Geographer: The Independent, San Francisco, CA 03/03/2012

Photo Credit: Joan Bowlen

The buzz behind Geographer’s first full-scale San Francisco show for their newly launched tour behind 2012’s Myth (which came out earlier this week) was incessant, to say the least. Well before their fantastic acoustic gig at Amoeba on Tuesday to celebrate the album release, their set last night at the Independent sold out– a fact that few had expected and for which many had not prepared. The venue’s 500-person capacity makes it quite intimate for a rock event, but a sold out show also brings an energy to the room that electrifies the space. Perhaps it’s because Geographer is a hometown band that made the room seem even more alive, but last night’s crowd was downright ecstatic for their performance.

Pretty & Nice and The Chain Gang of 1974 served as the first two openers, but it wasn’t until Miniature Tigers took the stage that the show really began. The Brooklyn-based indie-rock group previewed their upcoming album Mia Pharaoh (to be released this Tuesday on Modern Art Records), while throwing in a good amount of older material as well. Frontman Charlie Brand effectively held the attention of the audience, while his bandmates played with vigor and exuberance. Their last song “Sex on the Regular” was particularly enjoyable, and showed a band with a lot of potential but plenty of skill already in their live presentation.

Geographer has been a local darling since their 2008 debut with Innocent Ghosts, and with good reason. Lead singer Michael Deni has an incredibly winsome personality and just the right swagger, without the usual smugness that many of his contemporaries possess. He commands the stage with an effortless sexuality that infuses the electronica-forward songs with an ease and allure that really grabs the audience’s attention. The band is also incredibly tight, with drummer Brian Ostreicher providing the strong rhythmic foundation for cellist/bassist Nathan Blaz to add beautiful textures that complement Deni’s keyboard/synth and guitar parts. They’ve clearly figured out the division of labor and focus, and yet there isn’t an air of pretension or affected hipness to their playing; rather, they seem somewhat delightfully geeky in their approach and execution.

Geographer’s new album, Myth, is a real tour-de-force, and thankfully the songs hold up excellently in the live context. It’s always a gamble when it comes to rock with heavy electronic elements as to whether the songs will balance and retain the power of their studio recordings, and many fail at conveying the same sort of vitality when taking the songs on stage. Thankfully, Deni, Blaz and Ostreicher have developed a synchrony that elevates their studio sound, which brings songs like “Life of Crime,” “Kaleidoscope” and “Vesijärvi,” which are already upbeat, and lets them shimmer and explode with cathartic swells and catchy melodies. But it was “Lover’s Game” and “Kites” that brought the largest applause and also came most alive during the show. Deni’s falsetto is supported, rounded and gentle, caressing the higher parts of the chorus in “Lover’s Game,” without adding a weakness or fragility to the vocal. And thankfully the audio engineer balanced the instruments so Deni didn’t have to fight to sing above the others, which created a nice blend to the performance.

While the 70-minute set was regrettably short, their presentation of the new material was fantastic. Deni and his bandmates seemed genuinely pleased to play for their hometown, friends and family, but it would have been nice to see them throw in a couple of surprises given the specialness of the show, like an unexpected cover or collaboration. Also, there’s thankfully a lot of similarity between Geographer and Miniature Tigers that it could have been intriguing to see them play together at moments. Even so, Geographer gave such a wonderful performance to wrap up their jam-packed album release week that it’s hard to justify such criticisms. They’re a band well on their rise already, but with good reason. They’ll be able to ride the positive energy from Myth for a long while, but it’s clear that these boys are not looking to coast; rather, they’re eager to continue to grow– just like their audiences will do if they maintain their high level of musical quality they’ve established so far.

Photo Credit: Joan Bowlen

Photo Credit: Joan Bowlen

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