Crumb offers melodic genius at The Warfield

Photo of Crumb at their SF concert
Brianna Luna/Senior Staff

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The Warfield, in all its early 20th-century glory, proves as a worthy stage for any act that enters its ornate hallowed halls. On Nov. 13, the punchy beats from psychedelic dream pop group Crumb reverberated around the muraled Roro-esque ceiling and Hellenistic-inspired stone additives. Preparing for an evening with the legendary Chicano Batman, Crumb set the tone of the night by introducing the audience to inspiring tracks off its new album, Ice Melt.

Crumb’s 13-piece set charmed with contrasting styles and tempos, the group melting loose jazz with vibrant cadences that enlivened even their slower ballads. The Brooklyn-based band showcased intoxicating vocals from Lila Ramani, supported by Jesse Brotter on bass, Bri Aronow on keys and saxophone, and Jonathan Gilad on drums. Each artist gifted the crowd with high energy, surprisingly so, considering the show serves as one of the final legs of Crumb’s American tour before departing for Europe.

Ramani’s unique vocals have the tendency to create a mesmerizing, melodic sound when heard through headphones or over a car speaker system. For Saturday’s show, Ramani delivered the same high-quality sound, but with an incredible intentionality of varying style. The group started out with “Seeds” and “BNR” from its new project, in which Ramani tackled longer notes with a hypnotizing enrapturement. At times, Ramani would crouch down and hunch over her guitar, a ball of brightly colored green pants, before jumping up sporadically with each beat drop.

Crumb debuted many songs from Ice Melt, which the crowd ate up with great enthusiasm. The audience buzzed with anticipation for Chicano Batman, but a few ecstatic fans punctuated the swaying, mellow crowd. The band’s signature intros to tracks such as “Ghostride,” however, sent the hall into a state of titillation, with the electric excitement from the stage sending shockwaves out. Energy remained high through the band’s varying instrumentation. During some tracks, as seen with “Balloon,” Gilad’s snare enunciated each line and guided the group toward a faster tempo. Yet, the tempo changes seemed not fully executed, as a slight drag lingered between the drum and bass. 

A true standout of the evening was any moment Aronow picked up their saxophone, leaving the semi-shielded keyboard behind, as its lid in part hid the musician from half the crowd. While the notes from Aronow clearly saturated the venue, however, a lack of spotlight didn’t detract attention from the artist. Throughout the night, there was always a slight delay between Aronow emerging from the keys for sax solos and the crowd responding in full romping regalia.

While the performance could have been marked with better focus lighting, looming metal flowers worked well with the band’s instruments, each surface trading reflective flashes. The sculptures literally bloomed with motion, slowly extending petals as the set progressed. This alternative to any backing graphics or light show acted as a welcome surprise, and didn’t distract from Crumb’s overall strong set.

Distraction did manifest in the security personnel who defended the entrance to the pit, which was flanked by levels of riser platforms to give multiple vantage points for the crowd. Although the security’s presence showed great respect for both the crowd and artists, each track’s performance was marked with loud conversations banning access.

Toward the end of the set, Ramani rested on a chair that was already set up on stage, adding an alternative element to the already bright set. Crumb finished out the evening with three back-to-back signature bangers: “Bones,” “Locket” and “Nina,” which offered nearly 15 minutes of fan favorites. The pit became alive with movement, which lasted long after the group left the stage with waving hands and kisses blown over the crowd.

Contact Francesca Hodges at [email protected]. Tweet her at @fh0dges.