Despite both being relatively new to the music industry, headliners Hospitality, recently signed to heavy-hitter Merge Records (Arcade Fire, Conor Oberst, Camera Obscura, etc.) and openers Waterstrider exhibited their strong musical artistry and immense potential last Thursday at the Rickshaw Stop, hosted by Popscene. However, potential should not be taken as an implication of novice in either — their performances were adept and equal to more seasoned bands.
Before the official show started, Popscene DJs enlivened the scattered masses. Energy exploded onto the floor as concert-goers came together to dance and socialize. Waterstrider band members were some of the leading dancers, undoubtedly foreshadowing the spirited performance to come.
Once Waterstrider took the stage, cheers and shouts rang throughout the crowd. As former UC Berkeley students, the band formed out of the co-op Cloyne Court, where they still practice. There were sure signs of this as the crowd’s enthusiasm proved the band’s solid local following; however, by the end of the night, anyone that wasn’t already a fan surely converted.
Primarily playing from their debut EP Constellation, released last August, the band began with dim lights and gentle strums. Like their album title, the stage quickly became streaked with radiant glows that illuminated among the celestial yet earthy melodies formed out of the band’s muscianship. Performing with an array of instruments — a recorder, flute, ukulele and bongo drums, to name a few — made their sound refreshing, quenching the thirst of listeners accustomed to the presumably stagnant music industry.
Perhaps the key to the band’s success that night was in their mannerisms, seemingly characterized by comfort and honesty. During the show, knowing smiles were exchanged and shoes were removed. Their genuineness and sincerity burst forth, completely unrestrained — not only did their music connect with the audience, but so did the honesty with which they performed. Their music visibly bled through their rhythmical movements, unquestionably infecting their listeners.
Still, their music speaks for itself. When their performance came to a close, the audience demanded more. Their encore made Waterstrider the first Popscene opener to do so, hopefully indicating the success in store for the sextet as they record their new album this summer.
Regardless of the talents of the opening band, the trio that makes up Hospitality, backed by drummer David Christian, did not fail to match the preceding performance. While the band spoke little and their style differed from that of the previous act, Hospitality had a rapture of their own. With front woman Amber Papini’s charming (yet surprisingly American) accent, tinged with melancholy, her guileless and upfront lyrics tied together with relentlessly upbeat songs
Each of the band’s songs seemed to be a story of its own — an example includes their arguably best-known song “Betty Wang,” a profile of admiration. Live, this translated into disparate experiences song after song. The variety was welcomed by the crowd, and though assumed to be fatigued by Waterstrider’s performance, they continued to dance with excitement.
While every song distinguished itself from the others, Hospitality’s developing signature bolstered their performance as each song tended to build to an explosion, a culmination of sound that threaded the separate instruments into one. Rather than disjointed strums and clangs, the band’s sounds became much more whole and unified than their recently released self-titled record lets on.
Sharing little more than their pop sensibilities, Hospitality’s minimalist, stream-of-consciousness rock and Waterstrider’s African, atmospheric beats made for a versatile and more than satisfying set. Filled with earnestness, both bands artfully moved their audience – physically and emotionally – infusing them with their contagious compositions.