It’s 5 a.m. on Sunday, which means Neon Reverb’s third night must be long over, right? Wrong. A dude in a feathered hat is standing onstage, preparing to begin an unscheduled bonus set. Why? ’Cause he’s Daniel James, frontman for San Francisco blues-rock outfit Leopold and His Fiction, and no one still standing in the Bunkhouse is gonna stop him.
Actually, those left from the night’s crowd—and we still number a few dozen—are here because word of a James’ solo performance began spreading several hours earlier. Though the full-on Leopold had to drop out of this weekend’s Neon Reverb festival due to a scheduling conflict, James, a longtime friend of the fest, is in town, and he’s stuck around all night to chip in with his guitar work and vocals.
“This is the first time I’ve played a show at 5 a.m. I guess that’s how they do it in Las Vegas,” James says. “It’s also the first time I’ve played solo in a really long time. And it’s my birthday today.”
The music? Fun and folkish—a long way from the rowdy rock of James’ usual trio, but packed with emotion in its stripped-down form. It’s apparent James is as dedicated to his loyal fans as they are to him. “We could be anywhere in the world right now,” he says. “And we’re all right here together. That’s what’s important.” Even at 5 a.m.