Noise Pop REVIEW: Albert Hammond Jr concludes another chapter at the Independent

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SAN FRANCISCO — It’s been a busy 12 months for Albert Hammond Jr, who began last March by releasing his fourth LP, Francis Trouble, and ended February with a Wednesday Noise Pop Music Festival concert at the Independent.

Backed by a crisp four-member band, the Strokes guitarist felt loose and looked like he was having fun at the show, which was packed so tight that concertgoers seemingly had to climb the walls to find space. The band took the stage to audio of an overzealous TV preacher, after which the band leader took a moment to acknowledge fans, perhaps surprised at the turnout. The band then kicked into “DvsL,” from the last album. The song, which shares a rhythm section pretty close to Jet’s “Are You Gonna Be My Girl,” was one of eight or nine from Francis Trouble. Hammond may be getting ready to turn the page, but the set didn’t reflect this.

By the end of the first song, Albert Hammond Jr was already on his knees, swinging his microphone by its cable. This was a sign that it was to be a nonstop energetic night. In fact, new mid-tempo single “Fast Times” was the closest he would come to a ballad. The band followed four-on-the-floor pop banger “Rude Customer” with the crunchy guitar tones of “Caught by My Shadow,” after which Hammond took off his shiny jacket to reveal a sleeveless The Clash T-shirt. A little later in the set, the aggressive tones of “Harder Harder Harder” very much carried a “London Calling” vibe.

Albert Hammond Jr, The Strokes

Albert Hammond Jr performs during Noise Pop Music Fest at the Independent in San Francisco on Feb. 27, 2019.

While his mid-song banter didn’t rise above fan acknowledgements, he took a minute to talk about his past year. It was bittersweet to conclude the cycle for his last album. He didn’t settle on the moment, and the band was quickly launching into power pop cut “Far Away Truths,” which had the room singing along. Hammond assumed a rock star pose, leaning over the crowd from the stage. On the next song, “Side Boob,” he jumped into the crowd, microphone cable in tow, singing and dancing with fans.

There were a couple of spots throughout the show where songs blended into one another and could have benefited from some variety. Luckily, whenever a mid-tempo garage song like “Rocky’s Late Night” got a tad repetitive, it would be followed by something different, like post-rock jam “Holiday,” off 2006 album Yours to Keep.

Hammond’s touring partners In The Valley Below preceded him with a 30-minute set. The L.A. band—vocalist-bassist Angela Gail Mattson, guitarist-vocalist Jeffrey Jacob Mendel and a touring drummer—was dressed like late ’70s-era Fleetwood Mac. Mendel wore a white suit while Mattson wore a white billow blouse under a shiny black vest and skirt. The band kicked things off with anthemic rocker “Stand Up,” off 2014’s The Belt. The song was punctuated with some flat chimes or maybe a cowbell—it was a backing track, so it was hard to tell. But on “Searching For A Devil,” from the same album, Mattson shook a heavy fat chain as accompaniment. The slow-burner eventually heated up for an exciting conclusion.

“Pink Chateau,” from 2017 EP Elephant, meanwhile, was funkier and less folky than other material. In The Valley Below then played a song that had been released all of half a day. “Rise” was more downcast and ethereal, but it helped shake up the pace of the show. The trio followed that with Elephant track “Hold on Tight,” which began similarly but built on a terrific guitar solo that eventually turned into a screech. The tail end of the set included catchy pop tunes “Peaches” and “Neverminders.”

San Francisco garage rock band The She’s opened the concert with a mood-setting set of crunchy riffs. Singer-guitarist Eva Treadway said she and her bandmates were under the weather.

“Nothing really helps with that, besides adrenaline of playing music,” she said. The performance included distortion-tinged pop songs like “Heartache,” a ’60s era doo-wop jam, off-kilter minor-key rocker “Ashes” and the upbeat, noisy “Cherry Red.”

Between songs the women carried on a casual conversation about the return of Treadway, who had been touring with her other band, Pllush, and polled fans about setlist choices.

This story was changed to include the correct name of Eva Treadway’s other band, Pllush.

Follow editor Roman Gokhman at Twitter.com/RomiTheWriter

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