The Stratford 4 + Pedro the Lion + Starflyer 59 + Ester Drang
Mike Prevatt10 June 2003
The Stratford 4 + Pedro the Lion + Starflyer 59 + Ester DrangCity: San Francisco
Venue: The Great American Music Hall
The Stratford 4
Photo credit: Mariah Robinson
Pedro the Lion
Photo credit: Tim Owen
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Q: What record are you most artistically proud of?Bazan wasn't the only witty one in the house. When he explained how Winona Ryder met him after one of his recent gigs, a crowd member asked if she had stolen his wallet. Band and audience simultaneously burst into hysterics. This levity offset some of the gravitas in Bazan's music, which can get quite heavy -- musically and lyrically speaking. "I could never divorce you without a good reason," he lets fall out in "Options", begging the question, who else would ever say that? Some of the scorned bitterness echoed that of Elvis Costello, though Bazan endeared himself through his articulate, humane and yet still smirk-worthy delivery; he neither assails nor whines, and his ruminations on murder and relationship bust-ups can be outright hilarious. Chris Carraba of Dashboard Confessional could stand to learn something from him in the thwarting-earnestness department. Needless to say, toward the end of its hour-long set, Pedro the Lion had the gig-goers eating out of its hands. This may be the Stratford 4's town, but it was clearly Bazan's crowd inside the Music Hall. His pal in Starflyer 59, singer/guitarist Jason Martin, wasn't bothering himself with a whole lot of small talk or vocal clarity. The music was first and foremost on he and his bandmates' minds, as the musicians charged through their direct and visceral set, infecting with dual-guitar-and-synthesizer-led melodies and charging with highway-drive rhythms. Keyboards wailed like Moog sirens; guitars chugged through staccato-riffed verses that recall your car's ignition when it's having trouble starting. Most of the tracks hailed from Old, and oddly enough, they felt more accessible than the act's previous material. But, despite SF59's wall of sound, it never overpowered the audience. The band didn't seem to visibly move it, either, as it displayed nothing more affectionate than polite applause and the occasional, obligatory whoop. This may have been the result of a relatively groove-free set; the rhythms never seemed to warrant more than a rock-critic head-bob or steady foot-tap. Ester Drang may have been the revelation here. It isn't big on physical exertion; like the S4, it seems to minimally move or even look up, caught up in its own vibe. But its synth haze, mellotron accentuations, geek-love sentimentalism and Urban Outfitter-approved melodicism did not go unnoticed by the early arrivals below the stage. It's not as dreamy and seratonin-addled as, say, fellow indie rock band Elliott, nor is it as self-conscious as the S4. Rather, it seemed to hit the happy medium with every song, with genuine affectation. If its showing May 21 was any indication, Pedro the Lion's labelmate is sure to become someone's favorite band real soon.
A: The next one.
Q: Who was your favorite Transformer?
A: Well, Optimus Prime was the most bitchin' but I think I was stuck with the Go-Bots.
Q: Is Pedro the Lion a thinly veiled Christian reference?
A: The first time I abbreviated it, I nearly shit myself. Then, I stopped taking myself so seriously, so I started putting PTL on buttons.
Q: What's with the guns on the T-shirts?
A: Guns just seem to be in again.
the stratford 4 + pedro the lion + starflyer 59 + ester drang the stratford 4 + pedro the lion + starflyer 59 + ester drang