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Not-So Surprise Guest at Soft Pack Show

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This past Saturday, vitaminwater teamed up with Vice to bring the Soft Pack (formerly the Muslims) back to San Diego to curate a free show for a series the companies are calling Uncapped Live.

This series showcases local acts from cities across the U.S. and is curated by some of Vice's favorite bands. The idea is to give more exposure to local bands and reward local fans. And, boy, were they rewarded, with a lineup featuring Devon Williams, Ale Mania and Dunes, not to mention an open bar, including all of the take-home vitaminwaters you could carry.

Organizers had announced that a "surprise guest" was going to perform. Upon receiving the confirmation e-mail, it was revealed that the Soft Pack were, in fact, the surprise guest. I'm not too sure if the joke was on us, but I thought that was implied. Nevertheless, the band put on a rousing performance to a packed house at the Til Two Club, dozens of people cramming to the front to jump around to a stoic-faced Matt Lamkin, who only broke a smile to say, "I don't want to get sappy or anything, but we played our first ever show here." Returning to their roots, Matt -- along with David Lantzman on bass, Matty McLoughin on guitar and Brian Hill on drums -- thanked their friends for opening the show. The Soft Pack's unadorned aesthetic gives a stripped-down vibe: simple guitar riffs and driving drums that are reminiscent of the Strokes'. Pulsing percussion and distortion emerged on tracks like "Answer to Yourself" and the surf-punk-charged "Pull Out."Devon Williams opened the night.

Warming up the crowd for the Soft Pack's post-punk revival was Devon Williams, formerly of the punk rock outfit Osker. The first band to take the stage, they were also the most mild-mannered, with catchy arrangements and a Brit pop sound. They were followed by Dunes, an LA-based three-piece featuring frontwoman Kate Hall, of the defunct band Mika Miko; Stephanie Chan, of Finally Punk; and Mark Greshowack ,of Talbot Tagora. Borrowing from the Smiths, their performance was dark and penetrating, a dreamy post-punk sound that was hypnotizing. With tribal-like guitars accompanying her, Hall's vocals dragged on in muffled distortion.

Rounding out the support was Ale Mania, a San Diego-based band that's been getting a fair bit of buzz lately. It's the new project of Andrew Montoya and Jeremy Rojas of the Sess, an infamous San Diego garage punk band. They played songs off their debut LP, Who Sings That Beat, for an enthused audience -- half-due to the open-bar in full effect and also due to the hometown pride that carried their enigmatic performance.

The night ended fittingly at 2 a.m., when crowds of people spilled out onto the streets outside, lingering still, with vitaminwaters in hand. Whoever thought corporate branding could be so punk rock?

 Nada Alic runs the San Diego-based music blog Friends With Both Arms and works in artist relations for the nonprofit organization Invisible Children. Follow her updates on Twitter or contact her directly.

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