Three-gig weekend bender

From high-waters to codpieces to Converse:
Who was that guy last Friday night at downtown’s newest venue Ace of Spades crooning falsetto and tickling the Rhodes with the sparkle of a 12-year-old that drank too much Four Loko? You know, the dude performing with hip-hop/R&B beat makers Who Cares before Sage Francis’ headlining set, sporting the dizzying wardrobe of a rough-eyed haberdasher: brown moccasins with black ankle-high socks; baby-blue denim high-waters; a very LeBron James-inspired checkered picnic-table button-up, plus suspenders; and even Coke bottle lenses to boot.

Ah, yes, Young Aundee, a.k.a. talented Sacramento musician Andy Southard, who completes the Who Cares trifecta with ringleader Ernie Upton and multi-instrumentalist Jammal Tarkington. The trio’s set was inviting, unexpected, catchy—whether it was emcee Upton’s squeaky, rapid-fire lyricism, Tarkington’s smoothed-out flute interludes or Aundee’s overall zeal for live performance.

In the past, Who Cares’ sound skewed conscious hip-hop with a dash of electronic beats. Friday’s show, however, revealed what was for me a new direction: R&B jams. On one song, Upton, eyes peering out from under a Tampa Bay Rays hat, manned the laptop and mixers while Aundee and Tarkington sang a sweet duet. And later, local beat makers Dusty Brown and Jacob Golden of Little Foxes joined the trio as backup vocalists on an anthemic outro chant.

I’m not sure what the Ace of Spades crowd—a contingent of hip-hop enthusiast mostly donning Oakland Athletics sportswear—made of Who Cares’ envelope-pushing act. But really, who friggin’ cares? I had no clue what to anticipate from one song to the next, but was reassured each time by the band’s unbridled originality. Brah-vo.

Saturday night was less comforting but equally fun: I walk into Midtown’s Distillery and first thing I see is KnifeThruHead’s unclothed guitarist bent over, a black thong bikini the only thing thwarting off a full-on butt-crack moment.

It was after midnight. KTH lead singer Kenny Hoffman warmed the crowd up with some pre-performance banter about cocks on fire. From the waist up, he looked like the Mad Hatter, complete with a magenta velvet coat and hat. But, from the bottom down, el nudo, except for the band’s de rigueur black G-string and a skeleton-head codpiece covering the jewels.

Joined by a bassist—dressed as a DIY space alien with a Skeletor-like helmet—and a drummer and a saxophonist—the only “normal” bros in the bunch—KTH opened with a shredfest-inspired ditty about, again, setting your cock on fire. The naked guitarist noodled wildly on his ax, Hoffman strutted and screamed into the mic, and the thrash vibe had audience’s jaws firmly resting on the Distillery’s spaghetti-stained carpet.

Sunday night at Sol Collective just north of Broadway was a more somber, staring-at-Converse affair. After fun, quick sets by locals Nacho Business and the English Singles, Brooklyn’s Crystal Stilts invited the audience to form a horseshoe around the stage. Their set was mellow, Velvet Underground-inspired garage rock that lacked the explosion of West Coast contemporaries Ty Segall or Sic Alps, only their hit song “Departure” invoking any semblance of ass-shaking among the dozens-strong crowd.

Still, after two nights of fist-pumping white rappers and swinging-dick occultists, there’s something to be said for taking ’er easy, standing in the back row and unassumingly nodding one’s head to a band like Crystal Stilts’ garage-rock chillwave. Ahh.