SAN FRANCISCO — “One, two, three, will you list it off to me?/ How you’re sorry you feel weird in a jubilation dream,” whispered Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad of Girlpool. Part best friends and part folk-punk band, the two led into their Noise Pop set Wednesday with “123,” the opening track off their latest LP, Powerplant. Their soft serenading, paired with muted guitar picking instantly hooked the crowd at the Great American Music Hall.
Then, the drums broke in and Girlpool’s sound permeated throughout the venue like a heart flushed with emotion. This fuller set-up is relatively new for the group, with Powerplant marking the first release to feature more than just the duo’s vocals, bass and guitar. But fans were all ears and more, nodding their heads to every rejuvenating pulse.
Girlpool’s set continued with “Sleepless” and “Your Heart,” both of which mix the pair’s hushed vocals with edgier instrumental tones. The group then dialed things back as the drummer and second guitarist exited the stage.
With just Tucker and Tividad in the spotlight, they performed “Ideal World” and “I Like That You Can See It,” both off 2015 release Before the World Was Big. Each track was a clear classic, with the venue echoing wide-eyed lyrics like, “I thought I found myself today/ No one’s noticed/ Things are OK.”
On stage, Tucker’s and Tividad’s friendship was prominent. They’d poke fun at each other, move in sync to the music and giggle over inside jokes. But even with a packed house, their stage banter welcomed everyone in the crowd into the friend group.
At one point, Tividad spent an entire song laughing intermittently, which passed on to Tucker and eventually the crowd.
“If you’re wondering why I kept laughing, it’s because something reminded me of the time I peed on stage,” Tividad said. “And that’s all I kept thinking about.”
Most of the remaining set consisted of songs off Powerplant, such as the nihilist-meets-arsonist love story “It Gets More Blue” and the title track. Girlpool also performed latest single “Picturesong,” which originally featured Blood Orange.
Whether in song or tuning in between tracks, the duo was full of stories.
“If anyone saw me doing a double-take during just then, it’s because I thought I saw the inventor of Facebook,” Tividad later said. “I was like ‘whoa that’d be crazy…’ Actually, I’m thinking of Tom from MySpace.”
Girlpool closed the night with “Chinatown.” While soft in contrast to the set’s amped-up energy, the tune captures the elements about Girlpool’s music that has existed since the beginning: heartfelt storytelling, subtle nostalgia and carefully crafted symbolism.
Before Girlpool, Field Medic took the stage ready to give San Francisco a lot of love. With just his guitar, and occasionally a cassette player loaded with drum tracks, Field Medic played a sweet selection of quirky folk tunes. He dedicated many to everyone’s “one true love,” most notably with the song “OTL.” The tune was full of humorous one-liners and pop culture references that were audibly loved by the audience, such as “I’m reading Norwegian Wood by Murakami/ Dreaming of that one true love.”
Singer-songwriter Rose Droll represented the Bay Area for the evening. Backed up by a full band, which briefly included an upright bass, Droll’s set consisted of breezy songs sung at a hum. While Droll signed off with an upbeat closer, the song that really gripped the audience was the third—a moody track sung with a stream-of-consciousness flow that Droll recited flawlessly.
Special Explosion, a folk rock band from Seattle, opened the show. The group played a set that alternated between sentimental soul-soothers and quicker-paced tunes. Harmonies between siblings Lizzy and Andy Costello gave Special Explosion a nostalgic sound that seemed to captivate the crowd. The show was the group’s San Francisco debut.