Surf Rock from the heart - The Moss at Cafe Du Nord on Jan 30th

The Moss at Cafe Du Nord

Review and photos by Chris LeBoa

“Sometimes I hate society, but I'll wear it.” Angie tells me when I introduce her to the new fashion trend of gorp-core. It's high fashion outdoor gear think North Face — Denali jacket, snow pants, but neon. She’s wearing a Carhartt jacket embroidered with the name of a slaughterhouse on this chilly San Francisco evening.  We stand outside Cafe du Nord, a hidden basement joint in the Castro, on Market Street at about 8:50 pm Monday. I had just been wronged by Bart transfers and Muni transfers and ended up sprinting the last ½ mile to the venue so as to not be too obnoxiously late for her. Angie, an organizer who works at Manny's Community Space and knows the politics of the city almost too well, is leaning against the bouncer’s pulpit when I arrive.

We're here to see The Moss, a Salt Lake City based band whose lead singer looks like a Ken doll with surfer hair, and whose music makes me think of what The Vaccines wish they could sound like. It’s the sound of being on a bike, cruising down the one somewhere outside of Laguna Hills. CA.

“They remind me of the Laguna Thurston middle school type who bring surf boards to school and sprint from class to grab waves.” Angie shouts over the sound of guitar. To me, it sounds like music for bouldering Bishop on a Tuesday afternoon, saying f*ck it to society and all of its rules. It's the feeling Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk wishes it could give when someone rides their ocean themed roller coaster.

“Can I let you down easy?” The singer croons over our conversation and the crowd screams in response.  The lead singer, Tyke, has the stage presence of a band playing for a crowd much bigger than that which is gathered here on a Monday night.  The guitar solos feel like the inside of a barrel wave sonically washing over us all. The band’s favorite dance move is the mop head, in which they let their shoulder length hair, cover their faces, and shake. They look like little mops of hair or maybe some ewok-like furry creatures above the sea of hands reaching out from the darkness in front of them. The question “how many bowls did they smoke before this show?” crosses my mind as the singer goes, “I forgot the words to this song right now. But I'm singing the words that I forgot.” In between the songs, they tell the surrealist fiction of their relationship to San Francisco. The man behind me shouts “DO NOT CALL IT SAN FRAN. DO NOT CALL IT SAN FRAN!” There's a story around the word Moss, which I was trying to follow but really couldn't over the man’s visceral anger about the city being referred to as San Fran. 

This was The Moss’s first show in San Francisco. The band members grew up in Hawaii together. And as Tyke described after the show, “The real reason we're called The Moss is because we were camping on a beach when we were little. And we realized there was moss all around us, and that you could eat it. And so we were cooking, and we just would just add moss to all the things we were making. It was so fun.”

Their music is surf rock with heart, “Music is how I can express and process life” Tyke explains, and even though I can’t make out all the words while listening, it’s the flow of the sound through the room that makes the concert memorable.

Their next song begins, “I don't feel bad, but I don't feel good at all.” After the show, Tyke describes colonization and the touristification of Hawaii “I think that the Mauna Kea thing is so f*cked up. And I don't like how they're taking the culture out of it. I hate when people come in and they take the culture out of things. If something [like Mauna Kea] means something to a people, you shouldn’t just come and take it. you know?  I use the music for what I'm doing and  to express what I care deeply about. And I hope that people see that.”

There are intimate moments of Tyke singing through the crowd and I think “I should have gotten a picture of that for the KALX weblog.” But those moments pass while I blissfully stand in the back enveloped by the sound, feeling like I may be on a beach somewhere on a Saturday afternoon with the sun falling over the Pacific Ocean, and the cares of life far away.

When the lights come on, Angie and I realize we have been living in a sea of high school girls interspersed with the occasional 35 year old San Franciscan. “I really like trying to be more like Sting,” Tyke tells a female audience member, part of a gaggle of 20 holding up posters and memorabilia to sign. In the corner a foursome are recording a Tiktok with him in their background. He looks like Hansel from the movie Zoolander.

“The music was giving both smash-the-guitar rage and a heavy dose of drive down by the ocean.” Angie recounts, “It felt like they were just in a garage having fun and we stumbled upon them.”

We joke that the concert made us feel a generation too old to not already know about their music. That we are not in touch with what's cool anymore. It's not cool to admit that the 18 year olds found something cool before we did. But in this case, they have, we agree. Tyke explains that the crowds at their shows have been gradually growing for some time, and the question of “making it” in the industry “Is something that we keep telling ourselves will happen.”

For now they are excited for their first tour in this part of California. Tyke continues. “I love California, all parts of California but especially Northern California ... Tomorrow we’re gonna surf Moss Landing. You ever surfed down there?” I can’t say that I have, but as I write this I am glad to know that they are out there, somewhere along the Pacific, chasing the perfect wave and hopefully making some more music along the way.

Leaving the venue, I run to catch up to Angie and the bouncer, walking to get an 11pm coffee from the nearest bar. I can make out their excited words about Muni lines: “The 23 is f*cking fickle. She's either on the 15 like clockwork or comes every 45. Like C’mon!!” We enter a dive bar as a drunken 45 year old named Delano stumbles out the door “It’s the bartender's birthday” He shouts pointing his thumb and pointer fingers like guns. “There's cake in the mini fridge” he pops his gun fingers over the crowd of three. He pushes the door open with his back and disappears into the blustery night.

Listen to Chris LeBoa read the piece here.