In a rare bout of Thursday-night spontaneity, I caught a live in-store performance by Surfer Blood at Amoeba Records in San Francisco. The Internet worked deftly to inform me of the impending musical goodness in my hometown, via an email from Citysearch (I still get those?) that mentioned the SXSW darlings were in town. I then checked out the band’s tunes on MySpace (MySpace still exists?) and decided to put my rubber soles to the road and take in some early evening tunes.
The first thing I noticed about the band was that they were really young; I knew they were in their early 20s, but the lead guitarist looked about 15. The second thing I noticed was that they were very good and worthy of the hype. While I can’t pretend to own horn-rimmed glasses and thereby be qualified to spout knowing critique on a song-by-song basis, I really dug their power-pop feel and easygoing repartee with the crowd. It was fun, as music should be.
I spent most of the gig’s 40 minutes acutely noticing that I was in a record store for the first time in years. Amoeba is a shrine to the concept of a record store, a metaphysical intersection of art and commerce. I watched the show from the “H” row of the rock section, glancing at some of my generation’s best music, like Husker Du and Hole (yes, Hole) and its undisputed worst music, Hootie and the Blowfish. I made a mental note to listen to more Hold Steady; I didn’t buy their CD, but I streamed THS incessantly on Rhapsody when I got home. I felt like I cheated on Amoeba.
Surfer Blood sports a wild-haired percussionist, which usually worries me that we have Widespread Panic envy on our hands. But Marcos Marchesani (technically only a touring member of the group) is not at all superfluous; he provides a cornerstone rhythmic backbone supporting the jangles and feedback that seep into nonetheless melodious riffs and sudden, patchwork changes. I put Paul Westerberg in the same thought as Surfer Blood as I nodded along, which pretty much sums up the respect I have for these newbies.