Field Report: Sister Crayon // Astronauts, etc. // Go Dark

 all photos: Will Shenton

all photos: Will Shenton

Will Shenton

The best part of going to concerts in San Francisco is the fact that I inevitably fall in love with at least one of the openers. In the case of this past weekend's Sister Crayon show at Rickshaw Stop, both of the accompanying acts were stunners.

After showing up early and adjusting my camera settings for about twenty minutes - naturally, I screwed them up so badly that the first 150 shots were basically unusable - we were greeted by Oakland experimental electronic duo Go Dark. And by "experimental" I mean utterly, gloriously batshit insane.

Now, you might be thinking to yourself, "hey, that guy on the right looks suspiciously like Oakland-based rapper Doseone." For reasons of national security, we can neither confirm nor deny that possibility. 

 Never seen him before in my life, officer.

Never seen him before in my life, officer.

They dove headlong into their set, riling up an otherwise fairly subdued crowd with what I can only describe as frantic, industrial bit-punk. Featuring tracks from their recent EP BitchSword (which is, fantastically, available for free on its website if you can beat the house-made flash game), Go Dark proceeded to bombard us with over-the-top beats, manic vocals, and spastic dance moves.

 Those cardboard mosaic-people in the background were groped and grabbed throughout the set to a degree that I can't imagine was consensual.

Those cardboard mosaic-people in the background were groped and grabbed throughout the set to a degree that I can't imagine was consensual.

Like all great performances, however, it had to come to an end sometime. Still buzzing with adrenaline and a couple three-dollar Tecates, I ruefully watched them make their way offstage. If you're even the slightest bit into the recorded tracks they have to offer, I can't recommend their live show highly enough.

 Lead singer Anthony Ferraro belts some falsetto after ditching his cheetah-print coat.

Lead singer Anthony Ferraro belts some falsetto after ditching his cheetah-print coat.

Next up was Berkeley semi-solo act Astronauts, etc., the brainchild of lead singer Anthony Ferraro. Bearded, bespectacled, and bandanaed, the frontman certainly looked the part of an aloof mumbler, and I was ready for an unwelcome comedown from Go Dark's psychotic episode. I could hardly have been more wrong.

 The guy on the left spilled beer on me, which is pretty rock 'n' roll I guess.

The guy on the left spilled beer on me, which is pretty rock 'n' roll I guess.

While certainly a digression in terms of genre, Astronauts, etc. brought an energy to their soulful dream pop that I wasn't expecting at all when they came up onstage. The synths that comprise the driving force on Ferraro's recordings blended nicely with the full band, and the guitarist's periodic solos and general ramblings were absolutely a highlight.

 Dropping funky basslines like there's no tomorrow.

Dropping funky basslines like there's no tomorrow.

The whole ensemble was phenomenal. Their performance was punchy and tight, and I was impressed that a band like this could have such distinctly different and equally great sounds between their live and recorded material. That takes a versatility and technical competence that a lot of acts simply don't have.

After hyping the audience up for Sister Crayon and paying Go Dark their dues ("We love that you guys honestly don't give a single solitary fuck"), Astronauts, etc. retired and the roadies came out of the woodwork to clear off the stage for the headliners.

 Singer Terra Lopez laughs in the face of technical difficulties.

Singer Terra Lopez laughs in the face of technical difficulties.

I mean, they really cleared off the stage. With the exception of a drum set and standing pad in the corner, it was basically empty. I would learn shortly that singer Terra Lopez needs a lot of room to emote.

Perhaps the powerful, biting vocals on Cynic should have clued me in, but I was honestly not expecting the brute force with which Sister Crayon makes an entrance. There are hints of reservation on the recordings I'd heard, a kind of quiet vulnerability that frames the inevitable choral explosions as pained desperation ("Floating Heads," my personal favorite track, comes to mind). Not so in their live performance.

Onstage, Lopez belts her unapologetic lyrics with a raw intensity that immediately draws you into the performance. Dani Fernandez hammers away on the drum pad with precision and fury worthy of a kung fu movie. It's confrontational, but not towards the audience. The singer regularly went out of her way to thank their fans and supporters and reassure them that they didn't have to take any shit from anybody. It's us against the world, baby.

During the first song, however, some sort of difficulty with the mics resulted in a few minutes' interruption while an audio tech fiddled with the wiring. Lopez kept it light, joking about how she "doesn't really like talking all that much" and apologized for not having any cool stories to fill the downtime.

 There's a lot of interference on this and other images because I have  almost literally  no idea what I'm doing with a camera most of the time.

There's a lot of interference on this and other images because I have almost literally no idea what I'm doing with a camera most of the time.

When things got back underway, we were treated to an onslaught of brand-new material from their upcoming album, with several beloved mainstays peppered throughout the set for good measure. The energy level was consistently high, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that their fanbase was one of the most devoted I've ever seen. Everyone sang along and danced their asses off, which is something of a rarity in this city's ever-too-cool independent music scene.

Needless to say, the Rickshaw Stop has delivered once again. I went into this show expecting one great act, and was instead greeted by three of the most enjoyable sets I've seen since moving to the Bay Area. If at any point you get the chance to catch Go Dark, Astronauts, etc., or Sister Crayon live, don't miss out.