Diverse set of SF bands rock Rickshaw Stop

Gracie Malley/Staff

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If there was one thing all four bands had in common at the Rickshaw Stop in San Francisco last Saturday night, it was that they were loud. Regardless of each of their distinctive sounds, the Rickshaw Stop’s blaring PA had the crowd dancing and swaying to DJ Aaron Axelsen in-between sets as he mixed your typical alternative, Live 105 songs with infectious beats. Although the crowd was digging Axelsen’s slick turntable skills, the bands of the night were the ones that ultimately stole the show.
The Bruises opened up the show with electrifying guitars and catchy choruses. Although at first glance the band could be labeled as “chick rock,” the group took that genre, chewed it up and spat it back out in a wild show of heavy guitar licks and charming vocal harmonizing from singer Aja Blue and guitarist Jen Black. Though they started out a little shy, the Bruises warmed up to the crowd, ending the show bouncing around the stage and hitting their last note hard with passion and spunk.
Up next was the multi-cultural New Diplomat. Despite forming in SF, the backgrounds of the bandmates span the globe from Belgium to Argentina. Similarly, New Diplomat’s sound also spans across the sonic spectrum. The band dove into heavy, hard-rock riffs only to switch up the next track with a tremolo synthesizer at the forefront, to then wind down with softer, keyboard melodies layered with some punk and funk thrown in. Add in a crowd-pleasing tribute to the late MCA with a cover of the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage,” and just try to find a genre that clearly describes the group’s sound.

After opening with the abrasive lines of “Self Spoken,” New Diplomat broke into a series of new tracks that ranged from bursts of rumbling guitars to more experimental effects where synth and guitar fused into one formidable wave of sound, similar to Muse songs like “Map of the Problematique.” The vocals of singer Horacio O’Brien-Ferres carried throughout the Rickshaw Stop as he went from soft melodies to ferocious screams, as the band played to a backdrop of custom animations stitched together with scenes ranging from sultry models to war battles.

As New Diplomat left the stage, the crowd was then thrown into middle school nostalgia as Beta State’s emo wails and power chords took over. Even though their music was nowhere near the realms of *NSYNC, Beta State had some sort of boy-band swagger about them. Maybe it was the flashy multi-colored lights they brought on stage, or the smiles they had throughout the performance. Regardless of the band’s music or style, you couldn’t deny the energy that they brought out. Bassist Justin Kastner and vocalist Matt McDonald were both especially ecstatic as they  leapt around the stage, almost accidentally smacking the audience with a mic stand in the midst of their fervid antics. The band’s playful attitude made their set — and the hearts of some of the girls in the front row — swoon with emotion as they blasted their way through two albums worth of material.

Opening with the muted string chucks and powerful musicianship of “Deliver Us,” Bay Area band-mashup Seeking Empire closed down the show with a house-shaking performance. The commanding voice of the stunning Nikki Aclaro soared over the guitars and drums, beautifully carrying notes significantly larger than her petite stature. After debuting some new material and raffling off some tickets to BFD, the band closed with their short yet sweet track “Fairytale,” ending one of the most diverse, enticing local showcases from some of the best of the SF music scene.