Published Jul 25, 2011Kelley Stoltz is often looked upon as the lynchpin in San Francisco's current lo-fi rock renaissance, but who knew the dude was so damn funny? Setting aside his solo career to play drums in fellow Bay Area stalwarts Sonny and the Sunsets, Stoltz had his bandmates and the sparse crowd who gathered to watch them in stitches throughout the night, trading one-liners with Sonny Smith throughout the band's 75-minute set.
Even openers the Sandwitches conceded that, when it came to stage banter, they were clearly outclassed. But the female trio delivered some excellent vocal harmonies on their tweed-up doo-wop tunes, but again, their stage presence (or lack thereof) somewhat muted their overall performance.
Sporting a short crop of hair, tight button-up shirt and a battered semi-hollow bodied guitar, Sonny Smith looked more like a '50s blue-collar folk singer than the '60s hippie his music sometimes suggests he is. Along with three-piece the Sunsets, Smith worked through a set composed mostly of songs off the band's last two full-lengths Tomorrow Is Alright and Hit After Hit, belying Smith's prolific songwriting over the last few years. Though the singer-guitarist did his best to not break a smile, Stoltz thwarted him at every turn, telling stories about being harassed by Texas cowboys as a young teen punk rocker or making Wolfman Jack impersonations. Not to be outdone, Smith mocked en vogue indie rockers Vampire Weekend by introducing one song as "an African tune straight outta Williamsburg," before singing "Saw her walking across campus."
When the band did get down to the business of playing, the results were spectacular. Live, Sunsets tracks are given an added visceral bump while Citay and the Dry Spells member Tahlia Harbour provided uplifting harmonies to Smith's relatively small range of nasally vocals.
Though the bar was barely a third full, Sonny and the Sunsets had clearly impressed all in attendance; it's rare to find a band whose live prowess is matched by their personality. As a band whose rep has been based almost entirely on word of mouth, Sonny and the Sunsets' performance is the type that ensures repeated viewings and enthusiastic testimonials to friends.