February 13, 2014

The Chapel in San Francisco is a small, remarkable venue in the heart of the Mission District that was once a mortuary. When we arrived, prior to the first act, there were no more than fifty fans eagerly awaiting. They were all there for different acts — Blondfire, Royal Teeth, and CHAPPO. The crowd was made up of people of all ages, yet was equally thrilled to be enjoying the same show.

Blondfire was first on the bill. The crowd was pleasantly surprised by the little-known band. After the first song, lead singer Erica Driscoll invited the crowd with open arms, saying, “you can come closer!” The audience did just that. As the songs became more upbeat, the crowd erupted in dance, claps, and cheers. The Los Angeles natives announced that they had just released their album Young Heart two days prior to the show, and nervously played a few of its songs. The band closed with its most recognizable tune “Where the Kids Are,” which is featured in a Honda Civic commercial. Erica told us after the show that it’s exciting to have their songs licensed in movies and commercials because “it exposes [them] to a different audience.” After we talked to her, she hurried off with the rest of the band to their second show of the night at Rickshaw Stop for a set with STRFKR.

“What’s up San Francisco!” lead singer Gary Larsen exclaimed as Royal Teeth took the stage. Their presence was a burst of energy for the crowd. He was constantly dancing around the stage while drummer Josh Hefner bounced along to his uplifting beats. The crowd was having the time of their lives, dancing and clapping with as much energy as Royal Teeth radiated. Larsen put on an amazing show — he was beaming with passion and life as he belted out every song. Nora Patterson accompanied him on vocals and the occasional drum, contributing to the blissful harmonization present in their music. The stage glowed with pink and blue lights as the show went on. With the audience’s permission, Royal Teeth played a few new songs including “Rich.” The crowd danced along approvingly. The set list included a song that paid homage to their hometowns in the state of Louisiana. Royal Teeth was very humble, thanking the audience after almost every song. They closed with their hit song “Wild”, where Larsen grabbed the phone from a girl in the audience and recorded the song from the stage. He then took his drum into the crowd and played encircled by the audience. Royal Teeth ended their tenth and final song with a bang as Larsen fell to his knees, an exhibition of his passion for performance.

The final act, CHAPPO, took the stage in a rather dark manner with a smoke machine and an electric intro. Their sound was very different from that of the others; however, the audience seemed to enjoy them even more. The dancing was interpretive and definitely enthusiastic. There were kaleidoscopic pinwheels of color on stage that matched the group’s psychedelic demeanor. Lead singer Alex Chappo’s eccentric personality shone through in his conversations with the crowd. He told the crowd to “come closer, feel like one entity just twisting inside of ourselves” and to “sink your toes down for a little bit [and] have an underwater séance with yourself.” Their ten song set was a constant flow of synthetic sounds that transitioned into one another. Chapman took the opportunity during the fifth song to go onto the floor and dance with the crowd, and even picked up an exuberant fan and spun her around. Needless to say, their performance was quite the experience.

The show undoubtedly exceeded my expectations of seeing three bands that I had never heard of. All three groups possessed a true desire to interact with their audience, which is what made The Chapel such a perfectly sized venue for the intimate performance.

Photos by Ramsey Karim / Staff