SAN FRANCISCO — With no hesitation, The World is a Beautiful Place and I Am No Longer Afraid to Die jumped from a quick soundcheck straight into its set at Slim’s Sunday. The sextet started with the whimsical “I’ll Make Everything,” off 2017 LP Always Foreign. Twinkling guitars backed by heavy drumbeats and dreamy keys immediately soaked the room in nostalgia. As vocalist David Bello sang lyrics that searched for optimism, the live instrumentals intensified the tune’s underlying tinge of melancholy.
The World is a Beautiful Place picked up the pace with hearty track “Dillon and Her Son.” Through multipart vocals and colorful riffs, the two-and-a-half-minute banger had the crowd moving every second of the way.
The Connecticut band’s set often weaved between sounds and speeds, which felt like an emulation of the complex emotions evoked by each song. What started softly often built up to whirring, full-band breakdowns, which would eventually settle back down to a hush. “Heartbeat in a Brain” demonstrated this most profoundly, alternating from animated sequences to pensive interludes.
Fuzzy guitar chords broke through the crowd’s cheers and whistles as co-headliners Pianos Become the Teeth began its set. The Baltimore quintet opened with “Charisma,” the first track off 2018 record Wait For Love. Swirling riffs then came in like a hypnotizing rush as frontman Kyle Durfey gripped the crowd with his declarative vocals. Pianos then moved onto “Hiding,” a song off the band’s split EP with Touché Amore.
“You can’t stay angry forever,” Durfey sang, as if affirming the band’s shift in sound.
Pianos Become the Teeth went on to play songs off its last two records, both of which explore a fuller sound that’s polished while still emotionally gritty. Sonically, it’s a notable transition from the group’s 2010 and 2011 screamo-heavy releases. Despite the change, Pianos demonstrated an unyielding energy—headbanging, mic-swings and all—that Bay Area fans seemed to have grown with and reciprocate.
Songs like “Fake Lighting” and “Manila” were popular with the crowd, prompting many raised phones to capture the moment. Pianos closed its set with “Say Nothing,” a heavy-hearted slow burner that briefly collides with the band’s old sound.
Queen of Jeans made its San Francisco debut with a set of dreamy rock jams. Doubling the special occasion, the band was also celebrating vocalist-guitarist Miriam Devora’s birthday. The Philadelphia group had a knack for mellow starts that carefully built up to upbeat psychedelic pop choruses, especially in songs “More to Love.” After thanking the crowd for showing up early to catch its set, Queen of Jeans closed with a classic R&B cover, Aaliyah’s “Are You That Somebody?”
— Chloe Catajan
Follow photographer Joaquin Cabello at Instagram.com/joaquinxcabello.