It was a warm Monday evening in SF. I walked into The Grand, which was surprisingly empty. I thought this show might fit well as a finale to Pride Weekend.
Ayria is on stage, flanked by a drummer (turned sideways and tucked in the corner) and a laptop guy (who as my friend pointed out, was surprisingly using a Dell- GASP!). Their music is light industrial with somewhat ethereal vocals that occasionally meander into a rap. The singer, in blonde pigtails and Hot Topic, is bubbly, bouncing around the stage like a goth cheerleader. It was just way too cheesy for me. Especially one of her final songs, where she does a lot of counting…I was seriously expecting a toe touch to make its way in there.
As soon as War Tapes hit the stage, I remembered someone recommending them to me a year or so ago. They are a doom/goth pop 4 piece from LA. I immediately remembered why I couldn’t get into them- the singer’s voice. It feels fake, and like it’s on its way to going out of tune. His stage presence also really bugged me- between songs at least three times he would repeatedly shout “are you ready for VNV Nation!”, and then talk about how amazing the crowd was (that was slightly bigger than when I walked in, but not very active or enthusiastic). Then he did what looked like a failed stage dive. The drummer and guitarist were ok, the female bassist looked bored. I was on the verge of liking some of the songs, but never quite made it there.
VNV Nation has a dramatic entrance with a video screen spewing positive propaganda. I mean, the group has a motto and it’s ‘One should strive to achieve; not sit in bitter regret’. I think the majority of the music I listen to is about sitting in bitter regret, but anyway…
The crowd has now filled out the room. It’s uber goth- platform boots, black black black, corsets of unusual size, guyliner, and a surprising number of VNV Nation branded shirts. But the weird thing about the crowd is this: they are all smiling! I am not familiar with this breed of smiling goths. Where do they come from? What do they eat? How do they spend their daylight hours?
Frontman Ronan Harris is quite a character. He loves to talk, taking intermissions between songs that are almost as long as the songs themselves. Throughout the evening, he did things like gather all the bald men that resembled him near the stage and took a picture with them, let a young attendee sit on the corner of the stage out of harm’s way, and called security multiple times to diffuse people who were trying to start moshing (and I mean really, who moshes to this???). He does a funny speed walk skip thing when he sings. He spoke of letting go of anything bothering you to enjoy the show, and of living drug free…it was all a bit confusing for me. But it was kinda nice- I wanted to hug him by the end.
There are a few tracks of theirs that get me dancing a bit, but they always lighten up. I prefer harder/darker/faster; VNV goes into rave space. It’s not bad- in fact they put on a very good, entertaining and personable show- it just doesn’t ring my music bell.
San Francisco loves VNV, and they love San Francisco back. After a double encore, neither the band nor the audience wanted to leave. And by the time we did go, it was a cold night in SF.
VNV’s lighting and my camera were not friends:
The crowd busting out lighters for a VNV style ballad:
To the girl who stood near me and continued to emit that terrible sound (imagine a yodeling goat being slaughtered), please don’t ever do that again. You owe me a bottle of Advil.