Local garage band rocks the music scene
November 30, 2010 6:14 PM
Spit flies up into the air and then back down, landing in the abyss of eagerly awaiting and buzzed twenty-somethings. John Dwyer, frontman of Thee Oh Sees, simultaneously bombards the audience with his unique garage-fueled psychedelic guitar jolts. He has been refining his sound in the San Francisco music scene for years under various musical guises and now it is well-constructed sonic mayhem that throws the audience into a trance. Brigid Dawson's voice joins Dwyer's, creating a symbiotic melody that tugs and pulls with tension but remains intact. All of the chaos is kept from skewing into oblivion by snappy drumming and rhythmic bass lines. Thee Oh Sees are a sight and sound to behold, transfixing the crowd with a live show full of romp and tattoos. Their albums and live performances are two separate entities but their sound transfers beautifully between both. With six full-length albums in three years and a litter of EPs along the way, Thee Oh Sees are an unstoppable force.
San Francisco's garage-psych scene is bursting at the seams, despite flying somewhat under the national radar. Thee Oh Sees are definite heavyweights, constantly recording, touring, and kicking ass in just about every imaginable way. The Fresh & Onlys are another local act that has not slowed in putting out great music. Their third release in three years is no exception and their relentless ability to carve out solid tracks is unquestionable. Leaning to a more psychedelic side, White Cloud is a band on the up and up, catching the ears of those eager to find something organic. Their sound is reminiscent of the old but fascinatingly different.
The Fresh & Onlys can sometimes be found playing on the same bill as Thee Oh Sees--partly because the two groups both occupy space on Los Angeles-based record label In The Red. The fellow tattooed rockers have a distinctively different sound, though obviously garage-derived. Their talent is ultimately found in songwriting abilities, and their surf and pop-infused cuts will have you bobbing your head in approval. Catchy melodies and whaling guitar riffs help create a rock and roll vibe that is not overplayed or gimmicky. A mess of reverb surrounds the stage as they blast in and out of songs and helps add to the subtle mysteriousness. Tracks rarely span beyond three and a half minutes, so a typical set offers a good range of tunes. And though female background vocals heard on some of their albums are absent from their live shows, the band fills the space with enough psychedelic, vibrato-soaked guitar that you will quickly forget. The Fresh & Onlys are unique in their aesthetic and purposefully melancholy.
White Cloud are well on their way to establishing themselves amongst their neighboring contemporaries. Local writer Christopher Holmes is right on the money as he writes in Asterisk Magazine, "White Cloud is an evolution, a development of sound. Not a sound trying to fit into a previous mold effected or shaped by anything else." Their music is like a lucid dream you wish you never had to wake up from. Their ability to deeply engage without theatrics or shtick is refreshing and enthralling.
On stage, James Murphy appears visibly possessed as he keeps time, paradoxically floating around his modest drum kit while dynamically booming. Shiv Mehra alternates between ambient flutters as he jumps around the neck of his guitar, unleashing a fully sustained rawness that fills the room with fuzz. Patrick Vacchio adds a layer to the soundscape that enriches and drives songs as he bounces between a synthesizer, sampler, and violin bass. All the while, Nick Capello's keen ear for infectious melodies, sort of Gregorian chants on ecstasy, help to mesmerize even more. The resulting vibe is wild yet contained as their sound is heavy but manages to flow with grace. White Cloud is scheduled to release a full-length album in the coming weeks.
Thee Oh Sees, The Fresh & Onlys, and White Cloud represent only a sliver of what San Francisco has to offer in the way of local music. Though they share obvious parallels through psychedelic garage rock, it is impossible to compare one to another--comparison should be avoided completely.
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