I remember the evening with complete clarity. Thanksgiving, grandma’s house, dessert had just been finished and coffee was being served. There was some big surprise waiting for my father. My dad, his regular nonchalant, fiddled around with an old shoebox. Inside held his entire childhood: an extensive collection of baseball cards he thought were long lost, and an enormous stack of concert flyers (preserved for so long some were still crisp) mostly from the Fillmore, early 1970s: Led Zeppelin, The Doors, Jethro Tull, there were well over a hundred.
The shoebox represented my father’s past, but for me (age 13 and impressionable) it was a defining moment of my burgeoning adolescence. Days later my dad and I climbed into the attic and brought out boxes of old vinyls. Every afternoon I returned from school and blasted them on an old record player my aunt gave to me. I imagined what it would be like to have been my father, sneaking out the window in the middle of the night, cramming into his buddies car and driving from his suburban home into San Francisco to watch Jimi Hendrix.
So when I step into a place like Le Bar on a night like last Thursday´s Radio Royale I feel at home. I walked into the downtown bar and was immediately greeted by Sam and Dave belting out “I’m a Soul Man” while the famous dance scene from Godard’s Band of Outsiders (the one with Anna Karina) transitioned into Jon Voigt´s acid peak in Midnight Cowboy on the bar’s high white walls. The crowd’s style was a mix of strict 60s London mod (double breasted jackets, skinny ties, patent leather boots) and looser throwbacks to the time (cardigans, skinnies, pixie cuts and floral prints).
I had gone to see The Bondies, a young psychedelic rock trio I had come across by accident on IndieFolks during a lazy weekend afternoon. I had failed (miserably) on a number of occasions to see their live set. This time I had to go, it was the official presentation of their first album ¨Stereotrip”. And although I’m not of the sit-down-and-sip-trendy-cocktails-while-watching-a-loud-rock-show persuasion, I kept up high hopes for the show.
The three guys, early twenties, casually dressed up, took the stage. Lead singer in a button up and skinnies, an artisan necklace and knit scarf falling over his shoulders, the bassist in a striped shirt and black cardigan, they interacted comfortably with one another and the audience. They quickly launched into their first song Money and Fame. The song begins with a garage rock rhythm, Beach Boys-esque, and quickly transitions into a deep bass and clean drum beat, with a slight eco of the Rolling Stones´ Paint it Black. The theme was picked up again in Crazy Julia, the tone noticeably darker than any other song, a slow building chorus, when accompanied by a soft and hypnotic bass and drum rings with inspirations from The Turtles´ Happy Together. The distinct opening of Waiting For was greeted with applause from the crowd, for me this is their strongest song in the entire set, the most lyrically developed. The instruments were more stripped down than any other song, allowing the singer to hit the high notes with his slightly raspy voice.
The three members had a tangible energy amongst one another and the crowd. The lead singer so excited that he spontaneously yelped and meowed during the sets. They thanked every applause, noted their distaste for tables and chairs at a show, and asked everyone to get closer and dance. Their efforts weren’t totally unsuccessful. The only dancer of the entire night was a friend in the bar that was obligated to dance during the second song, he happily obliged.
I always listen to bands like The Bondies with a grain of salt. It’s difficult, being a native English speaker, to relate to songs written in English by Spanish speakers. Something that may sound profound to a non-native speaker more often than not gets lost in translation, no matter how well the songwriter speaks the language. The other problem that arises is being a copy of a movement that’s already came and went, a novelty act. The Bondies pass both tests. Their music has a rare authenticity. Although their songs had borrowed compositions from English psychedelia, surf and garage rock and Mod style pop, they were all executed with a modern twist. Their sound went beyond the space, often a visual show like the one at Le Bar sets the tone and the band follows, The Bondies demonstrated a command unusual for such a young group, the video and the crowd following them rather than the other way around.
The Bondies first album “Stereotrip” is available for free download on their website.