Showtime: The FRIENDS W/O BENEFITS experience
article by Ben Einstein photo by: Stefan Aronsen Full disclosure - I know the guys in Friends w/o Benefits. Cadet Edac and White Trash Ninja (both men with no need for real names) are good people who are serious about promoting the SF music scene. So it was with great excitement that I entered the Brick & Mortar Music Hall - and I'll do my best to paint as clear a picture I can of April 23rds show.
The first thing you'll notice about Cadet Edac is his white mask covered in graffiti scrawl. Part space-pilot and part lucha libre, his mask signifies all that his person cannot: a larger than life, performance-minded, entertaining character.
Cadet's beaming face - mask and all - was the first thing I saw as I approached the door on Wednesday night and readied myself for A Sonic Smackdown: which promised to be an extra-fun evening of live music featuring Rabbit Quinn, Friends Without Benefits, and KnightressM1.
The trio - composed of cellist Natasha Littlewood, percussionist Beth Wiesendanger, and pianist/vocalist Rabbit Quinn, filled the air with music just after 9pm. Rabbit interwove personal anecdotes about love and loss with intricate piano playing and an intense singing style found only in the most stirring of musical-theater performances. Beth's performance truly embodies a 'less is more' approach to percussion, while Natasha deftly bridged the low-end gap between Beth's subtle drumming and Rabbit's complex piano playing.
The Rabbit Quinn trio worked well at the Brick & Mortar Music Hall, but I could just as easily see them performing a house concert in a basement or bedroom, where the depth of Rabbit's lyricism can be both understood and felt. Comparisons to Tori Amos are Fiona Apple are warranted and deserved - a strong performance! Check out their music at Rabbitquinn.com
Friends without Benefits were up next. They bill themselves as a performance band, occupying a space somewhere between a snottty attitude-laden Mark, Tom, and Travis Show era Blink 182 and a Triple H vs Mankind WWE wrestling spectacle. While no chairs were bashed over anyone's heads, there was a mighty mean mosh pit and a serious amount of dancing during their set. Utilizing blazing pop/punk electric guitar work, frenetic drumming, and instrument switching every 3 to 4 songs (Ninja would play guitar, Cadet would play drums, then they'd switch), Friends without Benefits promised and delivered a show was a lot a lot a lot of fun.
Probably the funniest part of the night: In addition to checking everybody's IDs, the security guy asked every attendee (per the request of Fw/oB) to write down one song or artist they would wish to hear covered by the band. Those names went into a hat, and that hat made its way on stage, and halfway through the Friends w/o Benefits set, they drew a name.
Without giving too much away, let's just say we "Crocodile Rocked" around the clock... well ok that's probably giving too much away. Fuck it. Kudos fellas, the joke was on us all along.
In sparkly blue short-shorts, singer/violinist Emily Palen is probably used to wearing the weirdest outfit in the room. But last night, her superhero getup seemed perfectly natural after our masked mustachios from Friends without Benefits left the stage.
Emily's band, following her lead, blitzed through a brash set that combined elements of goth rock and shoegaze, below a sequenced synthesized atmosphere and an intense distorted effected violin.
And that was the show! Costumes, shenanigans, and genuine good music.
So Why IheartSFbands.com?
This website was started for reasons yet unclear to me - but if I had to guess, it would be to promote awesome shows in the Bay Area and support independent musicians who are doing the difficult thing that is playing a well-attended, fun-had-by-all local concert.
So if you didn't make it to Wednesday's Sonic Smackdown, I hate to break the news, but ya blew it. Wait.. #yablewit - there ya go. But it's ok, don't worry. That's the beauty of live music - there's always ANOTHER SHOW to see. Another time to sit inside a musician's storytelling mind, or rock out, or gaze-in-awe at somebody playing the shit out of their instrument, or dance your ass off.
So tell me, which show are you going to next week?