Noise Pop: Ted Leo Keeps It Punk All by His Lonesome at Bottom of the Hill

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Ted Leo at Bottom of the Hill last night.
Ted Leo 
AB & The Sea
February 24, 2011
@ Bottom of the Hill

Better than:
That awkward moment when the music gets turned down and you're the only one singing.

Ted Leo is a punk. He might be an untattooed, 40-year-old, skinny dude whose live singing voice sounds straight out of an expensive studio recording, but the singer, guitarist, and songwriter kept it loud and real and punk at Bottom of the Hill last night. (He also called the place one of his favorite venues.)

After the five boys of local surf rock band AB & the Sea moved their gear and left the stage, it looked empty with Leo alone in the center, standing with guitar in hand. "Turn up my guitar and turn down the lights," said Leo.

After opting to not do a soundcheck (badass), Leo performed the rather random-seeming "Pigsville," by the Waco Brothers, as he politely, but firmly, instructed the sound guys to turn up his guitar until he embodied the sound and power of a full band by himself.

Some couples bumped into the serious business Noise Pop attendees, causing basically the only ruckus in an otherwise stationary audience.

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Leo wore a paperboy hat, and stuck out the tip of his tongue as he focused intently on his guitar.

About five songs in, he broke into "Bleeding Powers" off of Shake the Sheets, and for the first time, the crowd let loose and began to sing along. The roughly hour-long set consisted mostly of songs off of Shake the Sheets and albums from the early 2000s, much to the crowds delight.

"Good planning universe," said Leo in the middle of his set, "I lose my voice in the middle of a solo tour." Quite the trooper, Leo took a few big gulps of water, blew his nose on a tissue he was carrying in his pocket, and carried on with his set as if he was in the best health of his life. "We're gonna leave it gasping and bloody on stage, and Seattle can deal with the aftermath," he said.

At one point, a seemingly drunk guy closed his eyes and put his right hand over his heart as he swayed back and forth to Ted Leo's perfectly enunciated vocals.

"Where Have All the Rude Boys Gone" seemed to be a song after Leo's own heart, and got a group of girls in the middle of the audience to swing dance together.

The audience's dedication to Leo as an artist with 20 years of recording experience was shown by its attention to the set. Only a few iphones went off, and when Leo warned the crowd that he was playing a new track they wouldn't know, people responded enthusiastically.

Hopefully Ted Leo got some rest after the show, and Seattle gets a bit of the energy San Francisco received. "If it's not Seattle, it'll be Portland," said Leo. Well I guess we're just lucky.

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A B & The Sea
Critic's Notebook:


Moving up the Noise Pop Ladder: As mentioned earlier, AB & The Sea performed right before Ted Leo, and though the 20-somethings had a lot to live up to, they nailed it. Last year the group performed before the Watson Twins, the most well known opener for Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes. With addictive hand claps, and Elvis-style shaking hips, the boys were entertaining, and seemed to even make anxious Ted Leo obsessives smile.

Where is everybody?: Bottom of the Hill was not packed to its usual capacity. With enough room to swing dance and comfortably set down your rain gear, I was left wondering what show everyone else opted to go to, or if San Franciscans are really that scared of being out in the rain.

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Bottom of the Hill

1233 17th St., San Francisco, CA

Category: Music

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