Tucked away in San Francisco’s Mission District, Brick & Mortar Music Hall buzzed to life Feb. 13, with excited fans waiting for city pop band PREP take them on a journey through a slew of soulful yacht rock songs. The speakers blasted popular funk-inspired songs to get the audience in the mood, but the crowd didn’t need the pregame one bit.
Fittingly, San Francisco was the last stop on the U.S. leg of PREP’s tour. “You guys are here for the after-party,” quipped lead singer Tom Havelock as the band took the stage.
PREP formed in London in 2015 and is made up of Havelock, drummer Guillaume Jambel, keyboardist Llywelyn ap Myrddin and guitarist Dan Radclyffe. While every musician in the group comes from a vastly different musical background, they each have an essential contribution to PREP’s overall sound.
On the night of the San Francisco show, the band was supported by Ginger Root, which describes its music as “aggressive elevator soul.” Although only frontman Cameron Lew was present onstage, he channeled a hardcore Vulfpeck sound. The artist brought out the theatrics, singing into a red cellphone taped to his microphone stand, playing multiple instruments in one song and putting up a PowerPoint presentation to outline what the audience could expect throughout his performance. If fans weren’t already pumped up, they definitely were after this.
While the show was advertised to start at 8 p.m., the opener did not come onstage until 9 p.m. rolled around. The crowd, however, packing the venue completely full, didn’t lose a bit of its energy. When PREP finally strolled onstage, audience members erupted in cheers. PREP’s four-person ensemble expanded to six, including a bassist and a flutist who doubled as a saxophone player.
PREP began with the song “Pressure,” transitioning smoothly into “Cold Fire.” Havelock, wearing an oversized polo and a baseball hat, danced around the stage while delivering soothing vocals. The environment mimicked a more lively version of an easy-listening lounge. Every time the saxophone rang through the venue, the crowd roared with amusement.
Havelock announced that this was the band’s first time in San Francisco. PREP’s new label is housed in the city, so the band took the opportunity to thank listeners and managers alike for the opportunity to play on the West Coast. The group then launched into its next few songs, including the jazzy number “Love Breaks Down.” Afterward, the band announced that it would be playing a new song, one that fans should keep an eye out for on its upcoming new album.
Jambel banged away at the drums with immense power while Myrddin played calculated synth riffs. Fans couldn’t help but dance along to the music, and many constantly filmed the show — Havelock even stooped down to sing into various cellphones and, surprisingly, camcorders.
PREP appropriately ended its main set with its biggest hit, “Cheapest Flight.” Havelock wasn’t alone when he sang, “I’ll take one more sleepless night/ Then book the cheapest flight.” Fans knew all the lyrics and were belting them out loudly, off-key and without any shame. But, as expected, the group left the stage for a brief moment and came back out blazing with the encore, “Who’s Got You Singing Again.” It was a perfect note to end the night on.
With PREP’s smooth, futuristic music and incorporation of electronica coupled with soft sounds brought straight from the 1970s, it’s clear why the show was such a hit. If anything, the night could have used more saxophone.
PREP’s tight-knit, dedicated fanbase made the show all the more enjoyable, with audience members constantly expressing their love for the band. There’s no doubt that PREP will be returning to San Francisco in the near future, and when the band does, the city will be waiting with open arms.
Highlights: “Love Breaks Down,” “Rachel,” “Cheapest Flight”
Pooja Bale covers music. Contact her at [email protected].