A band’s ambience when playing live can be the deciding factor in whether or not its performance is memorable. Going to a show should take audience members into the world of the band, with the set list as a trusty map and the visuals or lights as the background.
Los Angeles-based psychedelic pop-rock band White Arrows put on a memorably trippy performance full of whirling, kaleidoscopic images at the Rickshaw Stop in San Francisco on Thursday. Along with opening act the Wild Wild, the band played a set as part of the venue’s monthly PopScene Club Night, as well as to promote their upcoming album In Bardo. In between bands, DJs spun remixes of Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy” and the Cure’s “Just Like Heaven” as music videos, TV and film footage from the late 1970s and early ’80s played on a large screen.
The Wild Wild paired its electronic-inspired, synth-heavy pop with a lead singer whose lyrical style and stage presence are reminiscent of lead singer Dougy Mandagi of the Temper Trap. As the Wild Wild’s set progressed, the audience’s attention moved toward the background film reel — which began playing Michael Jackson videos, infinitely entertaining on their own — and away from the band playing in front of them. The Wild Wild’s attempt at creating a trancey atmosphere for their music, while initially captivating, ultimately drew on too long.
In stark contrast, White Arrows’ set was genuinely entrancing: The dim lights and dark clothes of the band members, along with the swirling shapes playing behind them, fit perfectly with their dark aesthetic. The band belted out singles such as “Get Gone” with maximum reverb as vocalist Mickey Church intensely stared into the crowd; halfway through the set, Church donned a purple wig for no particular reason and resumed shredding on his guitar.
Watching White Arrows’ performance felt like wandering through a multicolored hallway of bright purple and pink lights and a cacophony of sound. especially when they played two songs off of In Bardo: “We Can’t Ever Die” and “Nobody Cares.” The last song of the night exploded with noise rock-electronic pop, closing out a show that left audience members in a daze that won’t be forgotten anytime soon.