What: John Vanderslice When: April 7 Where: Triple Door Would Meatface Approve? Yes, but he'd miss the show because he'd mistake the Triple Door's lounge, The Musicquarium, as the venue. He'd spend the evening listening to fusion from a local band. And the Hipsters? Duh. Vanderslice is on Barsuk. Their catalog is mandatory listening for any self-respecting hipster.
If he were to pay have as much attention to a water dish as he did the audience, Saturday night, Otis and Fido would be begging their masters to get out of the house.
I would have mistaken Vanderslice's gesture to personally escort me and my date into the restaurant/nightclub/theatre as sucking up to the almighty press, had I not discovered that prior to his set, the man made the rounds to many of the room's tables, shaking hands and scouting backup singers. (He had as many as 10 members of the audience on stage at once singing backup.)
I admit — and I can't possibly be the only one in the room to feel this way — the set was better because I had a chance to listen to him talk about the San Francisco Symphony and why he shuns a three-band bill. This level of intimacy, along with the Triple Door's pristine acoustics, made the venue the perfect setting for Vanderslice. He should not play any other room in town.
He spent the bulk of his set fronting a two-person rock band. (He brought only a drummer on the road.) It would have been easy for the evening, filled with lively banter between performer and audience, to sink into a singer-songwriter cliche. Vanderslice avoided the acoustic sludge by substituting self-indulgence and whining for 1970s, arena-rock era blues riffs, and by skipping shallow, mopey acoustic blunders for meticulously crafted melodies, which set the table for stories like "Angela," about losing his girlfriend's bunny.
Damn. Maybe you should think twice before you drop your puppy off at the Vanderslice ranch.