The excitement in the Great American Music Hall on Saturday night was palpable: young and old voices mingled and floated up into the rafters of the high and decoratively molded ceiling of the historic building. People were clamoring for the start of “It Gets Indie”– a benefit concert in its second year which supports the growth of the local indie music scene in San Francisco while it benefits organizations that are preventing gay teen suicides. The anticipation escalated when 14 year old Noah Hornik– the organizer of the event– took the stage. As any host would, he welcomed everyone to the space and thanked his Bay Area sponsor ask.com before introducing the first act of the tonight: Berkeley’s Local Hero.
Almost immediately, a pack of young girls swarmed to the stage. The initial wave was soon followed by other small clusters, propelled to get up from their seats and dance to the high-energy indie-pop that Local Hero deals so well in. The young, dancing contingency contrasted sharply with an older crowd who remained seated at round tables enclosing the dance floor area: sipping wine and wishing they were young again. The spirit of the night was on full display throughout Local Hero’s performance. The Strokes-infused guitar provided by Alex MacKay got me and the crowd instantly hooked as soon as the first three chords of the opening song– a track on their upcoming album (to be released in August) called “Black And White.” Within a mere minute, feet were shuffling and hands were clapping in rhythm with Leo Grossman’s drums. The harmonies of MacKay and Maya Laner were on full display all evening. So were the catchy bass licks of the always smiling and incredibly animated Max Hirtz-Wolf. Other highlights of the evening were the creative segways into songs and the closing tune– a rendition of “Too Young to Burn” by another Bay Area group Sonny and the Sunsets. The group fell short, however, in capturing the “je ne sais [pas] quoi” of Vampire Weekend’s “Campus,” but it was a commendable effort nonetheless. Local Hero’s live performances never cease to amaze me, and this time was no different.
An unexpected, but welcome, addition to the evening was a musical interlude of sorts provided by Hornik’s older brother Julian. Behind a Nord keyboard center stage, he sang an impressive mix of original material and covers. The original material included a song written for It Gets Better, one of the two non-profits which the evening’s proceeds will benefit, and another song dedicated to one of San Francisco’s most beloved gay rights activists, Harvey Milk.
Princeton took the stage next. The four piece Los Angeles band didn’t elicit the same enthusiastic welcome as the hometown favorites. With little initial interest, and with the crowd being obviously unfamiliar with the band’s music (and therefore skeptical of the band’s name, which makes reference to the street in Santa Monica which the band grew up on together), Princeton had their work cut out for them. The highlights of the performance were the melodic riffs from the keyboard and otherwise solid instrumentation. The vocals from Jesse Kivel fell flat on my ears though: the punch and flare of the recorded vocals was nowhere to be found in the live performance. I left early, disappointed by the overall sound Princeton had to offer. In conversations with people who stayed for the whole performance, I was dismayed to hear the echo of my own thoughts. A failed stunt at the end– which involved bringing two members of the crowd on stage for a song– highlighted the lack of enthusiasm from the crowd. And a passing comment made by one of the members of Princeton to the effect of “At least this was for a good cause” left a bitter taste in some people’s mouths.
Alas, for an event in its second year, there is only hope and excitement for the future incarnations of It Gets Indie. With over 200 in attendance and $10,000+ raised, Hornik was able to accomplish a couple of things simultaneously: give local indie fans a memorable show, offer an opportunity to up and coming acts like Local Hero a stage to build their audience, and most importantly (I think)– raise awareness and funds around the issue of gay teen suicides.