OAKLAND — Artists visiting the Bay Area can add a notch to their belts when they can fill venues in multiple cities on the same trip. So it was for New York sibling pop-funk band Lawrence Sunday at the New Parish, which was packed two nights after Lawrence sold out the Independent in San Francisco.
Gracie and Clyde Lawrence, and their six bandmates, released their sophomore LP, Living Room, last month. So the night was full of new material, starting with album opener “More” and transitioning into a definitive party anthem for the retro crowd, “Limbo.” Easy-flowing groove “Probably Up” came next, which allowed Clyde Lawrence, a keyboardist, to stretch out a bit on his instrument. The band then performed a jazzy cover of “Que Será, Será (Whatever Will Be, Will Be)” and the funky, syncopated new track “Friend or Enemy.” By the time they played a cover of Sean Paul’s “Get Busy” (which also went over like gangbusters at Outside Lands two summers ago), the band’s brass section was well-warmed up for its breakdown section.
At that point the set slingshotted between extremes, going from traditional ballad “Too Easy” to “The Heartburn Song.”
“Gonna be just fine!” Gracie Lawrence belted out on the latter funky track with a voice built for Motown and lounge. The lamenting “Oh No” followed, with her wails at the end tingling at least a few spines. Gracie Lawrence’s vocals carried the song into the explosive and accusatory “Whoever You Are.”
The latter part of the set contained the band’s older material, including “Shot,” “Do You Wanna Do Nothing With Me?” and “Alibi.”
Two other retro-modern standouts preceded Lawrence.
Jacob Jeffries and his band were so ingrained in ‘mid-’70s pop that they could have stepped in for Wings, and they constantly sounded like they were about to kickstart into “Benny and the Jets” or a Jackson Browne tune.
Jeffries’ songs were exactly as he would go on to describe them later in the set: “good old fashioned piano rock and roll.” Between songs like ‘Whatever It Takes,” “Count Me Out” and “Highest Bidder,” the singer-keyboardist told jokes and conversed with fans, who he noted were more attentive than usual. The latter song had four-part harmonies and a rollicking beat. Another song made you want to tap your foot, but the time signature was complicated enough to make that difficult.
Jeffries was followed by Joe Hertler & the Rainbow Seekers, who appeared to be from another time altogether. The mid-Michigan band has a look that accentuates its style. Frontman Hertler wore shorts and a sort of half-cape made from overlapping cloth tiles that made him look like a tropical bird. The rest of the band also wore some rainbow colors. While set opener “Underwater” sounded like something The Head and the Heart might play, the rest of their set took a more hippie and psychedelic approach—funk by way of Grouplove.
Each musician on stage had a unique look; none more noticeable than the flutist-saxophonist, who wore a silky robe, and at one point put down both instruments to instead play with a pair of large sunflower heads. During the third track, “American Color,” someone unloaded a few handfuls of blown-up lighted balloons, which worked all too well along with the song’s poppy melodies.
During “Old Love,” Hertler kicked off his shoes, took a fake rose nearly half his size and proceeded to dance with it. His band concluded with the cathartic release of “Death, Don’t Worry.”