With The Fillmore’s history of hosting legends, it’s no surprise that Valley graced its stage May 20.
Composed of lead vocalist Rob Laska, drummer and vocalist Karah James, bassist Alex DiMauro and guitarist Mickey Brandolino, the band was formed in Toronto, Canada when its members were still in high school. Valley has since paved its way through the indie pop scene and found sure footing on the rise to mainstream fame.
The band’s headlining return to San Francisco celebrated its upcoming album, Lost in Translation, which promises to push its signature pop sound into an edgier, alternative direction. Graduating from its 2021 showing at the Rickshaw Stop, the band’s performance at The Fillmore meant its audience has tripled in size and in spirit. Evidently, Valley’s rousing, dynamic instrumentals paired with earnest lyrics of heartbreak and friendship have only continued to connect with listeners.
Setting the stage was a retro video clip playing from the box televisions flanking both sides. Audrey Hepburn crooned “Moon River” as the crowd craned their necks, intrigued and then excited as the video started to glitch. Clips of the band disrupted “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”, announcing its arrival.
The crowd nudged the barricade as piano chords from “There’s Still A Light In The House” overwhelmed the room, second only to the screams of delight. Valley’s decision to open the show with this iconic number is a significant one — before piercing the mainstream with viral track “Like 1999,” “There’s Still A Light In The House” was Valley’s crowning glory, its sigil encore. By choosing to start with it instead, the band honors the classic while intentionally making room for its newer music to dominate the rest of the set. This — paired with its leather-clad, hair-whipping new look — emphasized that Valley is in its age of disruption.
Marking this season of change, the band took fresh liberties with its arrangements. San Francisco heard DiMauro singing solo for the first time, the bassist helming a verse off the album’s unreleased, titular track “Lost in Translation.” Brandolino also added drumming to his repertoire as he replaced James on the drums in “Champagne.” The band’s unexpected shuffling of its members exhilarated Valley’s dynamic, showing the audience that its commitment to making novel music is far greater than fitting the molds it has created in the past.
While this tour saw a new side of Valley, some things never change — such as Valley’s love for its fans. As Laska sang, he constantly reached over the barricade, working around it to hold hands with the front row. His affinity for intimacy enveloped The Fillmore as he stepped into the crowd for an emotional rendition of “Paper Cup (sorry for myself).”
“Maybe I just need a hug/ if you’re listening to this song, just know you’re my parachute,” sang Laska with his eyes closed, swaying as he hugged a fan. The crowd was hushed with awe to witness Laska’s own love embracing those who loved him.
Speaking on Lost in Translation, Laska revealed that the album has been a long time coming.
“We were like ‘Okay, do we wait to tour it when it comes out?’ But then we just missed you guys so much,” Laska said.
The crowd was filled with Valley fans new and old, evident in their deafening choruses of Valley’s latest releases, such as “Break For You” and “Throwback Tears.”
Valley braved new heights with this tour, including new set pieces and curated props. Renditions of songs new and old saw the height of live production, including a vintage telephone prop that became Laska’s mic and intense, pulsing lights.
Despite the explosiveness of its show, Valley’s set lacked polish between songs. At times, the band struggled to manage a larger set production, fumbling in the awkward, silent darkness for a few beats too many. Luckily, the crowd was forgiving and Valley was deserving of this clemency.
All of San Francisco is a stage for Valley. As the band’s jumping, dancing and laughing slowed to a close, its fans buzzed with anticipation for the new album. Valley’s teasing of unreleased tracks from Lost In Translation was met only with excitement.
Valley has its eyes on a new age. Clearly, change is good — and especially welcomed.