Feeling like an immigrant 

Less than a year ago, they were playing in small clubs for crowds of 200.

Today, they play at 9,000-capacity venues, opening for big groups such as Muse and The Killers.

They are the San Francisco band Immigrant. The group, which opens for Muse at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium on Monday and plays a pre-show set Sunday at Club Six, formed when creative differences led guitarist-keyboardist Lee Czur and guitarist Patrik Sklenar to take a hiatus from their previous band, Evening. Lead singer Graham Shaw met Czur at a Killers show in 2005 and brought bassist Kai Chu. Drummer Jeff Ortega, who auditioned, joined three days before the group’s first show.

The name draws from simultaneous and contradictory familiar and foreign feelings that many immigrants have. How immigrants can be revered or admired as American icons, yet hated and feared as something un-American, appeals to him, says Shaw.

The five members — immigrants themselves — want to reach people through the amalgamation of different colors and textures in their music, which blends Middle Eastern, Turkish, Gypsy and psychedelic sounds. The songs, some politically-oriented such as "When Will Red Turn to Blue" and "Working Class Day," tie the current political climate to similarities in George Orwell’s "1984." The song "Caesar on Trial" describes the overwhelming desire to accomplish goals and how ambition, without balance, can be damaging.

Czur says he’s never done anything so different or tried so hard, and gave up having a life for the band. The craziness sometimes makes him want to start eating his fingers. And if there’s any effect the band wants, it’s to make people feel something — whether it’s pain, joy, anger or sadness.

"There’s so much cynicism in society in general, and in our generation in particular, I’d love for our music to cut through all that, if only temporarily — make people feel something genuine; suspend cynicism and irony for a moment and just feel something, anything," Shaw says.

The band plays a pre-show on Sunday at the Dark Room at Club Six.

Immigrant

Where: The Dark Room at Club Six, 60 Sixth St., San Francisco

When: 10 p.m. Sunday

Tickets: $8

Contact: www.popscene-sf.com

Note: The band also opens for Muse at 8 p.m. Monday at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, 99 Grove St., San Francisco. Tickets are $35. Call (415) 421-8497 or visit www.ticketmaster.com.

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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