BY LAUREN ESPINA
After spending the better half of 2012 traveling across Europe and the United States, the Los Angeles-based band of skate punks known as FIDLAR played its first show at the legendary Fillmore last Friday. Since I first saw the band play at Slim’s back in May, the four-piece outfit has returned to Northern California several times to deliver its beer-soaked garage punk to intimate venues and grander houses of entertainment around the Bay Area. As I mentioned in my review of FIDLAR’s set at Bottom of the Hill, the band has a specific audience made up of broke, under the influence, twenty-something year old kids. FIDLAR found that crowd at Bottom of the Hill, but it definitely didn’t find it at the Fillmore.
Filled with an audience that paid to see the night’s headliner, Delta Spirit, an indie rock band from San Diego who owns a far more subdued sound compared to FIDLAR’s rough and tumble style, The Fillmore was no place for a punk rock band, even one as un-threatening as FIDLAR. The audience was as silent and soul-sucked as a room full of SAT test takers when FIDLAR opened with “Cheap Beer.” No one, besides the three or four people trying to get a mosh pit going, was having any of the band’s aggressive guitar riffs or abrasive vocals. There was a lot of eye rolling and sideways glancing, most of it aimed at the tiny but rowdy nucleus at the front and center of the crowd.
Though the band seemed to understand the fact that everyone was waiting for Delta Spirit, that recognition didn’t stop the lead vocalist and guitarist Zac Carper from declaring, “The last time we played in San Francisco was at Bottom of the Hill… This place suck!” In an effort to redeem the reputation of the city, a relatively ecstatic and inebriated fan yelled out, “We’re better than this!”, and Zac leaned over the edge of the stage to shake the gentleman’s hand.
FIDLAR seemed to have more fun as its 30 minutes on stage ticked away. “This song is called ‘Wake Bake Skate.’ What else matters in life besides those three things, right?” said a sarcastic Zac as he seemed to mock the crowd of people who didn’t get the subtle charm behind FIDLAR’s not so subtle song titles and lyrics. As the band went through renditions of “Cocaine” and “The Punks Are Finally Taking Acid,” the small collection of people thrashing around in center of the crowd began to grow, letting the band know it had fans in the house and letting the rest of the audience know that they were here to see FIDLAR. Zac dove off the stage and into the wild cluster of enthusiasts (still small but maybe a dozen bodies deep) to finish off the band’s last song, and just as soon as the energy in the Fillmore began to defrost, FIDLAR was off stage and the audience was pushing forward to close in on Delta Spirit.
As the headlining act began appeasing the rather frenzied and perceptively adult audience, I went outside to try and catch a word with the guys of FIDLAR. I found bassist Brandon Schwartzel, lead guitarist Elvis Kuehn and drummer Max Kuehn loading their gear into their tour van, looking unexcited yet unphased by the events of the night. They were kind enough to take the time to exchange a few thoughts with me about playing The Fillmore, their upcoming tour dates and their next stop in San Francisco. Rest assured: they will be returning to Bottom of the Hill in January.
In retrospect, I shouldn’t have been so surprised that FIDLAR’s show at The Fillmore was a dull flash in comparison to seeing the raucous band headline a smaller venue. Sometimes bands and venues don’t complement each other, and in the case of FIDLAR versus The Fillmore, that statement is dead on. I think FIDLAR fans prefer it that way. Why pay thirty-five dollars for a lackluster show experience when you’ve paid eight for a smaller, premium version of the same show? And considering the average price for a beer at the Fillmore is roughly ten dollars, it makes sense that FIDLAR fans–people who have embraced the words “cheap beer” as a phrase of solidarity–would pass.
Photos courtesy of Bryan Banducci.
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