Concert at Bottom of The Hill: Pentimiento, Dads, and Reggie and The Full Effect
by Meagan Faller
As part of the “No Country for Old Musicians” tour, Reggie and The Full Effect headlined at the tucked-away San Francisco venue, Bottom of The Hill. It was my first time in the venue, my second time in San Francisco and one of my first experiences with emo music, and the scene in general.
It was a sold out show. The relatively small but cosy venue was packed shoulder to tattooed shoulder with kids sporting lips rings and reeking of dark sentiment. Two people behind me were excitedly talking about how they were big fans of Dads, and bought the album American Radass on vinyl. The space felt familiar, a black and white film was being screened silently on a television set. There were christmas lights strung up and the stage was lit in green. It had a creepy-cool, house from Beetlejuice feel.
Pentimiento, self described as “punk rock” and hailing from Buffalo, gave an enthused performance, despite the crowd. The audience was busy chatting, dancing and launching stage dives, barely recognizing the band playing on stage. “She’s having fun, and that’s all that matters” said the lead singer when an audience member climbed onto the stage and jumped off. They were kind of what you’d expect of a less well-known punk act: a lead singer who looked vaguely like Pete Wentz, a lot of arm and neck tattoos, a kind of nasally whine and tweenage mentality prevailing through the vocals. They weren’t bad; they also weren’t groundbreaking.
Then Dads came on stage, and gave the most developed performance of the night. The band is set up pretty minimally, with one drummer and one guitarist. Their style is simple and evocative; best exemplified in the song “Crass Patch.” It has an unalloyed, atmospheric backing that complements the weighty lyrics, passionately sung by John Bradley “be the newest widow’s still-worn wedding ring/ be a picture of autumn on the first day of spring.” Some people in the audience were thoroughly enjoying the music, but most of the crowd was waiting impatiently for the headliner, and got through the set with a lot of jocular comments and general disinterest.
When Reggie and The Full Effect came onstage, the change was instant. The audience stopped being interested in their own antics and focused on the band. The enthusiasm was tangible in the tight-knit space. James Dewees, the frontman, was charming and eclectic. He compared his fans to oral surgeons and it was hilarious. He played a mean set, complete with cowboy hats and a chicken mask. He was so folky and brimming with energy, it was impossible to dislike him. He said things like “real rock is coming back” and then played owl-city-sounding tunes on a synthesizer.
I don’t know if this music is considered good, I don’t know how I felt about the kids with 9mm plugs moshing with desperation around me. I do know that when I looked up and James Dewees had his chicken mask on, I screamed with laughter. It was definitely the most fun I’ve had at a concert, with none of the stiff-lipped aloofness that accompanies other indie performances.