The Capes at the Independent

San Francisco, March 1, 2006

They came (from London). They saw (the paltry crowd). They conquered (anyway).

The weirdest thing happened at the Capes’ show at the Independent. This horrible local SF band, whose name I didn’t even catch, played and the crowd went wild. This band was obnoxiously flashy, musically competent, but their lyrics were inane and their music derivative. Of what, I’m not even sure. They sounded like an 80s heavy metal band entwined with a little Depeche Mode, if that even makes any sense. Trust me. They were awful. They acted all rock-starred out, performing in unison and doing other cheesy stage antics. You should have seen the keyboard player – he really was into himself.

But after their set ended, most of the crowd cleared out. Apparently, they all paid $12 to see garbage, and didn’t even stay for the headliners, the wonderful, magnificent Capes.

Oh, boy. As soon as the Capes took the stage and started their set with the energetic “Francophile,” I was hooked. They were exuberant, they were young, they were … delightful. Energetic isn’t really the right word for them, for they surpassed even that. They put their hearts on play for the meager crowd, and the crowd responded well, exploding into applause at the end of each song.

Let’s just say they looked more Austin than London. Not quite hipster, but with hipster qualities. The lead singer, Kris Barratt, has the requisite floppy hair Britpop bands need, and Rupert Phelps, the cool glasses. And yet, I didn’t think they were from England (even though I knew they were before I went) until they opened their mouths and had the right accents. Whatever their looks, their sound is what counts, and it was fabulous.

A lot of people are going to compare the Capes to Blur, whose music surely influenced theirs. But I wouldn’t say that’s it. There’s a lot of the Super Furry Animals and the Bloo Party in there, too, but again… they are too original to really be plastered with a lot of name-dropping. Edgy but refined, effervescent Britpop. That’s what I’d call them. Mature for their age. Which is a good thing, not the least bit detrimental.

They played music mostly from their first release, Taste, on which you can find “Francophone.” With three guitarists (Kris Barratt, Richard Gladman and Nick Cresswell), they bombarded the place with sound on songs such as “Super Girls” and “No More Mr. Nice Guy,” which is off their second release, Hello. All in all, they played 11 songs, and I loved every one of them. I liked “Shinjuru Hi-5” the best. Don’t ask me why, can’t tell you. Just was a little crazier than their other songs, and you know I love crazy.

“Galaxy Fraulein” ended the set; you could tell the boys were ready for a break after that. But they came back on and played two more, “Mexican Broads” and “Cause and Effect,” another new one. We were ecstatic to hear more!

Not only were they great musicians, but they were also really nice people too. Very down to earth with their British charm. Nick wrote me a set list to help me write this piece, and Rupert, the drummer (not to be confused with Rupert Cresswell, Nick’s brother, the bass player) asked us to hang out with them afterwards. They were just the nicest guys, and it’s a shame we couldn’t hang with them. Oh yeah – when we said we hated the opening band, Rupert said, “Right answer,” and then politely tried to cover up the sarcasm. Very professional.

Rupert and I had a nice chat about SXSW, at which they are playing three or four shows; I thought American Analog Set was playing, and wanted to hook them up with my friend Craig, who plays keyboards in Amanset, but I found out today that Amanset is not making an appearance. Oh well. I’m sure the band is going to find their footing as they wend their way from Eugene to Portland to Dallas and then to Austin. Their charm is going to take them far, and their talent even farther. I wish more people had stuck around to hear them. Oh well; their loss.

Look for the Capes to be HUGE after SXSW. I predict greatness!

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- Diana Slampyak

Diana Slampyak is a regular contributor to Turntable & Blue Light.