Nada Surf in Concert

We saw Nada Surf! We like Nada Surf! But just before that…

Yesterday was our good friend Kevin L‘s birthday, and we were able to meet him for dinner at the SF City Center food court. Now, I know what you’re thinking, and yah I took my friend to dinner at a mall food court, but this is the former Emporium building in San Francisco. The skylight is so legendary they echoed it on the meal trays. The place we ate at was Buckhorn — swayed by the tasty steak samples, I got a bacon cheddar buck (bacon, cheddar cheese, and 6 oz of tri-tip steak in a sourdough roll), and it was quite tasty.

Dinner went well enough, but that’s when the evening went awry. I remembered that we had seen another band, the Dresden Dolls, at the Great American Music Hall, and I had remarked how close it was to a strip club. It’s not that I use those as landmarks necessarily, but it is really close to one. It even says so in the wikipedia page! Anyway, I had remembered that there was a music venue next to a strip club near the where we were eating, so we just walked.

Turns out, I was sorta right. There is a music venue next to a strip club near there, but it isn’t that one. Near there is the Warfield which is next to the Crazy Horse strip club on Market. The Great American Music Hall is on O’Farrell next to the Mitchell Bros. strip club. We had some time so we ended up just walking the 4 blocks up to O’Farrell and the 6 blocks down to the show and were still in time for the opening act!

Being short people, we settled in upstairs and were able to grab a set of chairs on the left side gallery. The GAMH is set up so there’s a standing area in front of the stage which is maybe 2 feet off the ground. The sides have chairs and tables, but they’re not raised at all, so once the show starts the chairs clear. Upstairs, there is a gallery on either side of the entire hall with chairs with a bar-like runner. There are seats in the very back on a further raised platform but they were full. The best spots right up against the railing in back are always reserved and seemingly always empty.

The opening act was Zach Shwartz (aka Zach Rogue) of Oakland’s Rogue Wave. The full complement of Rogue Wave apparently toured with Nada Surf recently, but it was just the main singer/guitarist doing a mostly acoustic set. I didn’t recognize the songs, but they were quite snappy and the singer’s voice is very good. Julie recognized his final song, and we will look up more Rogue Wave later.

I was surprised at how sparse Nada Surf is.. it’s really just a guitarist/singer, drummer/backing vocals, and a bassist. Their normal bassist was recuperating from a knee injury so we had stand-in ostensibly from Oslo. (Go Team Norway!) You might remember Nada Surf from a catchy tune from *way* back in 1996 called “Popular” but this is not that band. I mean, it is that band… the band members haven’t changed since then, but that song was really not representative of how they are now, and it’s arguably not representative of how they were then.

Nada Surf is very power-chords driven music and rocking. It’s a band you want to listen to when you’re feeling a bit disconnected and want to get back on track. Their music has a great ability to hook you in enough to get into the songwriting and the lyrics are great. Their lyrics have a lot of themes about growing up and being nostalgic and having fun. Their final song was “The Blankest Year” which also involved a good amount of audience participation for the chorus. 200 or so people singing “f*ck it” is great to be part of on a work day.

Seeing a band in a smaller venue like this was a real refresher after seeing Radiohead at the Outside Lands Festival. Everyone was into the band being there, and there weren’t hordes of disinterested people talking over our concert experience.

We cabbed it back to the garage, and now I’ll never mix up those two music venues and strip clubs again. I think, though, as tacit apology I’m beholden to massage my wife’s feet and back whenever she asks for a few weeks.


  1. Claire

    I am so jealous!! Ted and I saw Nada Surf at the Filmore this year for Valentines day and just loved it. I am over the moon jealous that you got to see them and that they were back in SF and I had no clue. Lucky Lucky!!

  2. Me

    aw man!

    I had thought about asking you two if you wanted to go; something told me you would be down with them. We need to go full disclosure and put all our albums on the table so we don’t miss another concert 🙂

  3. Claire


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.
Required fields are marked:*