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Noise Pop ’08: Kelley Stoltz, Grand Archives Miss the ’60s

The Sub Pop rockers and newcomers the Morning Benders conjure memories of Winnie Cooper and Daniel Stern voice-overs.

Berkeley’s Morning Benders helped get things started at the Independent on Noise Pop’s second night, offering some reassuring audience endorsement courtesy of frontman (and male version of Winnie Cooper) Chris Chu, who introduced set standout “A Song” thusly: “We think you’ll like it; you’re not assholes.” The youthful quartet, who’ve been successfully campaigning for the title of SF’s new indie rock darlings, charmed their way through their early Beatles-y repertoire for their first big Noise Pop show so winningly we could almost hear the Wonder Years voiceover as they left the stage.

But the crowd was about to get some seriously (non-threatening) not-assholes competition in the form of Seattle’s countrified twee outfit Grand Archives, the current project of estranged Band of Horses co-founder Mat Brooke. Striking a tattooed Bee Gees chord, the four-piece nailed synchronized choruses and “ba-ba-bas” with harmonic precision even the most accomplished barbershop quartet would envy. Brooke’s bittersweet lyrics were powerless to dent the wall-of-’60s-sugar live impact of “Swan Matches” and “Miniature Birds,” in a set that so narrowly averted saccharine, it could only be deemed Splenda-d.

Singer-songwriter and fellow ’60s idolizer Kelley Stoltz was up next, but it wasn’t just his music being anticipated near the stage. “Come up front,” read one concertgoer’s over-seen text to an undisclosed pal. “There are bubbles!” And bubbles there were — bubble machines, in fact — flanked by a stage set with family-friendly inflatable safety cones.

Stoltz gave the show a Prairie Home Companion treatment, introducing new tunes such as “The Birmingham Eccentric” with homespun anecdotes about the newspaper of his youth. The family reunion feeling was in full effect, perhaps due to his ever-present Beach Boys influence or the fact that Stoltz is a local boy made good. But most likely it was because his mom (oft mentioned in Stoltz performances) was in the house, making a special, we’re-at-a-wedding style appearance on “Memory Collector.” Stoltz and his band delivered in full with personality and vintage panache, and while it rang a little too comfortable for comfort at times, they got by with a little help from their friends.

More photos after the jump…