July 8, 2009

French Miami, By Sunlight, Silian Rail |Rickshaw Stop | San Francisco, CA | June 10, 2009

“Oh my…” This guy’s voice trails off. He shakes his head. He was standing in the front as well. He is inconsequential to the French Miami story, yet his sentiments are not – he is not the only one who feels this way. So take the following with a grain of salt – yes, it is written in hyperbole. But know, too, that people only talk gibberish when they’ve seen something they cannot put into words.


For Silian Rail, it’s almost a shame that it played out this way, because for half an hour, the Bay Area duo’s dazzling post-rock put into a play a ’78 Van Halen vs. Sabbath scenario (albeit on a fraction of the scale): the talented, no-name undercard blows away the headliner with technical ecstasy. Robin Landy and Eric Kuhn simultaneously played more instruments than the limitations of four limbs usually allow. Landy crafted stuttering, bass-like guitar lines drenched in spacey atmosphere; Kuhn played everything else – tat-tat drums, synths, guitar, glockenspiel – and sometimes all at once. Unburdened by vocals, the guitar (the spitting image of Lennon’s B&W Rickenbacker) spoke volumes, periodically constructing heavy walls of sound via lose-yourself, blitzkrieg riffing.

These grandiose sonic textures flowed naturally into the following set, a free-floating mood jam by Seattleite quartet, By Sunlight. Compared to Silian Rail, this foursome offered more – more melody, more drone, more echo, more – um – members. Plus, they may or may not have performed one 40-minute song, an unbroken marathon-medley that would make Jethro Tull envious. Also of note, singer/guitarist Mike Sparks is a dead-ringer for Stephen Malkmus, so should this career flop (it won’t), he’s got a future fronting Pavement tributes.


But enough gratuitous foreplay. Let’s cut to the chase. The chase is French Miami, a three-pronged bolt of lighting made of blissful noise from the heavens. Propulsive blasts of angular guitar clatter, each electro flare-up sent another violent current rippling through the club’s floorboards. “Science Fiction” and “Multi Caliber Rifles” worked Rickshaw Stop into a hopped-up dance bender. Kids moved because they couldn’t help it – energy bomb goes off; frenzy ensues. With “SFO,” the San Francisco dynamo pumped disco full of Red Bull and 1,000 volts of diabolic synth discord. If these walls could talk, they’d be speechless. This is what it’s like to hear for the first time, and so I say to myself, “Hey, hearing frickin’ rocks.”

-Words and photos by Robbie Hilson


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