The venue: Slims, 333 11th Street; San Francisco, CA. A small and intimate crowd has gathered outside . . .
Around 8 o'clock, the doors open, and the first few people lining the sidewalk of the small San Francisco venue, Slim's, make their way in. An hour later, a strange, and unmentioned band opens; my only comments on this band being the resemblance they bear to the idiosyncratic tunes of the B-52's. Following, Rasputina take the stage 30 minutes later, with the sounds of a cello trio, and drummer solo. In short, their performance was incredibly convincing: the 'classically romantic' Rasputina set out to show that the traditional boundaries and rules that separate our modern day rock-and-roll music and the scores and movements of classical symphony and orchestra, were occasionally meant to be broken -- that they certainly proved tonight. The lead singer also added an interesting dimension during their leg of the show by throwing in odd conversational tidbits in-between songs; some odd jokes of 'Uranus,' 'Walmart,' and 'feces' somehow made it into their segue performance.
A half hour later, the lights would dim again, and the viewscreen curtain rise to reveal Alison Shaw and the rest of the Cranes striding onto stage. Alison is wearing a shimmery black dress with small white dots, Jim in his recognizable fuzzy black hat, Mark with his long dreads, and Manu just the opposite. And with a strum, the Cranes begin their performance with 'Everywhere'.
Unfortunately, early in the show, technical problems began to arise, and for the most part, continued throughout the show. Every time Ali would hit that note, feedback would squeal in response. In good spirit, though, Ali doesn't seem to mind too much, and the crowd totally oblivious to such a minor triviality next to the awesome sounds of the band. And the sound of the music itself -- loud and powerful. The crowd responded very well to this high energy circulating throughout the band's performance, and subsequently, it wasn't quite all that unexpected that 'Starblood' should be on the minds and audible requests thrown out in desperation between every song -- after the second or third vote for 'Starblood' the consensus finally became clear: those early days of raw, and uninhibited smashing rhythms that had come to characterize the music of the cranes was being demanded. Shouts for 'Starblood' between 'Jewel' and shouts for 'Starblood' between 'E.G. Shining' and 'Breeze,' and still more between songs further down the playlist. Uncertain if the request would be satisfied, the Cranes continued to play their music strong and loud.
At the end of the set, and after much cheering and praise, the Cranes came on for their encore performance. 'Tangled Up' was beautifully played, and the lighting accompanying the performance was stunning. Subtle and short flashes of light would fade in and out as Ali would strum her guitar, her expression lost in the melody of the tune. 'Adoration,' a classic from 'Wings of Joy', and even though not the track so heavily requested tonight from that album, the crowd managed to relish every moment nonetheless. The last song was 'Lilies.' Personally, I had always wondered how Ali would sing this song live, and in seeing it for myself live in performance for the first time, I can describe as nothing short of amazing. Ali really does seem to get into her songs, and the joviality of a heartfelt performance glowed through her bouncy physical demeanor, longing facial expressions, and glowing smiles and glances to brother Jim and the crowds ahead.
Again, an enthusiastic and cheerful crowd managed to draw yet another encore from the cranes. A song I was not familiar with was played (very loud, and much like lilies except more guitar layered; I believe it was the real 'Lemon Tree') and then, after that was . . . STARBLOOD. The crowd went crazy as the synthesizer began to play the familiar tune, and the beat of a stomping drum line slammed in rhythm. And appropriately enough, the crowd was not the only one's out to see 'Starblood' deliver a grand finale performance. Mark showed his enthusiasm when I he got his 'monkey wrench' out, and began to jab away at his guitar . . . the night finally coming to a close as Mark would leave his bass jammed in a distortion loop of bass . . . but not before he would take out at least two of his strings (and possibly more, I am not certain), in slamming that guitar away with the metal wrench. In addition to Mark's odd use of the 'monkey wrench' to achieve interesting guitar tones, Jim also had employed the use of one envelope opener during 'Sweet Unknown' earlier in the set that night.
All in all, the performance was incredible, and the band members themselves extremely engaging. At one time, Jim even obliged a fan in the audience by taking her camera, and taking a shot of Alison while she played 'Tangled Up' during the encore. Alison herself shook an audience member's hand during the show, and Mark had an interesting conversation with a fan/friend member as well; this show was definitely a lot of fun, the audience clearly had an incredible time, and I would like to think that the Cranes did as well.