Saturday Night: Au Revoir Simone, Social Studies and Alexa Wilding @ Great American Music Hall


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Taylor Friedman
Annie Hart of Au Revoir Simone

Au Revoir Simone
Social Studies
Alexa Wilding
July 10, 2010
@ Great American Music Hall

Better Than: A date with your crazy ex-girlfriend

Guys, if you've ever wondered what it's like to be a woman, look no further than last night's show at the Great American Music Hall. Though each act featured female vocalists, that's not what made this show supremely, annoyingly girly. I may have a gender-ambiguous name, but I am indeed female, so trust me when I say that the combination of Alexa Wilding, Social Studies and headliner Au Revoir Simone was akin to a bout of PMS. And more than one "that time of the month" is two too many times.

Alexa Wilding opened the show, captivatingly pretty in a gothic black dress with an eerie voice that turns from honey to vinegar when faced with a sharp vowel. After the first number, her music quickly became redundant, but her sound and look was just different enough to retain interest. She was the calm before the storm.

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Alexa Wilding
Local band Social Studies, fronted by Natalia Rogovin, throws different tempos into each tune, giving you three songs for the price of one. Stylistically it's schizophrenic, but it seems to be a conscious choice. It's a shame, however, to hear the silky, low tone of Rogovin's voice at the beginning of "Time Bandit" suddenly drowned out by her three male counterparts (who, granted, are talented instrumentalists and can hold it together in between taking furtive sips of Corona). Rogovin, the Raggedy Ann of indie-pop, is normally lulling, but true to female form, turns grating when she shrieks, as during "Sparrow." Bassist Jesse Hudson's singing was a pleasant and much-needed surprise. Overall, Social Studies has good energy -- due in part to their expressive drummer -- and a lot of potential.

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Social Studies
To drag out the PMS analogy, if the opening acts showed the first hints of femininity meets shrilly, Au Revoir Simone, the electronic dream-pop girl trio, was the mood swings at their height: ups and downs galore, with crying and way too much talking. Things got off to a shaky start immediately; Heather D'Angelo frantically and silently signaled that her inner ear piece wasn't working -- the first domino to fall. A keyboard wasn't amplified, Erika Forster's bass guitar strap fell off, and Annie Hart dropped the mic, so that several songs were missing key components. They had started a song when Forster announced that her pedal wasn't plugged in and they needed to stop to fix it.

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Au Revoir Simone
The girls aptly giggled their way through the sloppiness. Forster talked hair -- "I'm blonde. Do you still recognize me?" -- and then shyly said hi to "Tyler from high school" in the audience. "I haven't seen you blush that much in four days," Hart said to her, giving me the uncomfortable sensation of being stuck the whole night at a sleepover with a group of best friends I barely know. "I feel like I'm doing stand-up comedy," Hart added, killing time as technicians came to the rescue. And then, just as saying you're PMSing is supposed to make your otherwise inexcusable behavior okay, all was forgiven when Hart announced that A) "Today's my birthday" and B) "Oh yeah, I'm also pregnant." So who's the jerk now? She was reduced to tears when Social Studies and Wilding joined on stage to sing her "Happy Birthday."

Though the music took a backseat to girl talk, I will say that Au Revoir Simone sounded best when the girls sang in unison. There was no shortage of keyboards -- six to be exact -- and lots of other sounds radiating from a machine. I think electronica band Zero 7 masters this type of music; however, by the looks of the audience singing along, Au Revoir Simone has amassed a following. Forster made a point to feed San Francisco's ego, saying the city is one of her favorite places to play because the audience is so receptive. But I can only speak for myself, and by the end of a three-song encore, I was past ready to say au revoir.


Critic's Notebook

Girl power: Au Revoir Simone seemed to have a great rapport. (They even wear their hair in the same droopy, banged fashion.) I'd like to catch them when they're not having such an off night.

Close call: Annie Hart's pregnancy announcement was a lucky break for me, because I was about to go off mere speculation. People, take note: Girls love you saying they're pregnant when they're not.

Saving grace: The Great American Music Hall is breathtakingly ornate and dark -- perfect for dreamy music.

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