rogue wave [2010]

Bottom of the Hill
San Francisco, CA
24 February 2010

All hyperbole not aside, but really just left of center, Rogue Wave at Bottom of the Hill was the most highly-anticipated show of my life. It wasn’t really, but there were certainly odd (and by odd, I mean near-tragic) circumstances that delayed my seeing them perform for the first time, for a very long time.

You see, I’d been listening to the music of Zach Schwartz (embrace it, Zach, embrace it), a.k.a. Zach Rogue for a while and really enjoyed his sunny, warm blend of indie pop. The fact that we both call Oakland home just sweetened it all. For whatever reason, his shows hadn’t been on my radar, but soon enough, I saw he was coming to The Independent and immediately bought tickets.

But not long before the show, it was announced that Schwartz had experienced a freak neck/back injury. Not life-threatening, but off-your-feet for a while injured. The show was to be rescheduled. Fortunately, he got better over the following months. Unfortunately, the show was rescheduled for a date I was going to be out of town.

Fast forward a year or so and it was announced that he would be headlining a show for Noise Pop – not just any show, but at my favorite venue (Bottom of the Hill), a much smaller spot than he normally plays at these days. I snatched up tickets in the hour or so before the show sold out and the official (and aforementioned) anticipation began.

But here’s the funny thing about anticipation. Wait long enough and the thing you thought you were excited about, that thing is no longer the thing at all. And the anticipation is all that’s left. It’s kind of like a show review that never actually arrives at the show.

Schwartz took the stage with a youthful and infectious exuberance. He spoke of his early days, going to shows at Bottom of the Hill, and later performing there. With endearing sincerity, he shared with the crowd how thrilling it was to make his grand return. At Bottom of the Hill. For Noise Pop. The crowd ate it up. It was a love fest.

And with that, Schwartz and his Wave launched into about 5 or 6 songs from his new (unreleased as of the show date) album, Permalight. Bold move to keep the crowd waiting so long for the familiar, but perhaps he knew that his back would be had, considering the love in the room and how grateful everybody was to see him in such a tiny venue.

The new songs, and the older ones that followed, were pure Rogue Wave: polished and poppy, with energy to spare. Perfect harmonies and scrubbed hooks. And maybe that’s what it is for me – what keeps me from fully embracing Schwartz’s music. It’s not that I need discord, that I crave dissonance and difficult music. In the end, I think his creations are just too well-groomed for my ears.

On a side note, it was truly heartwarming to see that Beaker (of Muppets fame) had partially grown up and found his calling as Rogue Wave’s bass player. Surprising choice to go ahead and sprout the ultra-thin-yet-only-slightly-groomed mustache, but you know, in these turbulent times, there’s quite a lot of peer pressure around that kind of…thing.

There is no question that I’m happy I was finally able to experience Rogue Wave live. And it probably won’t be the last time, but I’ve certainly learned that sometimes, anticipation, allowed to germinate freely, can sometimes become more than the anticipated.