SAN FRANCISCO — Fans of indie rock singer-songwriter Travis Hayes got a slightly early listen to his new album Sleepless at Bottom of the Hill on Thursday night. Hayes played the album, slated to be released at midnight, in its entirety before moving on to his more familiar material.
While playing never-before-heard songs can sometimes be a dicey proposition for an artist, the album debut show was a hit with the fans in attendance. The new songs leaned more toward the rock side of the folk-rock scale than his previous album, leading to an energetic performance.
Hayes and his band are based in San Francisco—though before debuting “Houses & Homes” he explained that he was “evicted from San Francisco a few months ago”—and the enthusiasm of the hometown crowd definitely showed. At one point not only did the drummer get a personal shout-out from a group of friends, but one specific drum was applauded. The drum was not made available for interviews after the show.
Opening for Hayes was Madi Sipes and the Painted Blue, a trio that straddled a genre line somewhere between soft rock, indie pop and electronic soul. While bassist Nick Cunningham and drummer Caleb Koehn held their own, the star of the show was Sipes’ voice, which was so rich and smooth it seemed to fill the room.
Despite the feel of the songs veering from something bordering on yacht rock to a song Sipes described as “just an excuse to live my dream of being an ‘80s synth player” and to a Smokey Robinson cover, the consistent level of polish and the strength of Sipes’ vocals held it together.
Portland indie folk band MAITA preceded Sipes. Singer-guitarist Maria Maita-Keppeler’s soulful voice accompanied her three bandmates as they tinged their indie songs with hints of surf rock and occasionally just a touch of grunge.
The high point of the set was a song Maita-Keppeler wrote when she was a waitress at a Japanese restaurant, appropriately titled “Japanese Waitress,” which she dedicated to the wait staff of the venue. Unfortunately the members of the wait staff didn’t appear to notice, as they were both preoccupied with retrieving empty glasses while weaving between members of an increasingly intoxicated audience. But it’s the thought that counts.
Alycia Lang, another Bay Area native, opened the show. After playing in several local bands, Lang stepped out on her own in a style, with apologies to Futurama, best described as vaguely folkish alterna-rock. Most impressively, she and two of her bandmates wove together three-part vocal harmonies, not an easy thing for any group let alone a trio of singers also playing instruments and opening a four-act show.
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