Review: Vagabon proves she’s no small fish at the Rickshaw Stop

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Vagabon, Lætitia Tamko

Photos: Johan Doornenbal

SAN FRANCISCO — Arriving straight from SXSW with lots of  well-deserved hype, Vagabon outshined her headliner at Rickshaw Stop Thursday night.

Cameroon-born producer and musician Lætitia Tamko, who plays under the moniker Vagabon, played nearly all of the songs off her debut, Infinite Worlds, some with just a guitar and synthpads.

Her haunting vocals brought an emotional punch to the songs. During “Cold Apartment,” the angst in her voice clung to concertgoers skin. The rawness and vulnerability felt stripped to the bone. But the moment drums and bass joined in (provided by two backing musicians) the songs immediately packed a wallop. “Minneapolis” burst with punk aggression and had fans stomping along in no time.

Tamko teased fans with a new song as the other musicians left the stage. The work-in-progress was something she had just written. The song’s lyrics about the moon are so picturesque that you can visualize them as they exit her mouth. She knows how to bring more than emotion to her songs and uses her words expressively.

Vagabon ended the set with single “The Embers.” As she sang “I’m just a small fish” repeatedly over crashing drums,  the crowd sang along and it was clear that she would not be a small fish for long.

Philadelphia’s Allison Crutchfield & The Fizz was a hard act to follow. Crutchfield said right away that she didn’t want to keep the crowd waiting, and came on earlier than planned. She started the set announcing, “I hate men, but I love California,” and then launched into two songs about the state. One of the songs, “I Don’t Ever Wanna Leave California” was catchy lo-fi bubble-gum pop.

The set lulled in the middle before picking up again with the song “Charlie,” off debut album, Tourist in This Town. The material tended to work better when Crutchfield harmonized with her guitar player, as the additional harmonies gave her songs a fuller sound. She ended the set with the band’s New Order-esque dance song, “Dean’s Room.”

Locals Joyride! opened up the show. The trio, fronted by Jenna Marx, brings ’90s pop punk back. During the song “Don’t Forget the First One,” as the drums and guitars quiet, Marx’s sugary sweet pop vocals burst through. It gave the song vitality and brought a freshness that set it apart. Their 20-minute set consisted of tight songs that came alive with their explosive energy and loud guitars.

Follow writer Rachel Goodman at Twitter.com/xneverwherex.

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