The Morning Benders were up first. They played some of their older songs, like “Damnit Anna”, but the night seemed to be a time to try out new songs that will be on their next album, Big Echo (which lead singer Chris Chu later told me he had just gotten the mixes back for). As always, the Benders put on a good show, playing a fun set of tunes with plenty of energy.
But even with a good set from the Morning Benders, the night was John Vanderslice’s. Sporting his new five piece band for the first time in SF, they played what I later told people was a ‘pretty kick ass’ set.
I’ve seen JV as a two-piece, three-piece, four-piece and thirty-piece, but never in this incarnation. The result was a sound that worked really well. With a second guitarist along with keyboards, drums and bass, the sound was fuller and there were more opportunities for melody lines in the instruments. Jason Slota also joined the band on a few of the songs, playing vibraphone and other percussion. I think this may have been one of my favorite Vanderslice live sounds in the many times I’ve seen him.
The set started with the drummer playing alone on stage. JV and the rest joined him slightly afterward. After a few moments, they launched fully into ‘When It Hits My Blood’. After a few songs, the band left the stage and Slota joined Vanderslice on stage for a beautiful version of “Dead Slate Pacific”, one of my favorite JV songs. Slota stayed on the stage and the rest of the band returned. The set was filled with some new songs–around five or six, including one off of Moon Colony Bloodbath–but it also included a lot of material from Cellar Door and Pixel Revolt, as well as a few from other albums. As I was discussing with a friend after the show, both of those albums have heavy bearing on my mind even if I don’t listen to them constantly right now.
All in all a great show.
I wanted to add a couple of auxiliary things here. First, with the sort of day I had yesterday, hectic, leaving me frazzled, I was not thinking I’d have a great time. I thought I might be too distracted. But I had a great time. It’s not every show that can transcend personal circumstances and get you into it, but this one did. Secondly, after the second, Vanderslice had the club play Paul’s Boutique for a “dance party”. People didn’t really dance, but people stayed around and talked and laughed and had a good time. Both Vanderslice and the Morning Benders were chatting with fans and in general can both be credited with fostering a sense of community.
 I applaud the Rickshaw Stop for their relatively recent move of hosting (some) all ages shows.
 Can I say again how much I love two band bills?
 Though I couldn’t make his set at Amoeba on Monday. It’s possible that they all played there.