In weird company
Feel the fever: Friending is tough. I mean in-the-flesh, analog friending in the adult world.
Maybe that’s why last weekend’s coming out party for Friendship Fever, a fledgling Sacramento record label, was so charming despite being painfully cliché. Friendship Fever’s “Night at the fRiEnD Museum” at the Red Museum was equal parts cocktail mixer, concert and craft project.
Imagine a barn decorated with art school thesis paintings, a thrift store chandelier and retired church pews. On stations scattered around the venue, you could write anonymous confessions on binder paper, watch live screen printing, buy cocktails from Burly Beverages or browse black-and-white zines. Projected on one blank wall, the horror film Coppelius by photographer Laura Marie Anthony played out like a live-action episode of Sailor Moon meets Lost. After that, the new Imaginary Tricks music video looked like Jesus dancing on an acid trip inside the Sims universe.
A makeshift program at the front door said it all, in big block letters: “TONIGHT IS A GOOD NIGHT TO MAKE NEW FRIENDS.” Friendship Fever might be a 21st-century record label touting artists from around the country via Facebook and Twitter, but its mission is real-world connections. Friday night was its social experiment in offline friending.
What happens when you put a former member of the Sacramento-famous band Frank Jordan in a room with groupie scenesters for an artistic mindfuck? What if you surround them with technicolor paintings of cucumbers, collages of Audrey Hepburn vomiting orange spray paint and videos of a fish under strobe lights? Friends? At least there’s a lot to talk about.
If home-printed zines about teenage romances are not for you; if you enjoy your pork belly tacos off plates and your public restrooms with locks on the door; if electronic music that sounds like somersaulting inside a rainbow after eating too many indica edibles isn’t your jam—don’t hit this like button.
But Friendship Fever delivers grassroots musicians with a hell of a lot of heart. It brings an unplugged mentality to the Twittersphere. And that’s refreshing. The pork belly tacos didn’t hurt either.
Less anarchy: Before the first five seconds of Gentleman Surfer’s 2015 release Gold Man are even finished, listeners are already jostled by the absolute spazzy insanity shooting out from their computer speaker. It doesn’t slow down, morphing into an endurance test to see just how far-out and technically complex the foursome can get within the confines of a song.
For the follow-up, Reanimate Ore, the local group opted to rein thing in a bit from the predecessor’s musical anarchy. That in no way suggests an album devoid of strangeness. It’s a slower batch of songs, with a steady groove and more melody. At times, it sounds like a cartoon marching band lumbering toward you as opposed to a band of crazed serial killers assaulting your senses. It’s tribal, almost meditative in its redundancy. But the minor changes in the drumming and the subtle melodic variances give it a strong emotional charge.
The basis for Reanimate Ore isn’t entirely new. The record is sort of a remake of the first record Jon Bafus recorded under the Gentleman Surfer moniker, Bountiful Ore, back when it was a one-man project. Since making that record, the band swelled into a four-piece prog-rock powerhouse.
It seems stuck somewhere between ’70s jazz fusion and ’80s slicked-out arena-prog. Guitar melodies dominate. The leads flirt with cornball territory in their simplicity and triumphant spirit, never quite crossing that line.
One tune that almost matches the madness of Gold Man is “Happy House.” Its presence does more to show the disparity of the records than any similarities. But even as the band spends nearly five minutes flexing its chops, the keyboards and drums ground it with a pulsating, repetitive phrase.
Gentleman Surfer will celebrate its release at the Red Museum (212 15th Street) at 9 p.m. Saturday, November 12. The cover is $5. Listen at http://gentlemansurfer.bandcamp.com.