REVIEW: Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever makes SF debut at The Independent

Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, Rolling Blackouts CF

Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever performs at The Independent on Aug. 28, 2018. Photos: Shawn Robbins.

SAN FRANCISCO — It’s hard to believe that this was the first proper U.S. tour for Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever. The band was a tight-knit unit during its San Francisco debut at the Independent Tuesday.

Also known as Rolling Blackouts CF, the Australian indie-rock quintet is currently touring in support of debut album Hope Downs. The band got a lot of buzz from its earlier EPs and is constantly compared to the Go-Betweens with its similar jangly, guitar pop sound. But Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, which got a boost from a crowd that consisted of quite a few Aussies, was anything but a facsimile.

Composed of singer-guitarists Fran Keaney, Tom Russo and Joe White, bassist Joe Russo and drummer Marcel Tussie, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever wasted no time, launching into “The Hammer,” which featured some catchy hooks from Keaney. Without saying anything, the band went into “Clean Slate.” The song was tight and fast, a la The Jam’s Paul Weller. The guitarists formed a semi-circle and went into an extended jam session halfway into the song. It was a solid, blissful melody of guitar pop heaven.

During its 70-minute set, Rolling Blackouts CF played almost everything in its catalog, from Hope Downs to its two EPs, 2017’s The French Press and 2016’s Talk Tight. Songs like “Colours Run” and “Sick Bug” recalled 1980s, IRS Records-era R.E.M., with guitar riffs reminiscent of Peter Buck and fellow Australians Midnight Oil. “Wither With You” had infectious hooks and beautiful harmonies from singers Keaney, Russo and White.

As the band played deeper cuts, fans danced and bounced along, and many seemed to know all the words to the songs. As Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever worked through its set, the songs’ hooks became cashier and more melodic. On “Time in Common,” fans sang along to the hook infused chorus, “Oh yeah, do you ever think about it?/ Do you feel it all that much?/ Do you really think it matters?”

The energy surged as the band went into the single “Talking Straight,” on which Keaney sang lead. Rolling Blackouts CF apparently wasn’t too much for stage banter, though White did several times thank fans for coming and said it was “nice to be here finally.”

As the set neared its end, the band played fan-favorite “Bellarine.” “Mainland” showed off the excitement of Tussie, who had a million-watt smile and bounced around his drum kit like Animal of the Muppets. Rolling Blackouts CF came back for a two-song encore with an appreciative crowd hungry for more.’

Jo Passed,

Jo Passed performs at The Independent in San Francisco on Aug. 28, 2018.

“We owe you at least half a song to make up for our first one,” White said.

Subpop label-mates Jo Passed, from Vancouver, Canada, opened the show. Put together power chords, frenzied psych-rock guitars and some dreamy vocals, and you have Jo Passed. The project of multi-instrumentalist and producer Joseph Hirabayashi played a set of heavy, guitar-driven rock. Guitarist Bella Bébé and bassist Megan-Magdalena Bourne jumped around, their hair flying everywhere as they shredded.

Follow writer Rachel Goodman at and photographer Shawn Robbins at and

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