New Morning

The Morning Benders' Saturday Fillmore Show Misses Beats That Made Them Famous

Ryan Ballard/Staff

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The heartache that accompanies change seemed to be the theme of Saturday's show at the Fillmore. Three acts, three hours, and endless reminders of adolescence, adulthood and the dreams that glue them both together rendered the ornate music hall a hub of nostalgia. Growing up and growing old have never been difficult to cry about, and the Morning Benders have perfected the sigh of anguish at these persisting pains. They had their Fillmore audience sighing in defeat with them, though more in longing for the band's past persona.

The night began with Cults, the indie pop band whose unexpected rise to fame by means of has continuously characterized their performances as they-can't-quite-believe-it. This was their second show in San Francisco this year, and the band sounded learnedly polished compared to their Bottom of the Hill display a few months ago.

Twin Sister graced the stage next, enchanting the audience with their otherworldliness. Frontwoman Andrea Estella, dressed girlishly in a large bow, whispered breathily over layers of synth beats and electric guitar, sounding markedly more grown up than she appeared. Their engaging hour-long set almost made you forget the headlining band still to come, which is to say Twin Sister has a promising future ahead.

The Morning Benders have come a long way since their days as local Berkeley sweethearts known for the lovelorn lyricism and bedroom recordings of EPs Loose Change and Boarded Doors. Their latest, Big Echo, displays a moody musicianship that is at times unbearably cynical. But despite their new sound, the band's female fan base has only grown. The wild cheering of the half-filled hall felt more appropriate for the Backstreet Boys than the mellow, unassuming quartet that came on stage.

Despite whatever idea of boy band the Morning Benders fit, they have always performed well live, exemplifying an energy that doesn't translate on their albums. Jumping into "Promises," the band showcased the loping rhythms, sweet vocal harmonies and careful melodies that have earned them their popularity. Frontman Chris Chu still emotes as convincingly as in years past, plucking gingerly at his guitar with his eyes closed and brow knit, as if each note pulls a piece of him away. The band moved effortlessly into "Cold War (Nice Clean Fight)," a song off Big Echo that retains the catchiness of their older material, particularly tracks from Loose Change.

As a brief return home in the midst of an extensive touring schedule, the Morning Benders seemed comforted to perform for veteran fans. Sadly, they hardly treated the audience to old favorites. "Boarded Doors" was played in the band's darker, more unsettling Big Echo style. Fortunately, the band was redeemed by "Waiting for a War," which had the Fillmore floor bouncing underfoot. However changed the Morning Benders are from their days of boyish poeticism, their new sound-conscious style certainly impresses. Watching them last night, it was clear the band knew they were not only grown up, but ready to take on their new fame.

Send your breathy whispers to Catherine at [email protected]

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