by Madeline Carpou
You get to Café Du Nord through a descending stairway under a neon-lit awning. It’d been so long since I’d been to a show, I didn’t really know what to expect, but I should have been expecting, at the very least, the kinds of people that show up to a Slow Hollows show. Everyone had a fresh, art-school haircut, and clothes that indicated they thought they were more outcasted and edgy than they actually were. In other words, a lot of them were teenagers.
I felt somewhere in the middle, as far as the crowd went. There were the aforementioned teens – and then, surprisingly, there were boomers, oodles and oodles of boomers. Initially I thought they’d come with their kids, but no, a lot of them seemed like folks from the neighborhood who just treated Café Du Nord like a place to hang out casually on a Saturday night. Then, amidst a self-conscious gaggle of zoomers and millennials, was me, orange 21+ wristband and all.
The atmosphere of this kind of show brought me back to my late teens, when I really started going to shows more often. Back then, whether I went with friends or alone, I felt electric, soaking up the atmosphere like it belonged to me. I’d be able to down a couple beers and feel fine. And even if I felt self-conscious around the people present, I couldn’t deny that I was just like them, all of us trying to be a certain idea of a person.
But on the 29th, while I was listening to the first band, Small Crush, I was already sauced on half a mule and starting to get annoyed by just how teen the energy was getting. The first band was a poppy indie group fronted by a twee white girl, accompanied by goofy-looking white boys who looked like twins. People in the crowd LOVED them, and I assumed it was because they knew them, because they kept shouting out their names and saying all around me, Oh my god this song is LITERALLY me!!!
This is where I have to give credit to San Francisco when it comes to music scenes. I’ve been to a good amount of shows here and in LA, and I can say with certainty that in SF, they just give more of a shit. They have fun, they dance, they play, they sing along. In LA, everyone mills around silently until someone starts to mosh, and even then it feels slightly performative, like everyone is trying to win the part of a River-Phoenix-lookalike. I saw Current Joys in LA and in SF, and in LA, when Nick Rattigan was milling around the crowd, everyone pretended not to see or care. But in SF, excitable girls whispered around each other – oh my god, is that him? – and felt brazen enough to say to him, Oh my god, I LOVE you! Whether or not that’s appropriate is beside the point. The point is, people here know how to have a good time.
But maybe, they have too good of a time. The second act was Loyal Lobos, a singer-songwriter from Colombia whose songs were heartfelt and earnest, the kinds of songs you would listen to on a rainy drive up and down the coast. I thought her sound was fascinating and relatively unique, and I loved how strong and lovely her voice was. But despite her being the second act, everyone kept talking over her. People were laughing loudly and talking about who did what with so and so, etc. etc. etc., and even when I pushed my way towards the front of the crowd, I still had a hard time hearing her. It reminded me of when I went to see SALES at the Catalyst Atrium: to put it briefly, a bunch of drunk girls ruined it. Maybe it’s just hit-or-miss, inviting lo-fi singer-songwriters to play to an all-ages crowd. In any case, I was disappointed.
All of this was preparing me for Slow Hollows. I went to the bathroom, changed my tampon, and looked at myself in the mirror. I realized that a big difference between current, 22-year-old me, and old, 19-year-old me, was the fact that I felt more like myself. When I saw my reflection, I didn’t see an attempt to be someone I wasn’t. I just saw myself. I was at the show alone because I didn’t feel like babysitting anyone, so I was safe in my bubble of public solitude. In that bubble, I asked myself: what are you hoping to get out of this show?
And I got that answer as soon as the show started: closure on a certain part of my youth.
It was fitting, in a dumb, maudlin way. This was Slow Hollows’ last show on their last tour before splitting up as a band. They had one more send-off show/party in LA to come, but I wouldn’t be able to make it, nor would I really want to. I’d followed them since I was a bored teenager whose friends never wanted to do anything, and I’d watch Stumble On Tapes videos on YouTube and try to educate myself on the LA scene from a distance. Then, I really got into them when I saw Tyler, the Creator’s video for PERFECT – featuring a grungy looking white boy at the end of the video. Thinking he looked cool, I found out he was Austin Feinstein (now Anderson) of Slow Hollows. I had to laugh: their Stumble video was from when he was 15, just a scrawny kid who hadn’t grown into his body yet.
And even though I thought their sound was somewhat bland compared to other bands I liked at the time, I still listened to them a lot, because they inspired a creativeness in me due to them all being my age. I also liked how Austin presented himself in interviews, as though they weren’t all that big a deal and he wasn’t all that into the notoriety part of his work. When I went into the first quarter of my freshman year, they released their second album, Romantic, and I was enamored with it. When my freshman-year roommate and I were getting to know each other, she asked me what kinds of guys I liked, and I showed her a picture of him, with his ratty head of hair and androgynous outfits. One of my favorite shows ever was when I went to see them at Rickshaw Stop the summer after my sophomore year, and the colors, the sounds, the feeling of it all inspired me on a euphoric level. I thought to myself, I can do this too. And I was grateful to them for it.
Fast forward to the 29th, and you’d find me backing away from the middle of the crowd, fighting back a scowl at the fact that everyone was starting to mosh to a slow dance song. Luckily, the band seemed to find this amusing, and thanked the crowd for doing so, calling it “the most tender moshpit” they’d ever seen. I was happy they found the humor in it. In fact, I was impressed they were emoting at all. I remembered Slow Hollows as this very inwardly-directed band, interacting very little with the crowd and absorbed entirely in their music. It seemed that, in the two years since I’d seen them, they’d grown up a little.
I imagine it’s this growth that has compelled them to part ways. It all seems very amicable, judging from the playful and affectionate way they interacted onstage, as well as the way their last album turned out. “Actors” has a much different sound from previous releases, signaling a departure from the band’s earliest post-punk, indie-rock sounds to something more dream-pop like, as well as unique in its own way. It’s reminiscent of Austin’s relationships with contemporary artists like Frank Ocean and Sky Ferreira, transcending traditional genre standards while also falling into step with the kinds of sounds common with those kinds of artists. And Slow Hollows started as Austin’s solo project, so it makes sense that this departure reflects his growth more than anything.
It’s easy, in my opinion, to tease a band like this. Austin has that moody, artistic look and air about him, and the band is affected in that very trendy, Californian way. I know people who went to school with people in the band, and they described them as pretentious and annoying. Some even said they only became as successful as they were because of their image, and that other bands deserved more recognition.
However, there has to be something said about Austin’s industriousness. At only 22, he’s done some really impressive things, like producing tracks for Tyler and Frank, composing the score for television shows, and providing accompanying vocals and guitar for all kinds of artists. He could have made a complete ass of himself, being a young and conventionally attractive musician with high-profile connections. But instead, he’s remained relatively humble, keeping his head out of the public sphere and devoting himself entirely to his craft.
In a very old interview, when the band was still in high school and getting ready to graduate, playing casual gigs at the Smell, he said something along the lines of, “I hope this is what I get to do for the rest of my life, because it’s all I’m really good at.” If that’s the case, then I hope this for him, too, because goddamn, even if I don’t like the direction the band went in, and even if I roll my eyes at them now, I acknowledge that he is, in fact, good at what he does.
The band also benefits from its self-awareness, probably understanding that the last album wasn’t as commercially successful, and therefore relying on a couple very, very old tracks to close out the show. “This has been one of the most special nights I’ve ever played,” Austin told the crowd, “so thank you for being here.”
Daniel Fox, the accompanying guitarist, laughed and added, “You guys should take that to heart, he’s never said that to a crowd before.”
They put away their gear and the crowd chanted One more song! and I knew they were going to do what every band does and follow up on that request. But I figured, it was time to wrap it up. I threw away my empty cup and walked away, ascending up the stairs. As I walked, I heard them pick right back up again, and the crowd went wild, and the guitar started back up.
For me, it was the end of an era. My teens were officially over, and the irreplaceable feeling of driving the 405 at night to get to downtown to see shows like this was now a relic of the past, to be replaced by something new. So, too, will the band be moving on. Here’s to bigger and better things, for me, and for Slow Hollows, forever with love and fondness for our youth.