SAN FRANCISCO — From the moment the setlist was taped to the stage, a setlist that Charlotte Lawrence wouldn’t be able to follow, very little went according to plan for the Los Angeles singer-songwriter at her Noise Pop Music Festival show at the Swedish American Hall. But rather than immediately throw in the towel when her gear started losing power on every song, she decided to experiment.
‘Technical difficulties can be so fun,” Lawrence quipped earlier in her shortened performance, before she would realize just how big of a problem she and her band had on their hands. What started as one might expect from the pop artist, with bangers “Sleep Talking” and “Seventeen,” would end with a handful of fans and Lawrence leading a singalong because the drum microphones, keyboard and guitar refused to cooperate.
The first sign of trouble came during 2017 single “Seventeen,” when the song cut out toward the end, but on the right beat. It wasn’t immediately noticeable as as sign of things to come. But when it happened again on the next track, “Young and Reckless,” her guitarist (the star of the evening for his versatility and quick-thinking) switched out his electric instrument for an acoustic and the trio pushed ahead, switching up the set.
“This song is a little risqué; I think it’s my favorite song I’ve ever written,” Lawrence said as an introduction to “I Bet.” “It’s very synth- and piano-based. It’s never been played acoustically.”
Lawrence sounded a bit like Jewel on this one, with a lower-register voice that communicated rawness alongside the sparse acoustic strumming. Amplification was mostly restored for “Psychopath,” her collaboration with Nina Nesbitt and Sasha Sloan, but went out again for “Bloodstream,” which she and her guitarist started at just above a whisper. Fans took it upon themselves to provide backing harmony to Lawrence’s breathy singing, creating the performance’s highlight.
“I’ve never done that. Never thought I’d do it,” she said of the deconstructed arrangement. She performed the raw “Everybody Loves You” while playing piano, which was likely a pre-planned simplified arrangement. But on this night it felt richer.
Eventually, the show ended with an a cappella singalong to The Killers’ “Mr. Brightside” and “Just the Same,” for which her mic and guitar were electrified. On the former song, Charlotte Lawrence pulled a fan up on stage to help her sing, then another, and another, and another. The show had turned into a barroom singalong, and to her credit, the majority of the room had remained engaged and singing to the very end.
Australian singer-songwriter Meg Mac preceded the headliner in her debut San Francisco appearance. She was also backed by a guitarist, as well a a vocalist—whom she said was her younger sister. Meg Mac’s set was folkier because of the sparse instrumentation and she was at her best when harmonizing with her sister. Opener “Grace Gold” included a dry guitar tone that set the tone and fit perfectly inside the Swedish American Hall, where acoustic performances shine.
On “Maybe It’s My First Time,” she played the keyboard, which created a throwback pop feel. That transitioned into the bluesy “Never Be,” on which Meg Mac stretched out her voice, with some grit and belting. Noirish new song “Hope” was a set highlight.
“It’s about the dark side of hope; the desperate hope,” Meg Mac said as an explanation. Following “Every Lie,” from her 2015 debut EP, the trio performed the blues rocker “Ride It.” “Give Me My Name Back,” a new song, provided the emotional crux of the set. She finished up with “Roll Up Your Sleeves,” an upbeat gospel-sounding sound with a hopeful outlook. “Every thing is gonna be all right,” Meg Mac sang.
DJ Thereisnogravity opened the concert with a 40-minute set during which he spun older pop hits by the likes of Gwen Stephani and Sharkira alongside more modern hip-hop.