At San Francisco’s Rickshaw Stop last Thursday, velvet curtain covered walls, paired with royal blue filtered lights created a stage straight out of “Twin Peaks.” The venue’s moody design and hazy atmosphere was primed for the arrival of lo-fi psychedelic folk group Loving.
The opening act Sofia Bolt, stage persona of French-American singer Amélie Rousseaux, brought French pop and indie rock to the stage in a converse kicking manner, turning the crowd around with each song played. One moment would be slow and ebbing, Rousseaux’s smooth vocals backed only by a few bass notes and soft drum beats. The next track would pick up in tempo, the intricate finger-picking by Rousseaux moving the crowd to sway and bob their heads just a little bit more. With the last strum of her final song, Sofia Bolt had opened up the crowd, anticipatory for Loving.
Loving came out in understated manner, after milling about in the venue while the openers played. Its first time playing SF, the corduroy-clad squad stayed soft-spoken throughout the night, matching the crowd’s organic energy. Its set was a tad delayed as the members fussed around with the complicated mass of cables onstage, but the mood of the venue remained unperturbed.
While Loving’s repertoire consists of around 10 released songs on Spotify, each of them are complicated in construction, with instrumental layering contributing to an overall euphoric soundscape. Played live, each track’s sound was intensified as the instrumentals flowed forth from different parts of the stage. Incredibly cyclical in nature, most of Loving’s songs change only slightly from passage to passage, which contributes to overall mood construction — rather than focusing in on one part of a singular track.
Loving’s lyrics reflect the song’s trajectory, poetic in structure and undulating in rhythm. Most of the group’s songs don’t contain many lyrics, but pose beautifully phrased questions that provoke tranquil rumination. In “The Not Real Lake,” lyrics like “And at this magic hour / I’ll confuse the power / Of a stolen word” lulled the crowd with mystic wonder. Loving played each song consecutively, transforming the Rickshaw Stop into a dream plane continuum with their music.
That being said, certain songs rose to prominence in the set, as the group utilized different members for vocals and looped sound phrases. The song “A Long Slow Little Wave / Citizen, an Activity” contains no lyrics, and during Loving’s performance of it, the group built upon the phrases — each time progressively increasing the volume. This distanced the listening experience to the tangibility of time, creating a fluidity to the song’s duration: the beginning, middle and ending of the song had no set time frame, all flowing into one continuous sequence.
With “Forgot Again,” Loving extrapolated the short and sweet song into a pleasant interlude in between its slower sounds. Again, the song had cyclical beats which guided the crowd to sway as one unified body. A guitar sequence of only four notes came to the forefront between choruses, discordant by itself — but when combined with other instrumentals, it came together for a relaxed and harmonious sound. The gentle fade out of the track left the crowd satisfied, yet curious with the lines, “I forgot anyway.”
Loving also let the crowd into its next project, as the group played a couple unreleased songs. Remaining on brand, the songs echoed past works, while still adding a touch of novelty with reimagining of instrumentation. The future project will be Loving’s second album, but first with Last Gang Records as the group’s first self-titled album was quietly released on Bandcamp via Human Sounds Records in 2016.
Halfway through the American leg of their fall 2019 tour, Loving continues to traipse from city to city, its dreamwave beats exemplifying the lo-fi genre. The group’s self-produced roots are notable in their sincere lyrics and unpretentious demeanor that is hard to come by in today’s increase in lo-fi bands. This authenticity is what makes Loving so captivating to watch, almost as if a group of family friends are performing instead of an up-and-coming group. Audiences can only hope Loving remains unscathed by industry, and continue to construct pleasant soundscapes that only offer comfortable yet reflective meditations.
Highlights of the set: “Forgot Again,” “The Not Real Lake,” “A Long Slow Little Wave / Citizen, an Activity”