Mods Night Out - Matt Embree and Vinnie Caruana @ Hotel Utah

// I need to write blog posts about the shows to sooner.  By the time I get around to writing about them, I forget all of the fun details, but I’ll do my best.

The show in question was headlined by solo sets from Matt Embree and Vinnie Caruana.  For those who don’t know, these individuals are the frontmen for two of my favorite bands... ever... the RX Bandits and I am the Avalanche.  When I found out about the opportunity to see both in an incredibly intimate setting, I was obviously excited.

First, lets talk about the venue.  The show was held at the Hotel Utah Saloon on August 26th, which is quite possibly the strangest venue I’ve ever experienced.  This is not a bad thing.  The saloon itself, built in 1908, definitely has a old west vibe that comes across as authentic as opposed to kitsch.

The venue portion is where things get a little weird. The ground floor is tiny, with a low ceiling supported by a vertical beam in the center of the floor. The balcony, almost as big as the floor itself, is located directly above.  From the performers perspective this means you are equidistant from two layers of people, one whose heads are at your knees and another whose feet are at eye level.

Now on to the important part, the music.  The show opened with a performance by Pebaluna, one of Matt Embree’s newest projects.  This band sounds like a brand of folk pop that would be more comfortable in the 1950’s than 2012   I have to admit that while the do not play the type of music I would usually listen to, heir set was alot of fun. Fronted by Lauren Coleman, whose big voice enamored the crowd, Pebaluna provided a perfect, if unexpected, introduction to the night.

Vinnie Caruana played an energetic solo set next.  For those of you who don’t know, Vinnie is the current frontman of the I am the Avalanche who initially gained notoriety singing for the Movielife.  His unique, raspy vocal stylings have helped both of his bands create a unique sound and develop passionate followings.  Along our journey through a mix of Movielife and I am the Avalanche, there was a collective realization that San Francisco has played a large part in Vinnie’s life.

In fact, as he revealed to the crowd, Vinnie lived in the city at one point.  Specifically, he lived in the Bernal Heights, or as he called it “near that park on the hill with the dogs and the lesbians.”  As he played, we were treated with insights into his song’s meanings and a little self help talk.  “If a girl stabs you in the leg with a pencil on your favorite park bench, you need to take that park bench back.  Go hang out there for a little while and say, ‘Bitch, this is my bench.’”

Embree, of RX Bandits fame, followed with a solo set that spanned his many projects.  As a long time Bandits fan, Embree’s solo renditions of two of the bands songs highlighted my nights.  The first was the inevitable sing along of “Overcome” from their 2003 masterpiece The Resignation. The next highlight came when Embree discovered the bar’s piano onstage next to him and treated the crowd to a Bandits song.  According to Embree, this was only the second time he’d played the song on piano.  We let any mistakes slide, knowing we were witnessing something that would probably not happen again.  All in all, if you were hoping for a set of Bandits songs played acoustic, you would have been disappointed.  If you were hoping to hear an extremely talented musician share an intimate, emotional set with a privileged few, as I was, Embree surpassed any and all expectations

To conclude the night, Embree was rejoined by the members of Pebaluna for a few songs.  These songs were much more upbeat than their first set as a full band and featured Embree on vocals much more predominantly.  I’m not sure if these songs are a part of Pebaluna’s upcoming album Carny Life or were a part of Embree’s vast back catalog, but it didn’t matter.  The crowd loved every minute of it as the band put an energetic cap on a memorable night.

// Patrick

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