SAN FRANCISCO — For those worried that indie rock has gotten too serious as of late, The Jungle Giants led a three-band Noise Pop Music Festival lineup at the Independent on Tuesday that proved otherwise.
The Brisbane, Australia quartet executed a tight set of 13 disco-tinged, angular post-rock and pop songs in just about an hour on the penultimate stop of its largest U.S. tour yet. The Independent was nearly full as lead guitarist Cesira Aitken, frontman Sam Hales, bassist Andrew Dooris and drummer Keelan Bijker kicked off with the The Talking-Heads-like “Quiet Ferocity,” the title track to their 2017 (and most recent) album. Hales delivered the entire song in falsetto, and the song’s driving rhythm found a new gear roughly five minutes in, gathering more momentum as Aitken found her groove.
The bright and poppy “She’s a Riot,” from 2013 debut album Learn to Exist, actually managed to pick up the tempo even more, while “On Your Way Down,” another 2017 cut, wouldn’t be out of place on a newer Franz Ferdinand album. The Jungle Giants also borrowed a few steps from the Franz Ferdinand performance handbook. Hales, Aitken and Bijker were constantly in motion, whether pogoing in place, spinning around and otherwise using the stage as more than a floor.
“Sometimes you have to be more dramatic, San Francisco,” Hales said.
The show came with crowd participation, as well. Early on, Hales noticed that a young woman in the front row seemed to know the band’s first few songs front to back. He compared the fan, whose name was Tabitha, to a Teleprompter, and then came back to her numerous time throughout the rest of the show, using her to to encourage others.
“Come on everyone! Tabitha’s got it!” he implored the room to get louder and sing the chorus of “Anywhere Else.”
Following the disco rhythm of “Blinded,” The Jungle Giants transitioned back to their post rock side with some more angular riffs on “I Am What You Want Me to Be.” Here, Hales hopped from the stage and to Tabitha, where he continued to play guitar as fans encircled him.
Danceable synth-pop number “People Always Say” was punctuated by one of Aitken’s piercing solos, and Hales danced on a stage monitor during “Waiting for a Sign.” That song blended into one of the group’s biggest hits, “Feel the Way I Do.” The fact that the song’s signature cell phone ring intro hook wasn’t played live was negligible, as the song provided one of several highlights of the performance.
The Jungle Giants rounded out their set with newer single “Sending Me Ur Loving,” as well as fan favorites “Heavy Hearted,” “Used to Be in Love” and “Bad Dream.”
San Francisco band Fast Times opened the show with a varied eight-song set of uptempo jams. Composed of local music veterans Andrew St. James on bass, guitarist Duncan Nielsen and drummer Cody Rhodes, Fast Times sounded like a band that’s been honing its skills for years rather than months. The trio’s sound shifted from the nostalgic rock of “Art School” to the Americana vibes of “Tehachapi Silver” and the U2-like shimmering guitar on “Heaven Sent.”
Sometimes St. James led the group. At others, Neilsen’s guitar did most of the talking. Rhodes was never overshadowed, though. Fast Times rounded out its times with two jams: “Tuesday Night” and “Nostalgia Junkie Comedown,” neither of which seems to be available to stream online, but both of which should be.
Dallas’ Little Image, the middle band in the lineup, also didn’t let the crowd or pace of the show down. The trio blended new wave sounds with an emo mentality, often starring the reverberated vocals of singer Jackson Simmons, such as on opener “All In My Head.” Simmons’ vocals were pitched up and paired with squelching samples on “Blue,” while “Ego” leaned heavier on the band’s emo side with a sort of spoken-word delivery and screaming.
The band’s newer songs introduced yet another angle. “Clean NYC” was poppier and was colored by some synth doodling during the outro, while “Dance” incited some funky dancing at the Independent. Little Image concluded with the euphoric and anthemic “Bottles,” off 2017 album Musings, and the psychedelic new single “Worth It.”