Blink and you’ll miss it: Behind the closed doors of the humble Rickshaw Stop on March 4, up-and-coming indie-pop band Valley electrified the night with a triumphant, hourlong set of fresh nostalgia and feel-good heartbreak.
With roots in Toronto, Valley came a long way from home to stop at San Francisco for the band’s debut U.S. headlining “I’ll Be With You” tour. Having opened for indie bands The Band Camino and COIN in recent years, Valley’s strides have since become formidably euphoric, making any stage seem like the band’s hometown.
Valley’s traveling good-luck charm, a tiny stuffed monkey, looked over the waiting crowd from its perch on the keyboard. Retro, punky midcentury videos projected onto the venue’s back wall to 2000s pop punk. The mood of the night was set: nostalgia galore.
As the pop-punk tracks hushed in time with the dimming lights, the slow and earnest opening chords of “Last Birthday” flooded the room. The crowd tremored with anticipation when lead vocalist Rob Laska started to sing but was nowhere to be seen. Suspense then unfurled with sweet release in the first verse as the band burst onto the stage.
“I’ll be with you on your last birthday,” sang Laska — and he meant it too. Laska, drummer and vocalist Karah James, bassist Alex DiMauro and guitarist Mickey Brandolino all wore broad, unshakable grins. The four-digit force of indie-pop reckoning didn’t just passively perform but serenaded every single person in the room.
“We’re glad to be back, San Francisco!” Laska exclaimed with a warmness reserved for the best of friends, as if everybody in the room knew each other from way back when.
Paying odes to the past, Valley shuffled the set with older crowd favorites. Improvised riffs exhilarated “Nevermind” as Laska overtook DiMauro’s soundboard during the bridge. Red lights flashed and upbeat electro synths reverberated, the crowd completely roused for the final chorus.
During “Oh S—…Are We In Love?”, Laska leaped and danced to the addictive hook while lights bathed the room in vibrant reds, blues and greens. The band’s sheer, infectious excitement saturated the stage, making each song a delight and a half.
Though Valley isn’t one to crowd-surf, the band deftly rode the spirit of the audience like a riptide. Alternating from its buoyant, sanguine tracks to its gentler, melancholic tunes, Valley’s concert invigorated as an earnest celebration of life and its heartbreaks. It was clear that Valley wanted to make its performance unforgettable: Laska ceaselessly engaged with the crowd, directing verses to individual fans and taking videos on their phones.
In another spontaneously intimate moment, a fan shouted, “Can you sing for my dad? It’s his birthday!” Laska laughed, “F— it! Why not?” What ensued was a gloriously fun serenade by Valley to a smiling fan named Peter. Everybody seemed to glow in that moment, warmed by the band’s affection.
Hungry for more, the band’s encore break didn’t seem to last very long. The crowd’s chorus of “One more song!” lasted about a minute before Valley reclaimed the stage with “There’s Still A Light In The House.” The juxtaposition between the song’s kinetic melody and heart-touching lyrics made for what was arguably the band’s most moving performance of the night. Diverting from the original line calling out New York, Laska sang “Is this San Francisco or heaven?” with a knowing smile on his face.
Bidding Rickshaw Stop goodbye, Valley closed with viral TikTok single “Like 1999,” the band’s signature fresh take on nostalgia and yearning for simpler times where people were “parked in a Pontiac, making out, no internet.” Though the live rendition started slow and stripped, the track’s second half reintroduced the song’s original bassline, the audience belting the chorus by heart and dancing to what is now an anthem.
In its one-way flight to pop stardom, the band knows to stay grounded. As Valley’s San Francisco stop in the “I’ll Be With You” tour reached its decadent denouement, all four members faced the crowd and took deep bows, practically bursting at the seams with pride and gratitude. It was this genuine moment of connection that confirmed Valley’s promise: Its music will be with you, always.