I arrived at the Independent drenched to the bone. It was pouring buckets outside and I had decided to walk, because well that’s what you do when you don’t have a car and/or live in San Francisco. The final presidential debate had been over for about an hour and the San Francisco Giants had pulled off a remarkable comeback to end up in the World Series where they will most likely lose to the Detroit Tigers. This was no ordinary Monday night, shit was crazy and it was only 8:45.
When I got there Astronauts Etc. had just started their set and I was excited to see them because I’d heard a few things about them. Now, seeing a band you’ve heard of is great, hearing a band you’ve heard of with wet jeans sucks, but I’m a brave little trooper. Astronauts Etc. were phenomenal and as a rule of thumb, for many bands, you really do not want to have a band that wows the audience before you. I guess that’s more of a rule of thumb for insecure bands.
After tonight’s show Ultraista need not be one of those. I was expecting something really good out of Nigel Godrich, Joey Waronker and Laura Bettinson. What I got was an astounding display of lights, imagery and some of the best music I’ve ever seen at the Independent. There were people dancing, and as Bettinson writhed seductively onstage in a tight zebra patterned dress the wolves in the front of the stage looked on as if this were a cartoon and their eyes were popping out of their heads.
She wasn’t embarrassed, by the heathens, but instead was very coy and throughout the entire show the thing that stood out most was that her voice was amazingly sublime. She played the crowd like a fiddle and knew exactly what to do with her sex appeal, but in no way did she let that affect her performance and I admire that greatly. Bettinson looked like she was having fun and I’ve said it before when an artist looks like they’re having the audience will have fun.
The music was so damn beautiful and that struck me. I’ve listened to their album and loved it. I’ve put up some of their videos on this site and love them and yet after all that I still felt like this was the point in which I realized that this was a great band. I am an unabashed supporter of this band from here on out. I mean, really let’s throw journalistic integrity out the window for a moment. I love this band, I think they are amazing. I thought their album was amazing and I knew they’d be very good tonight. To me it was a fact before I stepped into the Independent.
Sometimes you just know a band is going to be good. And yet…they surprised me by exceeding my expectations. They were out and out phenomenal. The drums and drums machine were excellent by Waronker. Godrich on bass and keyboard was like a man in a trance. He bobbed his head, closed his eyes and deftly deferred to Bettinson’s brilliant performance. And brilliant it was.
Considering this band just started they definitely have gelled quickly and while on this mini-tour of New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco (three of the best music cities in the U.S.) they showed that they are not a flash in the pan, but in fact could do what Massive Attack really tried to accomplish and couldn’t. They could be the band that takes that ambient dance sound to the next level and starts a new wave of copycats. Whatever they choose to do they’ve made a fan out of me for life.