Caught a Ghost
Cliche 1980s scenes from indiscernible movies danced as fading projections on a screen in the back of the Rickshaw Stop in San Francisco on Thursday night. Then, darkness and silence fell. From darkness came light, in the form of a spirit — and San Francisco “Caught a Ghost”.
The Los Angeles band brings something new. “Caught a Ghost” is an interesting project, a proclamation of how the spirit can possess music. The band defines itself as “indie electro soul,” but live, it becomes something more versatile: bigger than a definition. The bass and saxophone cry blues, the voices are sporadically overpowered by rock, and the melody sometimes surrenders to dubstep and jazz. The band’s music has a soul of its own. Where blues meets rock and soul meets passion is where “Caught a Ghost” finds its comfort zone. Melancholic blues bled from songs such as “No Sugar In My Coffee,” and the musicians demonstrated their diversity through their soft rock in “Relentless”.
After the concert, The Daily Californian talked to “Caught a Ghost” about what it’s like to feel the ghost within. “It is when you’re possessed,” described lead singer Jesse Nolan, “when you feel the spirit.”
Nolan is part of the very proud UC Berkeley alumni community. He graduated as an English major and music minor. He confessed to The Daily Californian that, before this concert in SF, he had been revisiting the “incredibly aggressive squirrels that have no concern for human life” that coexist with Berkeley students on campus. He recounted how, while being a student, he became part of a gospel choir and enrolled in an African drumming class — both experiences that, through their intensity, would change his life.
“Catching a ghost is a way of reinventing yourself,” Nolan explained. “The idea that a human soul can fill you up and speak through you, as it remains here to finish unfinished business, is an amazing thing.” With influences that range from Muddy Waters to Jimi Hendrix or even Bob Dylan, “Caught a Ghost” attempts to sing and transmit a story of truth in ambiguity.
“Memories inform the sense of reality,” Nolan stated as the goal of his songwriting. “You’re supposed to be telling the truth, but it can be anyone’s truth. That is why I’m deliberately ambiguous when I write. Because I like to think pain is a community, and I make music to get into people’s lives”.
Uncommonly fine artists uplifted the incredible, warm and skilled voices of Nolan and Tessa Thompson. Stephen Edelstein on drums and backup vocals, Tim McKay flowing through the smoothest saxophone and Ian Sloane inexorably providing the bass created an exquisite and powerful zeitgeist of art and blues. Sloane, when asked to address the band’s performance, responded, “I’m not a good writer. Just write something sexy.” But there is no writing that could convey how, that night, there was nothing sexier than their ghosts and their music.
Just as they welcomed cool Brits the Arctic Monkeys back in 2005, the Rickshaw Stop in San Francisco received British pop band the Crookes with open arms last Thursday night. Performing between two other emerging bands, Caught a Ghost and the Soft White Sixties, the Crookes ended their American tour with head-banging tunes that impressed the San Francisco crowd.
The Sheffield natives reach out of the Arctic Monkeys’ shadow and create their break into the music scene with a sound that’s less grunge and a catchier kind of music. Appearing right after the hard-to-follow act Caught a Ghost, the group came on stage with the night’s DJ playing “Fake Tales of San Francisco” as the backdrop to their entrance.
Under streaming blue lights, the energized quartet opened their set with “Don’t Put Your Faith in Me,” presenting a vibrant performance for the most part. Lead singer and guitarist George Waite worked his charm and onstage buoyancy throughout the performance with his consistent head-bobbing and occasional in-between-song comments on American girls and the band’s U.S. tour with Caught a Ghost.
The band had the perfect setting of an attentive crowd while sandwiched in between two solid acts, and they reciprocated the audience’s energy while in tune with the venue’s atmosphere. Bringing melodies resembling something of the Smiths, “Where Did Our Love Go” played second in their set, and the audience sang and clapped along. The back-up guitarist could have had more interest before and after his cues, and the whole band, other than the lead, seemed solely into their role onstage. Waite practically owned the stage by interactively engaging with both his band members and the audience. But the band still delivered an electric performance with their memorable pop rock and Waite’s energy.