Put a spell on you
The freak-rock magic of SF’s Glitter Wizard
Glitter Wizard is not soon forgotten. With a biker meets glam-rocker fashion sense—velvet jumpsuits, sparkly golden fringe vests, metal chokers, etc.—and a dramatic high-energy stage show filled with tales of wizardry and glam-, prog- and stoner-metal sounds, the band is committed to making a scene.
“We’re there to entertain; we’re wearing goofy costumes,” said frontman Wendy Stonehenge (born Micah Warren). “I personally don’t ever want to be in a band that rolls out of bed and throws on a T-shirt and plays the same old songs on stage. If somebody’s gonna pay to come see me perform, I want them to have a real show.”
The first iteration of the group started nearly 14 years ago, when Stonehenge was living in Santa Cruz (fun fact: He also lived in Chico in the early 2000s and has a song named after the town on his 2015 solo album, Wendy Stonehenge Is the Bandersnatch). With an aim to make something akin to a glam-informed version of Black Sabbath’s proto-metal, the singer attempted to put together a group in the beach community, but nothing really stuck.
“We worked at it for about two years and managed to play two shows that entire time,” Stonehenge said.
He decided to relocate to San Francisco. After a few variations, the band eventually solidified and has gone on to become a fixture in the Bay Area. Over the course of the last decade, Stonehenge and company have released four full-lengths and three EPs of dirty riff-heavy rock songs with lyrics packed with wizards, witches, conspiracy theories, blood sacrifices and outer space.
For its latest album, Opera Villains (released last spring), the band tried to steer away from the conceptual, but it happened anyway.
“We were kind of breaking away from that a little bit for this album,” Stonehenge said. “The title kind of started as a joke, but as it turns out most of the lyrics were about different villainous characters. I think subconsciously it did work itself into the general theme when it all came down to it.”
The new album kicks off with “A Spell So Evil,” an uptempo garagey prog scorcher with lyrics about casting evil spells in the name of rock ’n’ roll: “He was a mighty wizard sorcerer of sound!”
Opera Villains maintains a strong ’70s rock vibe throughout, with crunchy fuzzed-out electric guitar, heavy stepping drums and laser synths shooting through the noise, and Stonehenge’s voice pivoting between rockin’ growl and slightly theatric. The songs have a strong energy, which might stem from the fact they’ve been well worn on the road.
“Most of the songs on the album—with the exception of the acoustic or more experimental—[are] ones we’ve been performing live for a while,” Stonehenge said. “The live version comes first.”
The band has a busy 2020 ahead, with some West Coast tours, a run out East, and shows in Europe as well. They’ll be kicking it all off in Chico with a show at the Maltese (Jan. 9). While a lot of imagination and energy go into the live shows, it would be a mistake to think it’s all theatrical gimmick.
“One misconception we often get is, I think because we put on such a wacky live show, we sometimes get categorized as a joke band,” Stonehenge said. “But I think if you listen to the music you can tell we put a lot of thought and effort into it. There are some bands that have a great gimmick on stage but their music doesn’t really hold up, but I think we do a pretty good job of covering both bases.”