Elbo Room and the Chapel in San Francisco were some of the intimate but electrifying sites for Culture Collide acts Tuesday and Wednesday. The laid-back environment made it easy for new fans to be created, both of the international bands and of the festival itself.
Go Back to the Zoo (Netherlands)
As the night began Tuesday at the Chapel, the crowd was sparse. The venue filled a bit for one of the more anticipated acts of the festival, Go Back to the Zoo — their song “Beam Me Up” was used in a Nike ad in 2009, leading to them signing with Universal Music. It’s fitting that the Hieltjes brothers and drummer Bram Kniest met bassist Lars Kroon while waiting in line to see the Strokes, as the indie-rock influence is clear. Their simple lyrics and punchy rock made it easy for head-bobbing and dancing, but at times, such as in “Hold Your Head Up High,” the lyrics were repetitive to the point of silliness. They set the band-audience relationship to casual, asking whether we wanted the slow or fast version of “Summer Ends” and encouraging everyone to move closer to the stage and dance.
Kamp! didn’t have as much of a dance presence on stage, as the trio stayed stationary at their mixers except for occasional sudden movements when they struck an electric drum set. The stage setup was reminiscent of a mix between Disclosure and Kraftwerk, only tailored to the smaller stage. But the Polish group’s synth-pop electronic beats led many upstairs to the dance floor at Elbo Room, even though they didn’t necessarily seem to be fond of the crowd. It’s easy to see why the group has been getting press outside Poland, even if it has been mostly through music blogs, as their youthful vibe and lightweight songs are likeable — their funky videogame rhythms and synths result in versatile beats that are both refreshing and nonchalant. They performed at the first Culture Collide festival in 2010 in Los Angeles, and it seems the young group has only matured in image and sound since then.
Alphabetics (Costa Rica)
Punkier rock burst forth with the Alphabetics’ performance at Elbo Room. Many times in a band, the lead singer is the main attraction, moving across the stage, dancing and inciting the crowd. In this case, the most action came from the other four supporting members, with bassist Bryan Rothschild running through the crowd multiple times and guitarist and keyboardist Javier Sanchez unfurling his long hair into his face during head bangs, curling on the ground onstage and getting up close and personal with photographers. They embodied the intended spirit of Culture Collide, as dynamic stage presence was just as important as personal interactions with their audience. Besides just telling the audience how drunk they had been all day, members gave hugs and high fives after the show, pointing new fans to their T-shirt table in the corner.
Contact A.J. Kiyoizumi at [email protected].