Drunk At A Show: Anime Creek and AlAIA at Stone Way Cafe
Shows at cafés are a different flavor than shows at bars or basements. They require you to be there and listening, and little else; it’s a nice change from sweaty, rowdy gigs that are loads of fun but sometimes too energetically demanding. There’s not that stale-beer-with-a-hint-of-piss smell hanging in the air, no aggro pit tornado in front of the band, no need for earplugs. Café shows feel medicinal to the quiet kid in me who needs tranquility as badly as she needs music.
This week, on Monday the 20th, I got my first café show dosage of this dark season at Stone Way Café in Fremont, where I saw Anime Creek and A|A|A (or Alaia, as in Alaia D’Alessandro of Tres Leches).
Alaia opened with an incredibly captivating set. It was her and an electric guitar onstage, and she used a looper to create a full sound layered with harmonies and percussive, bass-y riffs. The hollow body guitar sounded earthy and warm, and this, underneath the raw clarity of Alaia’s voice, made for honeyed songs steeped in anger pointed towards unjust power structures that so many of us feel. The rich sound and the relatable, frustrated lyrics working together is just one of the things that made Alaia’s performance so absorbing; she is also just a hell of a charismatic presence that you can’t, and don’t want to, detach from. Even from across the room, you can see and feel the passion burning in her eyes when she plays.
Anime Creek, featuring vocalist Minna Lee and guitarist Grif Benzel, delivered a lighthearted and tender performance to finish the night off. They released a new album this month titled Dark Optimism, Dark Poptimism, and their set list showcased songs from this release—many of which are about heartbreak and the rubble it leaves you to sort through. While Anime Creek utilized several different instruments and effects on their record and can usually be seen with Grif on electric guitar and Minna playing a snare at their shows, they played a stripped down, acoustic set at Stone Way Café. This brought the emotions of the songs to the surface, as well as created a folksy sound that I found very accessible and thought fit the atmosphere of the café nicely.
Even though much of their subject matter came from a place of pain, the message you receive from them is not one of wallowing or bitterness, but of growth and humor. And this—the humor—is one of the things that makes Anime Creek such a great band to see live. They fill their set with anecdotes and backstories, never taking themselves too seriously but also not detracting from the sentiments of their songs.
Alaia and Anime Creek together were a great fit. Both had a way of stirring up emotions in you, but counteracting these things that can be uncomfortable or painful with playfulness and resiliency, both within their songs and outside of them. I feel lucky that I got to see them play together in such an intimate setting, and look forward to seeing both of them play again soon.