Cries of "Jesus" shouted toward The Artisanals frontman Johnny Delaware as he took the stage correctly foreshadowed the tone for the night. With a steel wire dangling from his instrument’s headstock, he left no doubt in the San Francisco crowd's mind that he was a tenured advocate of the 11-string guitar. Barefoot and grounded to the stage he stood on, he let the band tease the audience before plugging his instrument into the loudspeaker. With the level of dedication that was clearly put into the performance that followed, The Artisinals more than lived up to the adjective in their name.
Although they sing about how they could be a “one-trick pony” in their song “drag,” one would never assume that by seeing them live. Somewhere between the colorful appearance of Jefferson Airplane and the upbeat folk-rock sound of Dawes is where you will find The Artisinals. In a set without a low point, the band took every chance to engage the audience both musically and interpersonally. The musicians utilized the charm of the intimate and snug style of the venue to their advantage and frequently made eye contact with different members of the audience who were particularly enjoying a moment.
Having played their previous concert in the city right down the road at the Rickshaw, San Francisco’s Hotel Utah was clearly a memorable venue for the band as they constantly bantered about it throughout the night. “Do you think they still use this as a hotel?” “It’s San Francisco, they Airbnb it.” were among the highlights of their chit chat.
Their stop off in San Francisco was far from their first rodeo. The Artisanals have been actively touring largely to promote their upcoming self-titled album, which is scheduled to release on September 21st. Recently, Grateful Web was lucky enough to have the chance to experience this new album for what it is and the implications the 10-track record has for the band’s legacy.
The album opens with a minute-long sitar-style solo that transitions into the album’s single “Angel 42.” While the versatile piece might start off this album, it has become known as the one the band plays to end their sets. A soft but upbeat number with a wide variety of sound and unique instrumental features. In many ways, it is the kind of song you would want to play while lying down on the grass and shut your eyes on a summer day.
It is hard to take in the third track “First Time” without feeling a bit of whimsical nostalgia. Lyrically motivated and slow paced, it focuses on the story of a relationship long ended but with a refreshingly transparent twist. Instead of disingenuous embellishments of unrealistic situations, this song celebrates the beauty in the seemingly unremarkable quirks of a new relationship. It serves as a reminder that the most important moments we remember from a past relationship might be a little strange, but they mean a lot to you, lyrics such as “The first time I ever partied with you you were doing cocaine with the girls” and “The first time I made love to you it was on my friend’s couch.” It plays as a refreshing song that celebrates the subtleties of life.