Monday, April 2, 2007

Band Review: Rubies and Hey Willpower at the Rickshaw Stop, with Erlend Oye!

Friday night some friends and I met up at The Rickshaw Stop on Fell Street to check out The Rubies and Hey Willpower, who put in two great performances that got even the jaded gay DJ bopping along. As an added special bonus, who should we spot in the crowd, and who eventually made his way up onto the stage to perform with The Rubies, but Erlend Oye (Kings of Convenience)?

Early in the evening a friend of ours spotted Oye walking by him at the bar, and a few moments later we looked down on to the dancefloor from our mezzanine perch to spot him grooving along to Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing.” That in itself would have been enough to make the evening memorable, but then the Rubies, a three-piece all-girl power pop band, took to the stage with a drummer backing them up. The Rubies looked fantastic in black dresses with a pinned-on heart and matching black and white scarves, and they played a great set of 80s-inflected synth pop with a 2Ks dance groove. Most impressive was how much they were actually playing with each other – throughout their songs you could see the band members looking over at one another, clearly taking great pleasure in being on the stage together. In the middle of their set Erlend came onstage with a ukulele to sing a delicate duet with lead singer Simone Rubi, though the noise of the room threatened to drown them out at any moment. Check out their myspace page for some demos of their tracks and be sure to check out the Rubies when they perform next.

Hey Willpower was the headliner for the night and frontman Will Schwartz (formerly of Imperial Teen), along with Tomo (formerly of Tussle!) backing him on laptop and his dancers Justin Kelly and Haley Kaufmann backing him on moves, put in a great performance, but I’m hard pressed to say exactly how musical it was. With all the music being produced digitally, and a strong suspicion that some of his singing was lip-synch, what came across more was Schwartz’s stage charisma, one part Freddie Mercury and another part Madonna. Schwartz's stage presence helped deliver the goods on sexy tracks like "Uh-uh-uh," and he definitely sang on a version of Amy Winehouse’s “Not Going to Rehab" with an enthusiastic singalong accompaniement. The crowd, an electic mix of Mission hipsters and gay boys, with a light sprinkling of 18+s, went absolutely crazy for Hey Willpower, and I expect that if their new album release on Tomlab can capture half the energy of their live show, it will bring them to the forefront of San Francisco’s music scene. Lord knows we could use some of that energy. Check out their myspace page for downloads including a duet version of "Chewing Gum" with Annie (!)

The night was sponsored by local music rag Mesh Magazine, and I hope they will be encouraged enough by the success of the evening to put together some more shows featuring local talent. Maybe next time, though, their photographer will get as many pix of boy-on-boy action as he did of girl-on-girl. Straight guys, I swear.

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