Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Mission Bells still ringing in my ears


It's harder than it used to be to recover from a late Sunday night gig and go to work the next day, but this night was the kind of event that made it worth the trouble. One of the bands that defined "turn of the century San Francisco" were reuniting in their hometown. Most people think of the Aislers Set as an indie-pop band, and sure, they have those elements of melody, jangle and casual sincerity, but to put them in such a narrow category is to do them an injustice. AV (formerly Amy) Linton is a rare artist with a gift for capturing a time and a place, pulling off the neat trick of writing songs so specific and personal they end up both universal and surreal. Three albums, Terrible Things Happen, The Last Match, and How I Learned To Write Backwards, constitute a snapshot of a Mission District that thrived briefly between gentrification surges, chronicled through a fistful of songs that were poignant, wry, colorful, and occasionally saucy.

Two bouncy, catchy, Flying-Nun-crossed-with-the poppier-side-of-the-Ramones kind of bands opened. We enjoyed them thoroughly while they were playing and forgot them immediately. Soon as the Aislers Set came on, the music was riveting yet delicate. Linton's aw-shucks, breathy delivery and unique 12-string guitar sound is as familiar and engaging as ever. Supported by the How I Learned To Write Backwards lineup plus two horn players/percussionists, the band ran through songs from their three very different-sounding albums without cutting any corners. Finally, after avoiding the instrument all night, Linton joined in on the ecstatic trumpet climax of "Mission Bells". It was bliss.

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