The drive home late Monday night required me to carefully navigate the dark curves of Highway 17 when all I really wanted to do was blast "The Loneliness and the Scream" on repeat, stick my head out the window, and yell along to the song, all while driving 100mph. However, safety required only one of those was possible, especially if I wanted to live long enough to catch the final show of the Owl John tour in San Francisco the following night.
Owl John, the Chapel, June 24, 2014: I complain a lot about San Francisco's current dot-com boom, but one big difference between this gold rush and its '90s predecessor is the fact that more clubs and venues seem to be opening around town, unlike all the threatened closings of the previous round. You can include the Chapel as one of the new spots, and embarrassingly, I hadn't yet made it out there. I was finally ready to fix the error of my ways with the Owl John show.
The Chapel was probably the biggest club on this tour and I'm guessing the grandest, though it still was small enough to feel warm and exclusive. It might've had the best turnout too -- a huge step up from the Crepe Place and even the tiny Echo. Frightened Rabbit has always enjoyed a solid following in San Francisco, and Owl John continued this tradition.
On this larger stage, Scott returned to the electric guitar, and now as an Owl John veteran, I noticed a few familiar patterns. "Old Old Fashioned" kicked off the proceedings, complete with appreciative whoops when the audience recognized the tune, and "Poke" and "Keep Yourself Warm" dominated the early requests, only to be saved for a later slot.
With three shows in my pocket, I'd had a better chance to listen to the new songs, particularly "Los Angeles, Be Kind" and "A Good Reason to Grow Old." Your guess is as good as mine as to how they'll sound with full studio resources behind them, but from what I could tell, the frank, aching lyrics are intact. At least on the latter track, they're openly romantic ... for the first time ever? I'll be listening when the record drops.
In terms of the set, "State Hospital" made the cut again, and it sounded a lot better on electric than acoustic guitar (sorry, Crepe Place). A new friend and I tried to do the backing vocals for "The Wrestle," which caught Scott's attention enough that he encouraged everyone who knew the backing vocals to join in. Unfortunately, the only audible reaction seemed to come from a group of ladies who screamed in the chorus. I'm pretty sure other people were singing in their corners, but the combination of the room, the electric guitar, and our proximity may have drowned out their contributions.
The special track of the night was "Behave," dedicated to a friend who believed in the band long before anyone else picked up on them. Take note, anyone who wants to hear a song from the first record.
Another observation: I don't think Scott likes to do "Fast Blood," though it comes up as a request all the time. Granted, I'm judging from a small sample size, but I've seen this at Frightened Rabbit gigs too. I'd love to hear it, but I won't assume it's a staple at every show.
Scott was again highly talkative, even before a lady in the audience informed him his fly was down, a full six songs into the set. Standing front and center, we had noticed it too, but how do you bring up the topic? I'll file that away for the next encounter. At first, he was embarrassed, claiming he had nightmares about such a scenario. Then he turned defiant and leaned into it, but ultimately, opted for decorum (fly up).
This being San Francisco, he also fielded a declaration of lust from a male audience member who yelled -- I quote -- "I want you inside me." Scott obliged to a certain extent, offering earhole access and no looking, as well as keys to his hotel room.
As expected, the news that he now lived in Los Angeles didn't go well in San Francisco, but as he explained, he moved there because he fell in love ... with Miley Cyrus, whom he tweets every day, but she doesn't reply. It was actually a very sweet moment. He also later admitted that everyone knew San Francisco was the cooler city, which seemed to excuse his actions for the time being.
I noted 21 songs at this show as well, but the sheer volume of chatter pushed this gig toward and maybe even over the two-hour mark. I stayed for every second of it, down to the now familiar closing trio of "The Loneliness and the Scream," "Poke," and "Keep Yourself Warm." The crowd picked up on the clapping for "Loneliness," though Scott warned us not to go too fast, and we filled in where we could on the last two tracks. We did respectably well, though we still trailed Los Angeles in that regard by a ways.
Dan Wilson from Withered Hand opened all the shows, and it was easy to see the affinity between Withered Hand and Frightened Rabbit. They both favored sharp, self-deprecating lyrics with a contemporary outlook, and Dan even name-checked the Silver Jews. Dan's performances had also grown stronger over the course of the tour, and by San Francisco, he simply sounded great. He reminded me a lot of Badly Drawn Boy, which is a high compliment in my book.
In Santa Cruz, Scott pointed out that he'll be back when the album comes out, and in each city, he casually mentioned that he could do shows easily, now that he lived just down the road. "Easy" is probably an exaggeration, but Scott has proven his mettle as a road warrior. I look forward to seeing him in yet another remote location. I hear Pioneertown and Big Sur are awesome!
Owl John in California
» Los Angeles: four worn-out limbs and not one love song
» Santa Cruz: give me soft, soft static
» let's get old fashioned
» all possibilities