SAN FRANCISCO — The Radio Dept.‘s set of dream pop tunes at the Independent Saturday felt polished around the edges, but the band quickly fell flat, losing its audience, failing to gain any momentum and in the end, seemingly not even trying to make any concerted effort to improve.
The lights stayed on for the entirety of the show as the Swedish band started off with a few songs off 2016 album Running Out of Love including “Sloboda Narodu,” “Committed to the Cause” and “We Got Game.” On some songs they incorporated a midi keyboard. It was the only alteration to a performance that quickly became repetitive and tiresome.
Johan Duncanson, Martin Larsson and Daniel Tjäder continued with “David” and “Never Follow Suit,” off 2010’s Clinging to a Scheme. At this point, the lack of interaction even among themselves became noticeable. The musicians seemed to get lost with their instruments, but never made eye contact or tried to build energy. Each member seemed in his own world. After 16 years, perhaps The Radio Dept. has finally given up on performing an entertaining show.
Giving credit where it is due, the band’s musical performance was very clean and technically sound. Every song was well-rehearsed. “Heaven’s on Fire” and “Death to Fascism” were the two highlights because they were the most unique-sounding. They played handful of other songs off their latest album before walking off stage. “Occupied” offered a thrilling moment with roaring drums that broke through the shoegaze.
A couple of local bands opened the show. Future Shapes lead singer Fil Cala (ed. note: Fil Cala is gender neutral & prefers to be referred to as it), took the stage by itself and played what it called shitwave. After a few solo-songs, Cala’s bandmates took the stage for a musically sound set.
The Bilinda Butchers followed, performing songs interspersed with spoken excerpts. The most notable was from Bay Area rapper Lil B, to whom they dedicated a song. Lead singer Michal Palmer took time to explain how The Radio Dept. inspired his own band. The former’s “Pulling Your Weight” inspired him to recreate that sound. Opening this show was a lifetime highlight, Palmer said.
The night went in a distinctively different direction when GERMANS took the stage. The Brooklyn duo consisted of a bass player and lead singer Julia Kwamya, who filled the empty space with her bubbly energy. Instead of dream-pop, the two played ’80s revival pop and funk. Kwamya danced around and made breaks-up songs feel like cheerful opportunities.