On Friday, San Francisco’s Bottom of the Hill became a beacon of light for couples and singles alike, attracting those hoping to find a fun way to celebrate Valentine’s Day. As soon as attendees stepped inside the venue, they could immediately tell that the three groups on the lineup would certainly be going all-out. Fans were surely in for a night of dancing, good spirits and spreading love.
Surf punk band SadGirl headlined the spirited event, an annual Valentine’s Day show that features many angry, longing and hopeful songs about love, aptly titled “Heartbreak Club III.” The venue was decked out with red lights, large amounts of holographic streamers, balloons, hearts and more, proudly boasting that Valentine’s Day was no joke here. And while the decorations bordered on being over the top, they foreshadowed that this show wouldn’t be a heartbreaker for those with high expectations.
SadGirl, originally from Los Angeles, is made up of lead singer and guitarist Misha Lindes, bassist Dakota Peterson and drummer David Ruiz. During the show, the band was joined by keyboardist Isaac Plummer and stand-in drummer Christopher Michael. SadGirl’s brand of vintage and vaguely rockabilly punk makes it unique among modern indie bands that claim canned surf punk as their sole sound. And while SadGirl’s studio sound is already as raw as it can get, somehow the live performance added another level of depth and vulnerability.
But before SadGirl serenaded the crowd, the Mutilations from San Leandro, California, and Nobody’s Baby from San Francisco opened with their own retro music. Both bands embodied a 1950s and 1960s garage punk sound in the vein of SadGirl. Together, the groups reinforced the band’s wistful and analog sound, slowly building the audience up to swing with the headliners.
SadGirl didn’t take the stage until 11:30 p.m., but the crowd had been saving up its energy for the band’s appearance, suddenly erupting into dancing, moshing and singing along to the emotionally charged lyrics. Lindes, sporting a new blond hairdo and a white Champion shirt, walked onstage and introduced the band to the ecstatic crowd. The glitter sprinkled across his face was visible from the other side of the room, fitting the decorations perfectly.
The group opened with the first song off of its new album, Water. “The Ocean” was a lulling start to a soon-to-be chaotic show. The band followed “The Ocean” with two more well-known and upbeat songs, “Lie Awake” and “Take Me Home,” which turned the crowd up from a 10 to an 11.
Despite the venue having signs prohibiting crowd surfing and stage diving, members of the audience rode the waves of heads and hands anyway. At times, the cramped floor area became a whirlpool of bodies bumping against each other, jumping around and simply feeling the music surge through them. SadGirl didn’t appear to be fazed, though, looking amusedly at the sea of people as it played on.
Lindes announced that instead of taking a break and coming back for an encore, the band would play straight through to the end, sensing the unyielding energy of the crowd. SadGirl finished with its most famous and expected song, “Breakfast is Over,” ending the show on a more toned-down, nostalgic note. As Lindes delivered the lyrics, “Just please don’t use the same toothbrush as me,” fans matched his power, emphasizing the word “toothbrush” with great intensity. “Happy Valentine’s Day,” Lindes said softly into the mic before the band exited the stage.
With the perfect amount of distortion and fuzzy vocals to evoke the image of a 1950s boy band, SadGirl played a romantic, raw show to its hungry fans. To say the least, it was a Singles Awareness Day to remember, with SadGirl definitely stealing more than a few hearts.
Highlights: “Take Me Home,” “Lie Awake,” “Breakfast is Over,” “Chlorine”
Pooja Bale covers music. Contact her at [email protected].