Published Jan 01, 2006While the ghosts and goblins were beginning to take over the city, a small but packed crowd filled a venue largely unaccustomed to out-of-town acts for a wonderful double-bill of intelligent San Francisco indie pop rock. Singer/songwriter and Tiny Telephone studio owner John Vanderslice began the evening with a set featuring charming, if sometimes unpredictable, lyrics set against thoughtful guitar-driven arrangements. Engaging in banter between songs, Vanderslice kept the crowd happy and amused throughout. Backed by a small band, Vanderslice's self-defined "sloppy hi-fi" sound transpired well live, being textured without being too polished or overdone. After a short break, next up was Beulah, which I knew mostly as a lo-fi pop act with Elephant 6 connections. I had been particularly intrigued however, after hearing that the band had locked itself away to record their most recent album, Yoko, amidst a line-up change, looming break-up and several broken hearts. Based on this, it seemed fair to assume the result would be a fairly sombre affair. Surprisingly, what Beulah pulls out on their current tour remains remarkably upbeat, if the lyrics are somewhat more cynical and melancholic. The instrumentation might have been sparser and more irregular than one might expect, but the melodies remained catchy throughout the set, and highlights included moments where singer-guitarist Miles Kurosky did double duty on trumpet. With such a tight and solid sound, the only question left unanswered in the end is why is this seasoned band still playing such intimate venues?