Lackluster performance from a less-than-Speedy Ortiz

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Shervin Lainez/Courtesy

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Though Speedy Ortiz’s band name implies experience, the pacing of one of the band’s concerts suggested otherwise. For the indie rock band’s San Francisco appearance Sunday evening, Cafe du Nord scheduled its doors to open at 7:00. Speedy Ortiz did not appear onstage until 3 1/2 hours later.

Of course, not all of the blame should be placed on the shoulders of the band. Cafe du Nord did not end up opening its doors until an hour after the appointed time, and the ensuing couple of hours were occupied largely by performances from Speedy Ortiz’s two openers for the evening: Winter and Anna Burch.

Yet even disregarding the unfortunate timing issues of the night, Speedy Ortiz did a mediocre-at-best job of commanding the attention of its already-weary viewers. Some left after only 45 minutes of the band’s performance.

The band fell short of satisfactory at Cafe du Nord not for a lack of quality material. Founded by writer/musician Sadie Dupuis while working on her master of fine arts in poetry, the band rose to prominence in 2013, with the release of its first full-length studio album: Major Arcana. In the ensuing years, Speedy Ortiz has gained a considerable following and substantial positive press, receiving praise from outlets including Pitchfork and NPR. Moreover, reviews have been overall positive for Twerp Verse, the band’s most recent album, from April of this year.

Unfortunately, for all of Dupuis’ background in poetry and genius in wordplay, the deafening roar of her group’s instrumentals drowned out the singer’s voice on Sunday. Only choice snippets of each song remained audible, making the selections — which hailed from older Speedy Ortiz albums in addition to Twerp Verse — difficult to recognize for audience members only moderately familiar with Speedy Ortiz’s material, and disappointing for even the most devoted of fans present.

Moreover, perhaps aware of the waning levels of concentration in the room, Speedy Ortiz seemed to rush through the set list, with Dupuis pausing between songs rarely and minimally. In turn, despite the venue’s close quarters, the concert lacked a sense of intimacy. Only a few personal anecdotes were shared from the artists’ lives or explanations given on the meanings of songs. Viewers left without the feeling of having much of a glimpse into the lives of the faces behind Speedy Ortiz.

Though she may have skimped on overall speaking time, Dupuis did use some of the breaks between songs to advance social justice-related messages about which she felt passionate. For instance, the singer urged fans to contribute to the donation box titled “Islamic Relief Funds for Palestine Emergency Appeal” located at the band’s merchandise table. Though she acknowledged that such charity may not feel obligatory to the audience, she expressed her devotion to donating: “For me, it’s not an option,” she asserted.

And though openers and the interims between their appearances extended the wait for the headlining band to appear onstage, the opening groups themselves did not disappoint. A highlight included “Zoey,” a song from Brazilian-American rock band Winter, which lead singer/songwriter and guitarist Samira Winter proclaimed was “dedicated to my cat, Zoey.”

Ultimately, Sunday night’s performance lacked the full flair expected from Speedy Ortiz — the band built at best a shaky connection with its viewers. Nonetheless, support and community among the three performing groups proved abundantly evident. Each gave the other two shoutouts, and some members of the openers stayed to watch Speedy Ortiz perform. Thus, while many viewers may have left tired and less than satisfied, they could at least boast about having seen a sequence of unique and talented contemporary musicians perform live, musicians who supported one another while doing so.

Ryan Tuozzolo covers music. Contact her at [email protected]. Tweet her at @_rtuo.