On a soggy San Francisco eve, cohorts of folkies donning thick flannels and sturdy eyewear surveyed Cafe Du Nord’s Mahogany bar as Vetiver plugged in for a hometown gig — the first of three SF shows to close out 2012. Vetiver rewarded those who braved the elements with meandering, interwoven guitar lines, sprightly folk ditties, and smooth dream-pop.
Opening with “Worse For Wear”, a cut from their 2011 album The Errant Charm, the SF natives showcased breezy, blithe melodies that clashed with scathing indictments of infidelity and rotting romanticism: “Tender trust, hopes betrayed / Withered lies, and old bouquets.” Transitioning quickly to socially conscious “Wonder Why,” singer/songwriter Andy Cabic exposed the fallacy of the American dream, purring that he just “Can’t live on what’s given.” Financial institutions have an iron grip on his worldly possessions, and that sweltering heat drives a paralyzing insomnia. With simultaneous rambunctiousness and resignation, Cabic recounts: “The bank has what little I’m able to keep/ Sun’s getting hotter, I no longer sleep.”
Shifting gears, anxiety took a backseat to nonchalance on country rocker “Ride Ride Ride.” Cabic championed the healing power of caffeine alongside fuzzy Bo Diddly hooks, as Sarah Versprille’s vocals vied to add another 500 miles to the joyride. “Can’t You Tell” channeled the glam of Georgia based band of Montreal, featured jaunty electric guitars and a bouncy vocal delivery. Lyrics hid behind a wall of tambourines and shakers, while a repetitive drum drove the track forward. Cabic shielded his eyes from the bright house lights, and muttered to the audience that he hoped “everyone out there in this old wooden cellar can hear what’s goin’ on.” Surely Marvin Gaye perked up somewhere.
Balmy, surreal “Rolling Sea” had Vetiver wedding sweet ’60s guitar phrasing reminiscent of George Harrison with precise, serene piano flourishes. Following lead guitarist Daniel Hindman’s extended solo, the song ended on a transient vamp wherein Cabic repeated the lyrical hook in warm, casual tones: “Oh it’s been such a long time.”
Once again forgoing even a single word of chitchat between songs, Vetiver turned to brooding “You May Be Blue” off 2006’s To Find Me Gone. Hindman artfully captured that sinister blues rock timbre by deploying a range of pedal effects, while a throbbing bass added an new cadence to the already infectious tune.
Notwithstanding their dearth of banter and startlingly quick exit (sans encore), Vetiver conveyed deep, authentic sentiment atop hazily euphoric vocals and soothing, cyclical melodies. And befitting of Cabic’s populist persona, the frontman could be seen hooting and hollering with fans by the Mahogany bar long after his set was through, face aglow with a hardy helping of chutzpah.
Photo by Jared Hauser