Published Nov 14, 2010San Francisco's Jonas Reinhardt got the night rolling with their unique cross-pollination of groovy Krautrock repetition and laid-back astral funk. In lesser hands, this odd combination would be a recipe for disaster, but the seasoned pros pulled it off with absolute style. Hyper disco drum work locked in with a bubbling bass, while Trans Am's Phil Manley, who was pulling double duty that night, either soared with his sky-reaching guitar or dropped the funk with a few wah-pedal workouts. Add in a synth player coming off like a long-lost member of horror soundtrack masters Goblin, and you had an impressive set.
The expanding crowd had been sufficiently riled up by the time Nice Nice hit the stage, though it didn't take long for the Portland-based duo to undo what Jonas had done. Their recent Warp Records LP, Extra Wow, is an exploratory wonder that defies easy categorization, but they couldn't capture the ingenuity of the album onstage. Looping oddball instruments like a kazoo and a melodica and combining them with a floor full of pedals and effects, Nice Nice made a blasé mess of noise that failed to capture the crowd and lacked any memorable moments.
It's almost hard to believe Trans Am have been around for 20 years and now touring on their ninth record. Wasting no time, then trio launched into some of the older, more muscular material that made them the darlings of the U.S. post-rock scene during the mid- to late '90s. Soon enough, however, they were dropping the vocoder-laced, retro-futuristic jams that have become their signature over the last few albums. Trans Am remained incredibly loud for the rest of the set and held the crowd's attention and, occasionally, their bodies with a driving intensity that never let up. The innovation in their records may have slowed but they remain one forceful live act.