Walking into a sold-out venue, Homeshake’s Peter Sagar joined his bandmates onstage at Great American Music Hall on Aug. 19 for the first show of a hypnotic two-night run in San Francisco. As gazing couples and groups of friends looked on, the four-piece band from Montreal, Canada began the twisting sounds of the project’s newest album, Helium.
Sagar, a former touring guitarist for Mac DeMarco, is the driving force behind Homeshake. Mixing synthesizers with grainy lo-fi vocals, the enigmatic artist blends dream pop glitter under sensual, wavy house beats. Opening the show with the instrumental track “Early,” which also gently opens the band’s new album Helium, the band’s solid percussion section was introduced. Between the booming bass and lighthearted drums, a psychedelic aura was palpable throughout the room.
Squeezing out every note with his eyes closed, Sagar was misted by a light haze that fell over the crowd — it’s unclear whether the band was using a fog machine or if the cloud originated from the smoke billowing from the audience. As the jazzy synth combo finished, a member of the lively crowd yelled out, “You did a great job!” It was a fitting introduction to the song “Faded,” which led the band into its more guitar-heavy era from the 2015 album, Midnight Snack.
In a shockingly deep voice, Sagar approached the microphone to ask, “Is everybody okay?” Immediately following this question, a deep vibration from the bass shook the entire building, announcing the track “Call Me Up.” This mellow environment set the mood for joints to be sparked and sparks to fly between the countless couples making out in the audience.
Good vibes soared all around the sweaty room (as long as you didn’t mind looking over your shoulder to find a new case of PDA breaking out every couple of minutes). But Sagar looked toward the crowd and, in a chipmunk-pitched voice said, “Something doesn’t feel quite right,” to start out “Khmlwugh.” An acronym for “Kissing, hugging, making love and / Waking up and getting high,” the delicate track showed off the band’s dance-friendly side, catering toward the more energetic sides of the room.
“Give It to Me” played to the lively irony of live shows. During the performance, the band paused mid-song until the crowd mimicked the very theme that they sang, cheering the band members to give the remainder of the song to them. Sagar cracked a smile and broke out of his idiosyncratic character, the energy of the crowd sending the band into a widely appreciated chorus.
In the same out-of-pocket deep voice, Sagar asked, “Is everybody still okay?” only to be met with the exuberance of the crowd. He added a few quips about being on tour for so long, but said, “I don’t feel super talkative today, but it is nice that you’re all here.” Sagar’s peaceful stage presence fits the aesthetic of the band, lending to the lullaby soundscape.
As he pulled out a bottle of water, Sagar said he had grabbed it from Mount Shasta on the band’s drive down to San Francisco from the Pacific Northwest the day before. “The water is supposed to be very spiritual,” he said, “but I don’t feel anything.” This sentence conflicted with, but led into, the last song of the night: “Every Single Thing.” Every hipster in the audience went wild as the synthesized opening ended the show on an upbeat note. Never falling flat and always keeping the space at ease, Sagar gave a stand-up performance that garnered uproarious applause as he walked offstage and waved goodbye.
But this wasn’t the last that the crowd would see of Sagar for the night. As he reappeared onstage, all by himself, he said, “This has been a concert. Thank you for coming to the concert. This is the end of the concert.” He finished by leading the crowd in a series of deep-breathing exercises and repeated the words “fall asleep” in his bafflingly low voice. The world may not understand Peter Sagar much, but Homeshake was surely deserving of two nights of love from the Bay Area.
A previous version of this article included the incorrect image.