Shannon and the Clams transports intimate crowd to 1950s diner

Caroline Smith/Staff
Caroline Smith / Staff

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Oakland’s own Shannon and the Clams inaugurated the Twin Peaks stage at Outside Lands on Friday. Though the crowd size was only a hundred or so deep, as anyone would expect for noon on day one, the group performed with as much spirit and passion as a headliner, jampacking its 40-minute set with tracks that best exemplified the group’s February release, Onion.

“There’s so many more of you here than we were expecting,” Shannon Shaw announced  chipperly.

The group transported the dedicated crowd to a 1950s diner with its soft rock sounds, then took the audience to a surf party with its more groovy and keyboard-heavy tracks. The upbeat and funky “I Leave Again” perfectly exuded this manic beach rock with its rolling guitar licks and foot-tapping keyboard intro. But it was during the group’s softer doo-wops that the true spirit of Onion — which was gently restructured before its release to honor the “Ghost Ship” fire victims and reflect the band’s relationship with the Oakland DIY scene — worked its magic.

Onion was produced by Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys, and the group began its set with its lead single “The Boy,” with Cody Blanchard taking the lead on the mic while frantically strumming a pale pink guitar. Bassist and co-vocalist Shaw sported a black-and-white outfit and coiled updo that called back to the dreamy waitress aesthetic of yesteryear. Blanchard, keyboardist Will Sprott and drummer Nate Mahan wore matching bolo ties, while Shaw’s thick black eyeliner ended in a retro flick — the audience was fully immersed into the band’s 1950s fever dream.

Shaw and Blanchard alternated leading the tracks, exchanging smiles as they simultaneously strummed their vintage-presenting pastel instruments. This symbiosis was present in the group’s performance of “Love Strike,” which began with Blanchard’s high-pitched vocals, channeling those of Freddie Mercury at the beginning of Queen’s “Somebody to Love.” Then Shaw took the song’s lead, her voice possessing an delicious edge as she communicated the mournful lyrics, the song’s instrumentals vibrant behind her.

The beachier the rock got, the more the crowd grooved. When Shannon and the Clams finally performed its best-known track “Ozma” — holding out until the crowd was properly primed — phones emerged and the audience yelled the dreamy chorus’s opening line, “I think I love you.” While those lyrics may convey a lack of confidence, the chorus progresses to “I know I love you,” and with it, the audience members became more devoted to the group onstage, regardless of whether they were there for Shannon and the Clams or to save a place up front for the headliners to come.

Caroline Smith is the arts & entertainment editor. Contact her at [email protected].