I knew it was going to be special, so on a dark Thursday evening, I left my beloved and the cats and dragged my sagging carcass over to Leeds to Oporto bar to see Leeds foursome San Francisco in their first headline gig, for the launch of their magnificent EP 513. Dear reader, it was one of the gigs of 2022.
I will yet get to how much joy was in the room for the San Francisco performance, but if I travel too far too fast, I’d be shortchanging the magnificent quality of the 2 support acts. I know San Francisco were keen to get both bands on board for this gig and I can see why. Top bands.
I didn’t recognise the name of Lunar Vertigo, so it was another band to notch onto my musical bedpost (if that doesn’t sound too weird haha). Lunar Vertigo had refreshed and changed their name and image earlier this year, so although their first single was released in 2019, this is a new reincarnation for the Liverpool based band.
They met our headliners when a band member worked on the tech bits for the recording for the San Francisco 513 EP.
And what a successful reincarnation. I’m often too polite to mention it, but many bands live have an instrument which perhaps lags just a touch behind the others, but here Lunar Vertigo sounded like they practice in their sleep, and like a worldly wise soldier you could wake them up any time and they could launch into Taken For A Spin.
OK, bursting into song might not help too much on a battlefield, but these lads would at least go down in glory.
Sound wise, Lunar Vertigo just have a good crisp intelligent guitar indie sound which slightly reminded me of the likes of XTC or even Squeeze (without the overdone piano bits). Y’know just that clever type of really accessible likable indie.
Second on that cherished stage at Oporto was another band I’d not had any prior contact with, the Leeds/London centric Uncoof Yoof.
This was a band that left me wanting to hear more – and not only because of the rude chattering couple who barged past and then stood a little bit in front of me. It reminded me why I usually risk the bumps and being mortified at being visible on images with the band’s socials for weeks later, stood at the front.
Again, the quality of Uncoof Yoof just stood out for me, and I found the band’s genre bending left me wanting more.
Some tracks were a bit jazz funky, some were a bit rock hard, some were Jamiroquai smooth, all of them were blended with a generous sprinkling of experimenting and quality, all of them were ice cool. Another top very likable assured performance.
I know that San Francisco frontman Iwan Grant used to visit Leeds from North Wales as a young teen and always imagined perhaps a day when he could be on that Oporto stage as a headline. Here it was happening. His band mates (Rob Crosby, Matt Cross and Ned Forster) seemed just as delighted and amazed to have created that excited nuclear fusion going on in the room in front of them.
I’ve seen a gig or two in my time dear reader, and I know when there’s something big and buzzy going on. San Francisco have been around as a band for a year, have just grown and grown, and this is something special. 2023 is going be huge.
While Iwan had loftier Oporto ambitions, I made a secret Oporto achievement of my own – getting a little space sat on the bench backs which line the venue. Great view, no crush, although as always my bum was larger than I hoped, meaning I was cutting a very regal poise (rigid with just enough mobility to clap sedately) just to stay perched hahaha. Never get old.
Musically San Francisco were bouncy, fun and relatable. While their recorded sound can sometimes feel a little more introspective (a solid heart to heart with a mate perhaps), live there was a bigger bounce, and fans of bright fresh indie along the lines of Spinn, Marsicans would be very comfortable here.
If you have not been able to have a listen to the San Francisco EP then you have an undiscovered gem to unwrap.
In the set, as well as the EP, I also recognised a few earlier tunes from when San Francisco was more of a lock down project, and also some new tunes which no doubt will gain much greater exposure in times forward.
There was definitely no spare here – each track had its place and deserved its moment in the sun.
I know it must be totally special for a songwriter to hear their song words sung back to them, and so it happened a few times, particularly with the first released track from the EP, Know Me Better. This is a track built for the live stage with its pumping beat, and banging chorus line. It was an obvious choice for the frantic encore.
Goes without saying you need to catch San Francisco live and before it all goes huge.
As it was a launch gig, and I’m thinking the band are pretty fuking special, I took up some of Iwan’s time while he very kindly answered some inane questions.
So, how does it feel to have the EP finally out into the world?
It feels great! We’ve been sitting on some of these tunes in one form or another for almost a year so to have them out and accessible to listeners is a nice feeling. On a personal note though I do find it weird as what is new to people in terms of release,is a year old to me and paints a picture of where I was a year ago as opposed to where I am now which is somewhere very different and I think the same is true of everyone in the band.
Which track do you feel closest to just at this moment in time and why?
Ooh that’s a tricky one!
I’m feeling very driven and on task at the moment so I am tempted to say “Know Me Better” due to the fact that ever since we released it as our first single, it came out swinging and hasn’t really stopped! I suppose it set a little benchmark in my mind that I can work on surpassing with future releases and the challenge of sussing out how we can do that is something I relish! So yeah, “Know Me Better” final answer!
You write quite personal stories about relationships, hopes and regrets. Does anyone suss out it’s about them? Does anyone think its about them in error?
Hahaha if anyone has sussed it out, they haven’t discussed it with me! Similarly, if anyone does think its about them, they have kept it to themselves.
The chants at the gig were for “San Fran” (after the social links name). Any plans to shorten the name?
Erm I don’t think so, I LOVED the chants in Oporto and I loved that they were for San Fran because over the last year I feel that the band has really picked up speed and hit some real high points but we’re still being ignored by the likes of the BBC and some larger promoters and in turn I think it’s created a real gang mentality amongst us and our fans.
So I take people calling us “San Fran” to mean the same as becoming friends with someone and using a shortened name or nickname for them. It symbolises a closer relationship with that person than most others have and It means the world to me that there are people out there who feel that way about a band I’m in. I only hope that it becomes true for more and more people!
I know a headline at Oporto meant so much. How did it feel to look out to a room of expectant faces?
Aw do you know what? I can’t even begin to articulate what it means! In all honesty I still haven’t processed the show but I have just felt the most overwhelming sense of gratitude and appreciation.
I think the thing that really struck me was that not only did so many people turn out but they arrived wanting to give us their everything. They came wanting to dance and sing and jump and chant and that’s exactly what they did, it would be impossible to ask for more from anyone in that room and that is something that I will cherish forever!
What’s next for SF?
Well…….I don’t want to give too much away but what I can say is that some new singles are definitely on the cards, we have a very exciting show coming up that we will be announcing soon (HINT: its somewhere we have never played before) and I think that’s all I want to giveaway right now haha.
* Words and terrible images by Tiggerligger