"My claps aren't very loud. Can you guys help me out?" Yea-Ming Chen pleaded from the stage. That's the kind of sweet, unpretentious friendliness that makes audiences fall in love with Dreamdate, an Oakland-based garage-pop band led by Chen and her best friend, Anna Hillburg. Joe Haener (Rocketship, the Gris Gris, the Dodos) joined them for the evening as Dreamdate played to an enthusiastic crowd at the Knockout on Saturday night to mark the release of its second full-length album, Patience, released by Chocolate Covered Records.
Although the focus was on Dreamdate and its latest release, each band on the bill made the event well worth the $7 cover. The Splinters, an all-girl four-piece from Berkeley, opened the show with their lo-fi and surprisingly danceable take on grrrl rock. The band is fairly new — it formed just under a year ago — but its irresistibly catchy songs and the members' relaxed stage banter suggest that this band is going to be around for a while. Next, the Pets exploded onstage with power-pop of earplug-rattling, teeth-jarring proportions. It's your basic meat-and-potatoes kind of rock; nothing fancy, but the Pets do it like they invented it: clever bass lines bring together wailing guitar licks and a massacre of drums behind unpretentious lyrics about getting out and having a good time.
By the time Dreamdate took the stage, the crowd had become a mix of friends, fans, and random strangers who had been lured inside by the music of one of the previous bands. The trio played tracks from its new release as well as old crowd-pleasers such as "Why Don't You Make Me?" and "New York City," with the members taking tiny bows in between. As more than one person commented that night, they're adorable. Songs about heartbreak and friendship are heavily influenced by riot grrrl and 1960s garage rock, softened by shimmery guitars and sweet harmonies.
Toward the end of Dreamdate's set, the crowd began to chant "Elbert! Elbert!" until finally the band's former drummer, Elbert Chang, stepped onstage. Chang had left the band to prepare for an upcoming move to New York, but at the request of the crowd that night, he took over on drums for the last few songs. It was the perfect Dreamdate moment — as charming and friendly as their music, the kind of moment that keeps friends, fans, and random strangers alike coming back for more.
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