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Yard Act - The Independent (San Francisco) - June 4th, 2024

10 June 2024

All photos by Sammy Braxton-Haney

Strolling onto the stage of San Francisco club, The Independent, to a swanky pre-recorded lounge tune, Leeds, U.K. band Yard Act start their June 4th set with “An Illusion”, from their new album, Where’s My Utopia? Considering what comes after the opener, An Illusion is a bit of a red herring with its Style Council-like soulful lilt and trading of male and female vocals. As soon as the song ends, lead vocalist James Smith quickly dispenses with all formality, and the band launches into “Dead Horse”, with all its jagged funk intact.

Before you know it, Yard Act have effortlessly rolled into “When the Laughter Stops” and the crowd is mad for it as Lauren Fitzpatrick and Daisy J.T. Smith step to the front of the stage for vocals and dancing.

On record and in their videos, Yard Act display a heady mix of Arctic Monkeys‘ drunk voice in your ear, Sleaford Mods‘ anger, Beck‘s non sequiturs and Pulp‘s nervy confessionals. Live, the sound is more muscular, and Smith’s smirk-encrusted face relaxes into a more affable “let’s get this party started” presentation. Watching James (and it is admittedly hard not to watch his arms akimbo, shape throwing) you get the feeling that the nerdy kid from high school has grown up and is having the last laugh as the ultra-cool front person for an au courant band.

The majority of tonight’s set is from the new record; “Petroleum” lopes along to an economical bass line that would not be out of place on a late-career Wire record, while Fizzy Fish moves to a herky-jerky rhythm with a post-punk lyrical collage of emotional damage. The single, We Make Hits, brings the intensity back up in the room. Its wordy teardown of the life of a post-punk UK band is spread out against a simple but catchy funk pattern and peaks with the lines “We just wanna have some fun before we’re sunk”.

Guitarist Sam Shipstone gives a throwback punk energy to “Witness” from their debut recording, while bassist Ryan Needham locks in with drummer Jay Russell to keep the dancing going with “Dream Job”. More than any other song from the new album, Dream Job highlights the tightness of the band’s rhythm section and tonight it pushes all the right buttons. Where’s My Utopia? might have been subtitled “We Have a Sampler and We Know How to Use it”, but tonight, samples are kept to a bare minimum and the band sounds like a cohesive, solid unit. Surely bigger venues beckon; what a treat to see them in the intimate setting of The Independent.