Chasing minor ecstasies
Sacramento, CA 95817
Holy grail of rock noise:
Sometimes this town coughs up an embarrassment of riches on one given night. What to do? There are obvious choices, and there are not-so-obvious choices. Last Saturday, everyone else in town must have opted for one of the obvious choices. But sometimes one needs to hear and feel a certain kind of real rock ’n’ roll—which Old Ironsides was offering, in the guise of The Red Tyger Church.
But that band was fourth on the dance card. First up was a San Francisco country-rock outfit Sweet Chariot, whose big wall of guitar noise had that sour-mash Skynyrd double-guitar bite without much rancid tobacco-stained aftertaste. Then came Phantom Jets, whose tensely wired, Nuggets-inspired sonic attack ran counter to the No Depression-friendly groove that preceded their set; especially cool was the rockin’ organ of Sarah Hudson, but the whole package reeked of toluene, really.
And then came Monolith. The late San Francisco concert promoter Bill Graham used to like to befuddle the stoners who’d come to nod out to a limey riff-rock sensation du jour by throwing something incongruous their way, like a jazz combo, or a troupe of African drummers. But there are times when putting what’s essentially hipster Sabbath lite on a bill may not be such a great idea. In another context, this might have been just dandy. Here, not so much.
Finally, after midnight, Red Tyger Church began playing. Now, many of us music geeks have our holy grail of rock noise that serves as a yardstick for everything else that comes our way—some Kiss live album, Nirvana, even H.R. Pufnstuf—but for this humble scribe, it’s the two Kama Sutra Records albums by the Flamin’ Groovies circa around 1970-71: Flamingo and Teenage Head. Radiating outward from that is, oh, some Stooges and MC5, not to mention the Mick Taylor era of the Rolling Stones, plus a bunch of singles that ended up on the first Lenny Kaye Nuggets compilation. For me, it’s the musical equivalent of how others describe the elation of snorting that first line of blow off an exquisite stripper’s naked backside (a sensation I wouldn’t know), or that first bite of a good meal: You chase its minor ecstasies all night long.
Red Tyger Church hits that jones like nobody else in town. And on this night, the amplified axes of singer-guitarist Mike Diaz, on a Gibson SG, mated with guitarist Aaron Richards, on a Fender Tele, barked back and forth like a kennel of rattled Rottweilers being taunted by an invisible mailman. Bassist Cheryl Martin and drummer Sean Kehoe laid down a solid groove, and the other singer, Karen Simmons, rattled her tambourine. But it was the guitars that served up a nice little slice of heaven. Yeah, the singing was, pitchwise, all over the road, and it was hard to hear whether they were singing gospel or lyrics from ’70s sitcoms, but those barking guitars were sheer heaven to these ears.
Which is to advise you to keep your ears cocked for the next visitation of Red Tyger Church. (Jackson Griffith)
Home sweet home:
When you’re over shelling out a $15 cover to shove through a sweaty club crowd, head over to a house show. In case you’ve been out of the loop, house shows are pretty much recessionproof. Skip the long lines and overpriced cocktails for an intimate musical experience and just BYOB. Makes sense, right?
Friday night at the Villanova House in Davis started off with a high-energy set by local four-piece Mucky the Ducky. Mucky’s sound doesn’t fit into any niche but their own, and their eccentric improvisational style makes every set a unique experience.
Michael RJ Saalman (formerly Woman Year) followed with a bubbly acoustic set for a small seated crowd. His warm, harplike finger style and mellow vocals were happy-place worthy. Think the Beach Boys meet the Flaming Lips after a round of White Russians. Grass Valley’s Aaron Ross followed with a vocal-and-effects set. Ross’ sound is equal parts grungy and poppy, with brain-massaging ’80s synth harmonies.
Pregnant was last up—and definitely worth the wait. Building upon prerecorded samples from tapes, records and horns, he layers on live fingerpicking, harmonica, saxophone, shakers and even a kazoo. With the help of a keyboard and a few pedals (DD-5, DD-6, and RC-2 for you gadget nerds), he weaves together live and prerecorded samples to create the sound and feel of a full ensemble.
My only gripe was that the performance ended abruptly. Blame feedback issues, I guess. That’s the thing about these house shows, it’s all DIY. But even though the sound is lo-fi, the focus stays on the music. So ditch the club, chub. (Tara Eshghi)