The Old-Fashioned Way at Hemlock Tavern

Beer and Lucky Strikes
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LOCAL LIVE The first triumph of the night was simply that no one lost an eye. The Hemlock Tavern stage isn't much more than a low corner deck, and the Old-Fashioned Way work a swooning fiddle into their akimbo art pop, which meant that whenever Marie MacBain launched an arpeggio, her bow looked like a weapon.

Such are the risks of bringing bits of a philharmonic onto the barroom circuit, an increasingly popular move — blame Montreal — that's rarely handled with the charm of this six-piece. You won't find bespectacled frontman Chris Wu miming Win Butler. Onstage he's a picture of basso profundo calm, a seated yogi growling an indie rocker's version of eightfold-path prescriptions: "Tea early morning, Earl Grey / And coffee all day / Tecate all night / Or just something with bite."

Crowded around their sage leader, the rest of the OFW, who formed in 2005 and will release their first 7-inch this fall, give off the ease of a family band, though no member remotely resembles another. They're Dickensian orphans, then, who've gathered to put on a minstrel show — and who've had to find a sound to fit their strange batch of instruments. The two red-blooded guitars and the drum kit give the songs a sturdy rock core when the band wishes it. But there are also, at points, a Paul McCartney–style toy bass, an accordion, a triangle, a wailing keyboard, and a melodica, which pile into a haunted and seductive sort of antipop, mournful and klezmerish on a track like "Robot on Fire" but boppy, harmonic, and needing a restroom on "Take Your Fluids." The latter was a live highlight, thanks to bassist Heather Logsdon's soft and shy la la las, while "Zeitgeist" was goofy and quotidian but sweeter for it: "I threw on my clothes clumsily / And I kissed you on the head at 1:30 / Out the door and crushed by night / My hoodie reeked of beer and your Lucky Strikes."

THE OLD-FASHIONED WAY Thurs/20, 9 p.m., $8. Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell, SF. (415) 861-2011, www.rickshawstop.com

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