Bimbo’s 365 Club, San Francisco, CA | Under the Radar - Music Magazine

Camera Obscura, Portastatic

Bimbo’s 365 Club, San Francisco, CA, February 15th, 2007

Feb 16, 2007 Photography by Wendy Lynch Web Exclusive
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Following a post-work Guinness, I began walking from the Financial District to North Beach to meet up with some friends and my wife before the show. Before I had a chance to throw my iPod on, I got a call from my best friend LL. He was calling to help me plan my impending move to Albuquerque, New Mexico in May (let’s get out of the this state). I got completely distracted talking to him and ended up at Sansome and Greenwich—the opposite site of Coit Tower that I needed to be—which meant lots of steps to get over the hill. Still, it was a beautiful, warm night and when I got to the base of the monument, I had a fantastic view of both bridges, the San Francisco skyline, and the East Bay hills. I will miss living here.

After my impromptu urban hike I hooked up with DB and JP for a beer before heading inside Bimbo’s, one of the most attractive and dialed-for-sound clubs in the Bay Area. I ran into a few more friends at the bar before finally going into the main room to catch half of Portastatic’s set.

Another band whose name I have been hearing for years but know nothing about, Portastatic (for this tour anyway) is Mac McCaughan, of Superchunk and Merge Records (Camera Obscura’s label), and violinist Margaret White. Mac played some genuinely charming songs on acoustic guitar while Margaret switched between violin, hand percussion, and a Casio SK-1. “I Wanna Know Girls” was one song in particular that will encourage me to look further into the band’s catalog.

After their set, my wife called and I went outside to give her a ticket while JP hit the bar for more beers and DB held down our rock territory. JP and I have it easy—we are both giants and always have the best spot in the house no matter where we are. But throw our ladies into the mix (both shorts, bless their hearts) and we have a conflicted situation. We need to be close enough for them to see, but it’s difficult to be in the throng when you block everyone’s view. We ended up good and close, off to the right. Interesting stuff, huh?

Camera Obscura took the stage shortly; pale northern skin glaring in the stage lights, dour looks all around. Not unfriendly, just…Scottish. They opened with “Dory Previn.” Stripped down and sparse, the song settled the crowd and shut up the talkers. Throughout the night, eyes were locked on Tracyanne Campbell, and although she maintained an unyielding straight face the entire show, the moments she actually did smile sent a ripple through the crowd.

This is an interesting phenomenon I’ve noticed in several Scottish bands: complete lack of emotion on the faces of musicians playing incredibly expressive music. The guitar player in my band is a Scot and while he is charming, funny, and smiles a lot off stage, when performing he used to become a rock. He’s loosened up over the years, but early on…

Anyway, Camera Obscura continued on with hit after hit. While Let’s Get Out of This Country is tremendously enchanting, I can’t say that I was into them until I heard it, and going back over the previous two albums I don’t find much to love. Sure, several really good songs, but nothing really blows me away like the latest album. Not so live. Old songs fit right in with the new songs and I enjoyed every single one of them. They played “The False Contender,” “Come Back Margaret,” “If Looks Could Kill,” “Eighties Fan,” “Suspended From Class,” and, of course, the title track and “Lloyd, I'm Ready to Be Heartbroken,” both two of my favorite songs from 2006. Quite a captivating live band and the perfect venue for them.

My wife and I left before the encore (let’s get out of this club), but my friend MK informs me that they played a Sheena Easton cover and “Razzle Dazzle Rose,” ending the set just as it does the album, with a good old-fashioned noisefest.

www.camera-obscura.net
www.portastatic.com
www.bimbos365club.com

 

Author rating: 8/10




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F1 Fan Club
October 5th 2010
9:03am

I also agree with the statement that this is an interesting phenomenon