The walls of San Francisco’s Rickshaw Stop throbbed last Thursday night, stretching like a membranous cell wall to accommodate the radiating energy of the pulsating nucleus within. West coasters White Arrows and Portugal. The Man played to an airtight crowd in the shoebox venue, (enticing) polarized bodies to bump ‘n grind ‘neath the dancing laser ceiling beams.
Succinctly put, the night was a visceral experience. With the fluidity and dynamism of a living organism, the concert hall morphed and swayed to maintain equilibrium of its internal goings-on. The music flowed from Pop DJ’s dubstep remixes to snappy Ramones-esque pop-punk licks to psychedelic swells of tortured instruments. People migrated to and fro with only a base awareness of their friends and surroundings. The life force of the show, though, was its persisting heartbeat, a rhythm that ebbed and flowed like the ocean tide, ever changing but remained a relentless source of vitality carried by drums and clapping hands.
L.A. natives White Arrows opened the live music portion of the evening’s agenda, following some hem-ing and ha-ing from the crowd at the preliminary popscene DJs. It would take a dictionary to describe White Arrows’ sound; a single world simply would not suffice. They transitioned from electro-pop centric tracks to old school punk dance numbers to quirky compositions reminiscent of Vampire Weekend. Yet throughout each component of their comprehensive range, drummer Henry Schiff, engulfed in the background of the stage by a haze of fog, kept their energy alive and thriving with continuous poundings on percussion.
The self-proclaimed “blackest white band” strutted the stage in geometric paint-palette tunics, their artificial skins refracting under the reds, yellows, blues, and greens of the overhead laser beams. The influx unadulterated primary colors confounded the senses until the corpreal outlines of the sestet bled into the wall of the Rickshaw Stop, as if on a television screen.
Just before the witching hour, headliners Portugal. The Man burst onstage with a lively rendition of a familiar favorite, “The Sun.” The band’s energy was contagious, radiating forth from their fingertips in sunbeams of sound, diverging and spilling into the crowd to do a private boogy with each attendee.
The audience was teaming with seasoned fans who were well-acquainted with their prolific discography. Portugal. The man delivered tracks mainly off of their latest album, In The Mountain In The Cloud , adding an element of novelty to the night.
Their sixth studio album, which dropped on Tuesday, mediates a migration of their signature indie-psych sound towards a more honed and textured composition. The vocals are at times monotonous, with front man John Gourley carrying the bulk of the melody with few back vocal enforcements. Their new material does, however, display a maturation of musicianship, as the band toys with stretches of bare instrumentals and patiently allows sonic build-ups to fully blossom.
White Arrows and Portugal. The Man will both be making repeat appearances in the City on July 30th at Bottom of the Hill and July 20th at Amoeba Records respectively. Although they are best enjoyed together, like birthday cake and booze, their enthusiasm and electric performances will no doubt breathe some life into these lazy hazy days.