Noise Pop: The Stone Foxes Tread Familiar Ground at the Independent

Noise_Pop_stone_foxes_1.jpg
Joseph Schell
The Stone Foxes at the Independent last night.
The Stone Foxes
Voxhaul Broadcast
Ferocious Few
The Soft White Sixties
February 24, 2011
@ The Independent

Better than:
Listening to 107.7 The Bone play the same hundred songs on loop.

Noise Pop gave a tip of the feathered hat to the bluesier undergarments of local rock Thursday night at The Independent, reminding us that classic rock doesn't have to be classic at all. Sometimes we forget there's traditional, straight-forward rock 'n' roll in our midst, presumably hiding in places taken up by our oh-so-silent conservative minority. Art school oddballs, it seems, don't have a monopoly on the S.F. music scene.

Last night's headliners, The Stone Foxes, are proof there's a local audience for something The Black Crowes would have called mid-album filler. This is the stuff of domestic beer commercials, but also of mild-mannered bluesy guitar fuming and harmonica riffing.

Noise_Pop_stone_foxes_bass_drums-vert.jpg
Joseph Schell
The Stone Foxes
The four-piece is really a band's band. Amongst Aaron Mort (bass/guitar), Avi Vinocur (guitar) and brothers Spence Koehler (guitar) and Shannon Koehler (drums), there's no clear-cut bandleader, and seemingly no egos. All appear content to channel the bayou with thirsty guitar work and muscular howling.

In contemporary terms, Stone Foxes tread in the same murky waters as Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. Songs such as "I Killed Robert Johnson" and "Mr. Hangman" strike the same curbside notes, and make us think of mythical heroes and villains in the same breath. While the guitars grumble in ways befitting a Hell's Angels mixer, Shannon Koehler's harmonica is the secret tonic in these and a few other winning songs from the night.

Noise_Pop_stone_foxes_gtr-vert.jpg
Joseph Schell
The Stone Foxes
And then there were the not-so-winning parts.

We're all for local bands making good -- before the encore, Shannon Koehler told the audience, "You guys are ridiculous. This is awesome. We used to think that if we got four people at Hotel Utah, that was IT, but this is it." It was heartmelting, to be sure. But we also require those who represent our damn fine scene to either a) make really, really good and interesting and provocative and nuanced music, or b) really kick ass live, have some charisma or engage a crowd on some kind of meaningful level. The former just isn't part of this band's mission, which is fine, but the latter part of the equation will need a tune-up.

At one point, one of the bandmembers mumbled something about a girl undressing in a video to "Switcher Road" (or something), but meant "Sweep a Road," and then there was some more inter-band banter, and something about it being an inside joke. Sigh. Then, near the end of the set, in the middle of a jam, Aaron Mort picked up a fan (not a person fan, but a fan fan), held it between himself and the mic, to little effect, and sang a few words before tipping over his mic stand, which he at least caught. Very awkward. Off night, we hope.

And from the c'mon-really files, the band covered Howlin' Wolf's "Little Red Rooster" (a Doors cover also heard on their latest album, Bears and Bulls). Yes, we get it, you're old souls born a generation too late. The '60s were pure, today's music is tainted. Organic or die. But fellas, your influences are obvious, try on something other than jeans for a change. 

Noise_Pop_stone_foxes_voxhaul-1.jpg
Joseph Schell
Voxhaul Broadcast
Kudos to the members of undercard opener Voxhaul Broadcast, who woke up at 7 a.m. Thursday (a tall task for guys accustomed to waking up at noon), drove up from L.A., and nearly stole a rock show. The four-piece has just the right amount of swagger for this brash brand of chip-on-the-shoulder rock. Their first song was the best of the night, called "Loose Change," bearing a muscular spaceyness that unfortunately disappeared as the set progressed. The lead singer ditched his hoodie in a hurry, which made sense. There's nothing coy going on here.

Noise_Pop_stone_foxes_voxhaul-3-sing.jpg
Joseph Schell
Voxhaul Broadcast
Some songs drifted predictably into all-too-familiar rock tropes of verse, chorus, verse, bridge, jam. Power stances and screaming and swagger can't replace innovative musicality, which their first song hinted they can handle. "We don't come up here that often," said David Dennis, yet they'll be back at The Independent in a week, on March 2, for further inspection.

Noise_Pop_stone_foxes_voxhaul-5-gtr-stance.jpg
Joseph Schell
Voxhaul Broadcast
S.F.'s The Ferocious Few were indeed ferocious and just a few, a duo that deceived the senses. Singer-guitarist Francisco Fernandez came out with what appeared to be an acoustic guitar, yet there was nothing unplugged in this sonic brew. Fernandez strummed staggeringly and drummer Melvin pulsed magnetically, and some delay tricks on the mic gave Fernandez a compelling depth of field to his snarl, as if a vacuum were sucking his words into the unknown.

When the pace slowed, as it did in "The San Francisco Song," Fernandez' vocals featured mightily, like if Kid Rock kept any street cred. For just a pair, there came much sound, and all that poise and testosterone made it all the more ferocious.

Leadoff hitters The Soft White Sixties are very much rooted in their name's decade, but the '70s are a better approximation of the band's source material. They take the Seventies Americana emulation to a very visual level, too, their tight denim and shoulder-length hair every bit as telling (we wouldn't be surprised if they double as a Stones cover band) as their barroom rock twang.

Critic's Notebook

Overheard lying bastard in the crowd: "It's snowing outside."

If you like the classic rock, check this out.

----
Follow us on Twitter @SFAllShookDown, follow Chris Trenchard @ChrisTrenchard, and like us at Facebook.com/SFAllShookDown.


Location Info

Venue

Map

The Independent

628 Divisadero, San Francisco, CA

Category: Music

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29 comments
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Connorbuestad
Connorbuestad

For the record, this an extremely well written, insightful and entertaining article. No denying this. You'll all be back to read more...

ChadBurnsly
ChadBurnsly

I mean...there is some denying it. Here, watch: That article wasn't insightful, well-written or entertaining.

Connorbuestad
Connorbuestad

107.7 THE BONE ROCKSTa Ta Tuesday for life. Get the Lead Out baby!

AP
AP

man im so glad the writer had the courage to explain himself. Now I understand where he is coming from. its good to know that there are honest journalist.

walter
walter

Hi Chris, you're bitter. Asshole.

S.J Watts
S.J Watts

After seeing about 15 bands over the past few days, Thursday night was by far the best. This critic should have gone to Ted Leo if he is so opposed to having a good time.

PhayeCarlson
PhayeCarlson

The Foxes invariably wows me every time. This show was no different.

chris Jones
chris Jones

Voxhaul Broadcast was killing it at this show, can't wait till next show in SF 3-7.

Agnes133
Agnes133

Just found this review. I was at this show and had never heard any songs by any of the bands. I thought all 4 bands were fantastic and made me proud of the SF Scene.I was shocked SF Weekly didn't like it, because it seemed to me like all 600 people in there were having an amazing time.

Emily
Emily

Crawdaddy posted a more realistic review that nailed how the night actually went.

Chris Trenchard
Chris Trenchard

Hey guys, I've been reading a lot of the negative feedback to my article so I wanted to give my two cents on the subject. As you can see from this and my one other live review for SF Weekly, which incidentally was also a show at The Independent because it's the only venue in town that I've ever heard of: I hate music. As you well know, it is much cooler to enjoy the opening band at shows rather than the headliner, so in both of my pieces I made a point of offhandedly praising the smaller bands and dismissing the bigger bands, simply because they are more popular. See, people think you are hip if you like things that most people don't like and are flippant about things that people enjoy. It proves that you are a trendsetter. Case in point, I'm a huge fan of the DMV. Why? Because most people just don't get it. The lines, the waiting, the smell, oooo it's just so 2011, isn't it? So, "of the moment". I'm also into vintage Spiderman lunch boxes and collecting hard to find Beanie Babies. I also adamantly hate kittens, sunrises, being content, and the sound of babies laughing. I'm not like, a follower, man. Instead, I get free tickets to shows and then bitch about the pain that I am put through when I attend them. It appears, from the numerous comments posted on my insightful review, that most people who actually paid for the show had an amazing time and really enjoyed The Stone Foxes, WHICH IS WHY I HATED THEM! Don't you understand? Judging from your responses, you probably don't. You seem like the kind of folks who go to concerts to "have a good time" and "be entertained." People like yourselves can't possibly grasp the intricacies of my review such as my statement about the show being comprised of the, "blusier undergarments" of the local music scene, so I'll break it down for you plebeians. Music is like, um...clothes, and the blues is...uh, the stuff underneath the...clothes....of music. Ya see? It's simple math! Just like what I said about the band being a band's band. Only bands would come to see The Stone Foxes which is why there was nobody there. Sure, Megadeth came, in the form of a flying v guitar painted to look like the devil's vagina. And Interpol was there in the form of an ironic, twiddly mustache and purposefully bad teeth. And Jimi Hendrix ghost was there, in the form of some cocaine filled vomit. But really, that can't fill a room, can it? Which is why the venue was empty and definitely not sold out and awesome. Obviously, the sparse crowd made it incredibly easy for me to really pay attention to the band, and not be distracted by thoughts of my ever-growing suspender collection or my dreams of becoming Mayor of Bourbon and Branch on FourSquare. As pointed out in my review, I loved the harmonica on "I Killed Robert Johnson," a song that doesn't actually feature any harmonica. But do you know why I liked it? Because I'M hearing what they AREN'T playing. It's like free jazz. You wouldn't understand.

As I said before, we, meaning SF Weekly, meaning me again, are really supportive of local bands. I mean, you couldn't really tell from my review because I spent the whole time shitting on everyone in sight because they aren't avant-garde enough for my distinguished tastes ("I know it saaays free range, but how free is the range, really?"), but we are HUGE proponents of the local scene. My problem with The Stone Foxes is that they don't follow my patented rules for being a cool local band. A) Sound unique and different, AKA, exactly like everyone else. I know you're not Animal Collective but like...could you be, please? That way, if I like you it in turn makes me seem cooler in the process. If you were just more "difficult" and "bad at playing your instruments" my enjoyment of your music would be a testament to my unfuckwithable taste. Being a band that just plays the music they love in a style they love doesn't really up my street cred so I have no use for you. When you suddenly become Das Racist, shoot me a tweet (@Loureedafficionado, #whateveryawn). B) Put on a good live show. The people who came to see The Stone Foxes were dancing, and buying drinks, and singing along to all the words, and cheering, and clapping, and waiting for hours in the rain and like, doing that thing where they look at their friends and the sides of their mouths go upwards. Is it smiling? I'm not really into smiling. Or friends. I mean, I used to be, before eeeveryone started doing it and it became uber-lame. Like, remember that one part in the show where one of the band members said something that I didn't understand. How much did that suck? I was simultaneously updating my facebook status ("How to Dress Well = Sold out = Gay") and texting my ex-girlfriend's new boyfriend ("Wanna get free trade cappuccinos and talk about our feelings soon?") and for some reason I didn't understand every single word he said. They really need to up their game and cater all of their stage banter to me personally. When I saw Godspeed You! Black Emperor in '94 (you weren't there), their silence and steely reserve spoke volumes. And when Efrim Menuck (you haven't heard of him) said, "Goodnight" he meant, "Goodnight, Chris Trenchard. May your disinterest in anything enjoyable speak volumes to the masses one day." Why can't all bands be like that? Sigh. I especially hated the part of the show where Aaron Mort sang through a fan. Not a human being, mind you. He didn't lift a living, breathing person up off the ground and somehow force his voice through said person into the microphone. That would have been inventive and physically impossibly. Instead, he used a metal fan (let me reiterate, not a person that came to the show that could also be called a fan which is incidentally the same word used to describe a household cooling device) and as a joke for "fun" he sang some words through it. YUCK! And do you want to know what the worst part of it was? It was to LITTLE EFFECT! What an idiot. How could he not have known that singing through a fan wouldn't bring about an outcome that would entertain me? Seriously. He must not attend my Monday, Wednesday, Friday, "Singing Through Things: An Exploration of the World and Ourselves" class, otherwise he would be well acquainted with my popular "Bullhorn, Vuvuzela, Firecracker" technique. Instead, it almost seemed as if he was trying to spontaneously enjoy himself onstage by doing something he thought would be amusing. Off night, we hope. Well, that's enough of me talking about things I hat...OH WAIT! I forgot one more. Do you know that thing where a band likes a song that was written by someone else and then plays it live in front of people? I know most people call them covers but I call them, "The Files of the C'mon Reallys (C)." I tried to get SF Weekly to officially trademark that slogan but they kept saying it was, "Childish" and "Bizarre" and that I should "Stop showing up to work on peyote" and "Quit." Anyway, The Stone Foxes played "Little Red Rooster," a two minute song that was written by Howlin' Wolf during his brief tenure in The Doors and it really stuck in my craw. It's hard to grasp the audacity of a band that would play a song that they like that is OLD. If it was Girl Talk recontextualizing it by heaping a Coolio/Powerman 5000 song on top of it, that would be one thing, but The Stone Foxes had the gall to just PLAY THE SONG. I was, as you can imagine, appalled. Seriously fellas, how about trying something on other than jeans for a change? You guys could have followed my lead and worn a bold, yet tasteful ascot/jock-strap combination because, unlike you, I'm not constrained by society telling to me "not look stupid" or "please sir, put on some pants." Organic or die, am'I'right?Lastly, I would like to complain about a few more local bands that I was forced to get paid to see for free last night. The Ferocious Few were so ferociously few that I ferociously couldn't few how fewly ferociously they ferociously fewed. I mean really. But, it wasn't all bad. I really liked drummer Melvin, who had his last name stolen from him by Somali pirates early this year. Also, did you guys dig how I glowingly compared singer Francisco Fernandez' vocals to that of the oft cited stylings of Kid Rock? That wasn't a stretch at all in an attempt to seem aloof and interesting. Side note: if you can come up with a clever pun combining Francisco Fernandez' name and the city of San Francisco that I can use in my next review of a horrible show that I'll surely hate that will definitely be at the Independent, email me at: icantbelieveyouhaventheardofthem@pbrtallcans.net.

You know who I also liked, but also hated? Voxhaul Broadcast. I didn't so much enjoy anything about how they sounded, or their music, or their songwriting, or them, but I was super impressed by their ability to wake up early. Like, seriously, they woke up at 7AM(???whaaat??!!!) and drove 5 hours to play a sold out show at a fantastic venue with three other great bands. Can you imagine what dedication that must take? I did an interview with them before the show and they uniformly told me that they all wake up at noon. Every day. Without fail. What cool guys! If I didn't have to spring out of bed at dawn for my daily Jamba Juice/weeping in the mall food court regimen, I'm not sure I'd ever bother to get up and go to yet another boring, awful, worthless free show. For money. Barf. I really liked their first song because it was the only one I heard before I went outside to chain smoke American Spirits and mumble to myself in the rain, but all of the other songs seemed to have verses, and then those verses were followed by choruses which were then followed by more verses and then after that there was another chorus. GAH! Couldn't you guys just write a song that is made up entirely of bridges? You could call it, "The Bridge over the River Kwhyarewedoingthis? This sounds stupid. We should have never listened to that guy who hates anything that isn't fucking awful." I liked when the singer took his sweatshirt off. Um, the Soft White Sixties are a band too. Long hair. In conclusion, I really don't understand where all these comments are coming from. Surely, you all drove to the show in your ironic VW Bug with the intention of having a bad time just like I did. I refuse to believe that people actually go out and have a good time with their friends in this city and then come home at night without writing pages and pages about how horrible their free night out was. It just doesn't make sense! No self respecting person would like something that isn't seeped in arrogance, pretension, and way too many sequins. Right?

Overheard lying bastard in the crowd: "I'm having a really good time."

If you hate everything, good.

Agnes133
Agnes133

best thing ever written in SF Weekly, and it is only a comment on an article in SF weekly

Horn Rimmed Glasses Guy
Horn Rimmed Glasses Guy

At first I thought this review was boringly pretentious and elitist, but then I saw the McSweeny's link. Thank God you're just a regular ole' guy like the rest of us.

jmarie
jmarie

the mcsweeney's link was what made me decide NOT to take this review seriously. I'm embarrassed that this pretentious d-bag is representing SF's huge, diverse music scene. Read his other stuff, he hates everything. None of any original music being made in this city is good enough for him.

Agnes133
Agnes133

hahahaha that's great! i didn't see it the first time, thanks for pointing that out!!

Chris Robinson
Chris Robinson

Yeah, we are way better than them! Good review. Very poignant. Thanks for making people remember my totally irrelevant band! Glad someone still cares now that we are 60 years old. Young people suck.

n. phelge
n. phelge

I'd expect this kind of music critic snobbery from a site like Pitchfork, but SF weekly? Talk about a "c'mon really" category...

Lary
Lary

I've seen the Foxes, a lot. At least 15 times and they are always a s-load of fun!! They rocked it like they always do, and their banter is funny. these young kids know how to bring it, this show was the best show ever so get with it dude.

Bobby Cool
Bobby Cool

How come no pictures of The Soft White Sixties? They were great just like the rest of the bands and deserve a little more attention in my humble opinion. Bobby Cool

Chris Trenchard - SF Weekly
Chris Trenchard - SF Weekly

Ok, I'll level with you. The reason there aren't any pictures of The Soft White Sixties is that I didn't actually seeee them, per se. Did you notice that I didn't overtly mention anything about the band's set, or anything they said or did, or the crowd's reaction to them or basically anything that couldn't be gleaned from briefly glancing at their myspace page while listening to Dan Deacon and making an egg white omelette for one? Well that's exactly what happened! I couldn't be bothered to get to the show on time to see an up and coming local band, even though, lest you've forgotten, we here at SF Weekly are super supportive of them. But I'm even MORE supportive of gazing wistfully out of the window at King of Thai and feeling sorry for myself, so I did that instead. Besides, when I did eventually show up to the venue, the people working there didn't seem to grasp that I was so important that I shouldn't be forced to "stand in line" like "everybody else." Can you believe that? Thankfully, they got tired of my yelling and even more tired of my embarrassing sobbing so they let me in. I didn't really see much of The Ferocious Few either which is why there aren't pictures of them either, but I muscled my way up to the front of the room, through all the people that bothered to come early to catch the opening acts so I could peak at their set list. I saw one song title and wrote my review on the spot, cackling maniacally the whole time. KID ROCK! It's hard being such a clever scamp. Even though I've lived in San Francisco for less than a year, my finger is so "on the pulse" of the local scene that I can basically make up anything I want to about how a band sounds, regardless of its validity or basis in fact and people will gobble it up. The Stone Foxes sound like The Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, a band no one has listened to in 4 years that doesn't sound anything like The Stone Foxes. See? Sometimes I could swear that I'm the reincarnation of Lester Bangs. Is Lester Bangs dead? Who cares, he is if I say he is. Anyway, back to your question. When I looked up The Soft White Sixties I saw that they were wearing denim so obviously, they are awful and I hate them and I wasn't going to waste my time actually seeing them play music. I spent half of my review talking about their clothes because it was a pretty sure bet that they would be dressed the same way they always do when they play, as evidenced by a half assed Google image search. Thank God they didn't come out wearing monks robes, because then I would have looked like a real ASS. On top of that, I could tell that their influences weren't purposefully obtuse and obnoxious so that was strike two and in my book it's two strikes and you're out because understanding baseball is beneath me. Like, no joke, if someone said, "Hey Chris, I just heard that the members of The Soft White Sixties also played in a Rolling Stones cover band," A.) I'd be really startled because no one ever talks to me and B). I wouldn't be surprised AT ALL. Not even one iota. Seriously, come up to me on the street and say that. Or just say anything to me other than, "Sir, if you keep crying I'm going to have to ask you to leave the Olive Garden. You're weirding everyone out." Please? But like I stated in my review, we (and by we I mean me and the high school girl who works at the Chipotle by my house that I tell everyone I'm dating even though I've never talked to her), knew all there was to know about the band before we even got to the venue, and wrote the review accordingly. Well that should just about do it. Hopefully that clears things up, Bobby!

Rickthebum
Rickthebum

Dude (Mr. Reviewer) The Weather was Terrible and the house was packed~ everyone stayed until the last note ~ Your Review lets me know that you are someone who likes other kinds of music more. If you were a fan of this Genre you might have something valid to say about it. The Stone Foxes Rocked it. They seemed a bit reserved for the first song and a half, but they owned the stage and played a great set. These are all very young guys, yet there songwriting is captivating both lyrically and Melodically. I rarely have a songs stuck in my head after just one listen~ I'm still singing the Robert Johnson song.

James
James

Were you at the same show I was at? Doesn't seem like it.

Alan Lawson
Alan Lawson

Hey I was there and this show was the most fun I've had at a local show in years. The Stone Foxes were fantastic. I actually happen to think each individual Stone Foxes song is better than anything the Black Crowes did in their whole career. The Foxes are young and vibrant, Crowes are old and boring. Think twice before you believe this columnist.

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