Trans Am, Mammatus, Dirty Ghosts
July 9, 2015
The Chapel
San Francisco, CA

Universal Solitude

By Sean Sanford


It’s funny how alone you can feel in a big city, surrounded by people. But there’s a beauty in the isolation when you can share it with someone. “Nonsense,” you say? I mean that when Candice and I walk the dirty and crowded streets of San Francisco, I feel like we’re alone, watching the planet dissolve into all its rotating hues. Alone but never lonely. So it was on Thursday, a show with some beloved bands on the horizon, and the two of us looking for a place to get some food before such things commenced. Our hunger gave us narrowed vision and Valencia Street was comprised of nothing but edible options; that is until we walked by Cassanova and heard “Sean!” yelled from the outskirts of our bubble. We both turned and saw our friend Dave beckoning from the doorway. We walked inside and saw Mickey, our dear cohort and fellow music lover. He was with a friend from Philadelphia who was in San Francisco on business. As I had expected, they were all planning on going to see Trans Am tonight. “So are we!” Well then it was decided, we would merge orbits and make way for The Vestry, the delicious restaurant that shares their space with The Chapel, where the show was to be held.

We ate, we laughed, we be’d merry with drinks. The night had begun and our world’s population was incrementally expanding as more and more familiar faces came sifting out of the dusk. Then the first band came on, Dirty Ghosts, and the night’s energy expanded.


This trio gets better every time I see them. I have their record Metal Moon that came out in 2012 and I love hearing the shapes their songwriting has assumed over the years, with their common underlying style of irregular patterns and beautiful lyrics. They have a new album coming out any minute and judging by the songs they previewed tonight, it’s going be another regular on my Turntable (which is the name I have given my iTunes file).


Next came Mammatus from Santa Cruz. Mickey and Dave were really excited about this band and they responded accordingly as the music began. Mammatus is a sort of ambient noise band, they were pretty slow-paced with some distorted vocals and I can imagine doing some slow-motion headbanging to their album in my room at night with the curtains drawn, but seeing them live didn’t really get my juices flowing.


Candice and I stepped outside for a smoke and some nice conversation with hilarious drunk people. The band finished and others joined us with similar nicotine interests, and so many more familiar faces. It was great. We discussed all the wonderful shows that have been going on all summer and the many more to come. “See ya Staurday?” “Yeah. And Sunday?” “Yup, see ya Sunday.” Shows. Great bands and great shows. It’s a wonderful time to be alive in San Francisco. Soon we’ll all be driven from our homes by high-priced condos, but for now I’m enjoying the lingering breath of culture that pulses through the city.

So then Trans Am took the stage.


Candice has this recurring tale of trying to see them at Rickshaw Stop years ago but being ushered out before they played cause she was partaking in herbal festivities. We’ve seen them since then but it’s still a sore subject and she always feels a yearning to spite that security guard from Rickshaw Stop by seeing Trans Am every single time they come to the city. But that’s not fair to the band because in truth she wants to see them because they’re incredible musicians who always put on a show to behold. So we were excited when they began their perfect brand of vocally-sparse power. Their music gave a whole new mood to the venue and the crowd, having gone into brief Intermission Mode, sprung to life. I felt like I was watching a UFO at times, playing sounds invented by Martians to make Earthlings feel like life is worth celebrating. The bass generated a rumble not unfamiliar to us here in earthquake country; at times I felt like I was in one of those foot massage chairs they have at the county fair and I inwardly thanked them for the relief to my dogs.


Trans Am would vibrato us into trust, our heads pantomiming the sway of their breath; then they would unleash a torrent of power to get the whole crowd to explode, before trembling to consciousness like the embers of a fireworks display. They played long and beautifully, saving what seemed like their golden chariot for the encore, leaving us gasping for breath as the lights slowly returned.

Candice and I stepped out into the city, the faces of our world one by one dissolving back into the night until we were alone again. The rhythm of San Francisco was suddenly glowing like a gazillion stars.



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