans why 2007 was such a good year for local music.

 

For more information:

The Matches: www.myspace.com/thematches
Minipop: www.myspace.com/minipop
Panda: www.myspace.com/pandaplaysmusic
Cold Hot Crash: www.myspace.com/coldhotcrash

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