If the only time someone has seen San Francisco’s Midi Matilda was at last year’s Live 105 BFD, when the guitar and drums synth-pop duo struggled with gear malfunctions through the first half of a short set to a dwindling crowd, that person would have a very wrong estimation of what it was capable of.
Friday night at Rickshaw Stop, Skyler Kilborn and Logan Grime fully entertained a sold-out house, introduced several new songs and paid tribute, once again, to former manager Steve Brodsky, who passed away too soon, recently, after a brief fight with cancer.
“This show is because of him,” Kilborn said. Yet the performance didn’t at all feel like a memorial, but a dance party, which got started with opening trio OONA and Los Angeles quartet Holychild.
Midi Matilda’s set began with a Grime tribal-esque drum solo on a stationary tom in the middle of the dance floor and quickly moved back onto the stage for the rest of the 50-minute-long set that included a cover of the Temptations’ “Just My Imagination.” The two played fast and furious.
The duo’s appearance – Kilborn’s early ‘80s new romancer outfit coupled with Grime’s never-ending movement and a mop of hair that had a mind of its own, resembling Animal from The Muppets – presented an interesting dynamic.
Halfway through, the set took on the air of a victory lap, of sorts.
“We’ve travelled a lot recently around the country, but this is home,” Grime declared.
OONA, meanwhile, should really be at the top of a bill at local venues.
The band, consisting of Oakland singer-songwriter Oona Garthwaite and producer-drummer Dave Tweedie, as well performing guitarist Chris Carrington, makes the kind of fun pop that’s meant to be played on the radio.
Garthwaite’s voice and vocal tone ranges from sandy to gravelly, and allows her to decide just how much roughness she wants to throw in. And it’s on the choruses that her strength shines brightest, because when she truly belts out a line, it captures your attention.
She’s also got the stage presence of a young Shirley Manson, working both sides of the platform, imploring the crowd to “dance with me,” hugging girls in the front row, singing directly at individuals and offering, if not the shirt off her back, at least…“Let’s see, what can I give you? A pick? OK.”
OONA’s set, which consisted mainly of tracks from new EP Flying at the Sun, and some older tunes, also included the Police’s “Message in a Bottle.”
In fact, all three acts threw in a retro cover. For Holychild, it was 4 Non Blondes’ 1993 hit, “What’s Up.” The fun, downward spiraling chord progression made the song their own, and the highlight of the set.
This female-fronted quartet shifted from Afropop, to synth-pop, and to ‘70s-influenced sleaze rock. An extra element was added when the keyboardist shifted to extra percussion, in the form of cowbell and woodblock, which created a vaguely Latin feel.