SAN FRANCISCO — Before Calpurnia took The Fillmore stage Saturday night, a small cinema lightbox sat aloof from the instruments. It illuminated the words: “HELLO SF WE ARE CALPURNIA.” An understated touch, the message felt like the calm before the Vancouver band’s thunderous Bay Area debut.
Composed of vocalist-guitarists Finn Wolfhard (of Netflix hit show Stranger Things) and Ayla Tesler-Mabe, bassist Jack Anderson and drummer Malcolm Craig, the quartet opened with 2018 single “Wasting Time.” The jangly rock and roll tune reminisced the bright sound of The Beatles, and like the luminaries, Calpurnia had a hyperactive effect on fans. Many in the crowd cheered endlessly and screamed lyrics word-for-word. Fans in front leaned as far as they could over the barricade, shrinking the gap between the artist and audience.
Mixed into the retro influences were musical flavors unique to the band. “Wasting Time” featured some serious shredding by Tesler-Mabe, adding a static shock to the song’s sunny spirit. The next song, “Greyhound,” opened with shimmering guitar licks that led to Wolfhard singing, “Going to Seattle on the Greyhoud/ I missed school for this.”
Calpurnia’s lyrical anecdotes added a youthful glow—all of the band members are still in high school, after all—to its impressively developed instrumentation. Though the band has only released six-track EP, Scout, it already flaunts a multifaceted sound that is simultaneously nostalgic and refreshed.
Before proceeding with the set, Wolfhard and Anderson asked if anyone was familiar with local landmark Twin Peaks. The entire venue wooed in acknowledgment and Wolfhard prepared to introduce the next song.
“We’re going to get a little Twin Peaks-y in here,” Wolfhard spoke before the band covered “Butterfly,” an upbeat track by Chicago band Twin Peaks. That band’s Cadien Lake James produced Scout.
Calpurnia also played a dreamy new number (so new that it was still untitled) that featured Tesler-Mabe on lead vocals, and then broke into an amped up cover of “Where is My Mind?” by the Pixies.
Leading up to the Pixies homage, Anderson expressed the group’s excitement to play at the monumental San Francisco venue where so many legendary musicians have performed.
“So many amazing musicians have played here like Led Zeppelin, Aretha Franklin—,” Anderson listed.
“And Sonic Youth,” Wolfhard eagerly added.
Calpurnia finished the night with a two-song encore, which started with a cover of The Beatles’ “Don’t Let Me Down.” Wolfhard then invited openers Spendtime Palace and some of the tour crew onstage for final song “City Boy.” While giving each other piggyback rides, twirling around and jumping off the drum platform, Calpurnia and friends closed the show still full of energy.
Spendtime Palace kicked off the show with a set so satisfyingly riveting; it felt like the Southern California surf rockers should have had a show of their own. The band had stage presence and banter on lock, bouncing all over the stage, crowdsurfing and cracking jokes between songs.
“We’re a couple of sarcastic boys from Orange County,” guitarist Elijah Chavis said when introducing the quintet.
Chavis then ran off stage just as the group set up to play a new song. Moments later, he ran back to his spot with a beer in hand.
“The things you do to have a cold one with the boys,” vocalist-guitarist Dan Fowlie said, teasing.
Spendtime Palace’s sound mixed surf rock riffs with distorted vocals a la Julian Casablancas, which set the crowd off into sing-alongs and nonstop dancing. A couple of fan favorites included “Sonora” and “Heart in Threes.”