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Indie pop love fest: Rogue Wave’s benefit concert for Pat Spurgeon

Filed under: — adrian @ 11:13 pm

Last night Rogue Wave hosted a benefit concert for Pat Spurgeon, their drummer, who was born with one kidney and now needs a transplat for his now-failing second kidney (the first failed in the early 90s). They are also taking donations at their website so you can donate if you have the means and feel compelled.

When I heard about this two weeks ago from Laura, I was floored by the line up: Rogue Wave, Ben Gibbard (Death Cab for Cutie,) Matthew Caws (Nada Surf,) Ryan Miller (Guster,) and John Vanderslice; it was to be mc-ed by the sometime Magnetic Field (on accordion) Daniel Handler, aka Lemony Snicket. I like or love all of those bands and seeing them on the same bill would be incredible, I thought. It also helped that it was at the fairly intimate and cool Independent in SF.

(Incidentally, benefit concerts are awesome.)

We got to the venue right as it was starting, probably 5 minutes before Daniel came on to introduce the first band, the Wine Chuggers. They played a short set; they played some rock. It was pretty good. Next up were the Moore Brothers. Despite playing down this aspect on stage, they do sound sort of like Simon and Garfunkle. They traded off guitar playing duty and both sang, which brings me to a Rule for Rock Bands (#12): guys need an instrument on stage unless (a) they are backup singers in a soul band, (b) are Bono or Mick Jagger (and honestly, both of them look a bit silly too). It just looks stupid; you don’t know what to do with your hands and then just start doing bad dance moves. I’m sorry, that’s the truth.

I expected the bill to go in exact reverse order (Wine Chuggers, Moore Brothers, Ryan Miller, Matthew Caws, John Vanderslice, Ben Gibbard, Rogue Wave) of billing[1], so I was a bit surprised when my close personal friend [2] and nicest guy in indie rock John Vanderslice[3] came on next. He did a couple nice versions of recent songs solo acoustic (“Trance Manual”, “Angela”, “Radiant with Terror” among them). Then he brought on Ben Gibbard, who looked very English Professor with his glasses, scruffy hair and brown blazer, to play the upright piano on stage right and sing harmonies on an old mk ultra song (I think it was Letting Go). All the hipster were going crazy with the camera phones! Later he brought up 2/3 of Nada Surf (the bass player and the drummer) to act as his backing band on “Pale Horse” and finally the full Nada Surf with Matthew Caws doing harmony vocals on a song. All in all, it was an awesome set from JV.

Up next was Nada Surf whose latest, the Weight is a Gift, I’ve enjoyed a lot. Their basic set up was Matthew Caws on guitars and vocals, the drummer on a cajon box drum and the bass player on the bass (well, mostly on the smoking and drinking, but sometimes on the bass as well). They went through a good set of tunes mostly from their last album, like “Do it Again”, “Your Legs Grow” (see mixtape 1), and a really fun version of the gratuituously expletive-laden “Blankest Year.” (These guys were apparently a one hit wonder in the ’90s, but they didn’t play that song).

And then!! what all the ladies were screaming for: Ben Gibbard (of Death Cab for Cutie and the Postal Service, of course)! He started out on a borrowed guitar[4] playing a version of a Postal Service song, I think “Brand New Colony.” It’s cool to see him do PS songs live on guitar because they sound so different from the recordings. After that he moved over to the piano for a cool, slow, dark version of “Soul Meets Body” and a couple other Death Cab songs, including “Passenger Seat” Again the crazy cross-band collaborations happened with Caws helping out on a Harry Nilsson-penned Monkees number, “Cuddly Toy”. Daniel Handler came out next (insulting the “Cuddly Toy” choice of song, incidentally), to play accordion on a couple song with Ben switching back over to guitar. He finished up his set with “Title and Registration” and a folksy version of “Such Great Heights” (strummed, interestingly enough, because last time I saw him solo he basically did the Iron & Wine version, fingerpicked, even acknowledging that it was a “cover of his own song”.) I was probably about 12 feet from him during the guitar portions of his set (not to be all fan-boy about it) and I can’t imagine with the current stage of things ever having a chance to see him in such an intimate venue or at such a close distance again. I understand backlash toward Death Cab—they’re giant, by indie standards, they’ve jumped ship to a major—but Gibbard put on a thoroughly entertaining set: he was funny, good musicianship, good singing.

At this point, there were actually a bunch of people who left. I understand that Death Cab is a lot more popular than the other bands on the bill, but did you see the rest of the bill? Worth staying for, people.

I’ve talked a lot about music and before I get to Rogue Wave, I’ll talk about other stuff for a bit. There was a lot of talk of Pat’s kidney, Pat, people’s love for Pat. Gibbard referenced Woody Guthrie’s sticker that said “this machine kills facists” and suggested that all the guitars that night should have stickers that said “this machine buys kidneys.” Heck even Pat’s mom was there to talk about Pat’s story and to introduce Rogue Wave. The Small Stakes designed an awesome poster and shirt for the event with all the proceeds going to Pat. You can see the poster and buy it. I got a couple of the posters.

Finally, last up were Rogue Wave. They started out with Zach on the piano for “10:1.” After Zach switched to the guitar they then went into an interesting and not-exactly-like-the-recording cover of “I’m only Sleeping” which was good (an exception to the rule that Beatles covers are overdone and don’t add anything to the song). Around this point they talked about the bill and thanked all the other artists. They joked that they’d opened for all these bands and now they wrangled them into opening for Rogue Wave. They did a nice set of songs off of Descended like Vultures (“Love’s Lost Guarentee”, “Salesmen on the Day of a Parade”, among others) before bringing on Ryan Miller of Guster (whose “Demons” was my obsession song of October 2000) to play guitar on a freak-out jam version of “California.” They joked that he plays to a million people a night and now he was being relegated to playing with them. To finish up the night they brought up everyone that played that night (plus Dominic of Our Lady of the Highway who opened for Zach’s solo gig over the Summer) for a couple covers, the first of which was (What’s so Funny ’bout) Peace Love and Understanding). It was a indie pop style love-in there.

The crowd, I image, had to have gone home happy. An amazing bill with great sets and once-only on-stage collaborations. What more can you ask for?

[1]It all made sense, the strange order of the bill, when I realized later that Nada Surf was opening for Guster that same evening in Berkeley, so they were probably finishing up their sets and rushing over for their sets at the Independent.

[2] not actually. I do like making a big deal out of whatever affiliation I have with JV. During the last song, he saw me out in the audience and pointed out at me. After the show he said that when he saw me he thought “that’s my boy!” He also told a bunch of people around him that I was famous and that I’m rad. I can’t argue there, JV; I can’t argue there.

[3]Dug was complaining on Friday that I write too much on my blog about John Vanderslice (and someone else, I forget who). Well he’s awesome in so many ways it’s rediculous. So sorry, Dug.

[4] One of the cooler things about the show was that it was obvious that all these guys knew each other and were friends. They used each other’s instruments and joked around and gave each other hugs a lot. During the last couple songs with everyone on stage, I’m pretty sure they were having as much or more fun than the audience.

8 Responses to “Indie pop love fest: Rogue Wave’s benefit concert for Pat Spurgeon”

  1. Mie (OLOTH) Says:

    Hi Adrian,
    This is really a great live review! I guess you have captured every little “cool” moment of the night and well-described here. Well, in fact, I wanted to contact you since we (OLOTH) would be happy to share songs from our latest “Kill You With Numbers”. I will send you more information if you can Email me w/your contact info. Thanks!!

  2. adrian is rad » john vanderslice @ stanford’s 750 pub Says:

    […] A couple weeks ago I talked to JV after the Rogue Wave show and since he played on my show we’ve had some rapport. I mentioned that it was cool that he was playing at Stanford and he asked if I wanted to hang out before the show. Well, yes! […]

  3. adrian is rad » good local band: Our Lady of the Highway Says:

    […] In the comments of my Rogue Wave benefit post, Mie from Our Lady of the Highway (who I saw open for Zach Rogue’s solo gig over the summer.) She sent me links to a few songs which I listened to. […]

  4. ipickmynose: an SF-centric indie music blog » nada surf, port o’brien @ swedish american hall Says:

    […] just long enough to get people a little antsy, the Nada Surf guys came onto the stage. I’d seen them in an acoustic set up before but this was a full set whereas that time was it was them front-and-center. From left to right we […]

  5. ipickmynose: an SF-centric indie music blog » nada surf, sea wolf @ the fillmore Says:

    […] the first time I’d see them play as a full rock band–the previous two were acoustic and stripped down and informal for a benefit. During the break I noticed a lot of young adults, so to speak, at the front. As I mentioned […]

  6. ipickmynose: an SF-centric indie music blog » my John Vanderslice interview, full and annotated Says:

    […] it for you. I’m playing two songs for you, my friend. It should be said that Adrian and I see each other at clubs and shows so you have a lot of pull with […]

  7. ipickmynose: an SF-centric indie music blog » SFIFF 2009’s music related offerings Says:

    […] Pat Spurgeon and his struggle to get a new kidney because his was failing. Lots of footage from the amazing benefit show and from Rogue Wave’s D tour (where Pat was on dialysis while on tour with the band). I saw […]

  8. ipickmynose: an SF-centric indie music blog » SFIFF ‘09: D Tour review; Rogue Wave to play after screening May 1 Says:

    […] much of the musical content of the film is from the great Pat Spurgeon benefit concert I went to a couple years back with artists like John Vanderslice, Nada Surf, Ben Gibbard and, of course, […]

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