Locals spread their sounds beyond Sac

Back at it: Lead vocalist Ryan Grubbs left his baby with a sitter on February 19—he had to man the microphone for Ganglians for the first time in several years. Originally formed in Sacramento, the band melds beach-pop melodies with psychedelic swirls, and a garage band’s ragged edges with vocals that occasionally call George Michael to mind. In the Starlite Lounge, Grubbs declared that the once internationally touring Ganglians “broke up, but are back together again.”

Now that drummer Alex Sowles, lead guitarist Kyle Hoover and other core members have reunited in San Francisco, the band has been practicing three times a week, working on new material that will hopefully coalesce into a new album. But Hoover warns against expecting anything too immediate as the band rediscovers its chemistry, warming up with a few shows featuring its old-school material.

“Feels weird to play songs that I did in my mid-20s,” Hoover said. “Especially since I’ve been in, like, five bands since then.”

Grubbs displayed exceptional range, floating between an indie singer-songwriter, a surf-rock frontman and yes, George Michael. Hoover can absolutely shred, playing with a subtle flair that punctuates his riffs with hip swivels and head nods. And the band harmonizes with casual clarity as they transition seamlessly from poppy progressions to loopy breakdowns and growls.

Among the set list was “Cryin’ Smoke,” one of the band’s most well-known tracks. With a swaying, strummed melody, an earworm hook and quirky lines like “smoke my reefer in the bathroom,” the song might have propelled the band to an even bigger indie stardom in an alternate universe.

After its momentary splintering, Ganglians look to expand upon the sound that landed them in the pages of Vice and Pitchfork and on tours through the states and Europe. The album may be a long way off, but after the band prompted at least one fan to crowdsurf on Saturday, Grubb’s fiancée Deaundrea Ferreira may want to hold onto that sitter’s number.

“Sacramento crowds are always a little more rowdy and wild,” Ferreira said. “It’s fun.”

—John Flynn

From Oakland to Sac: At a sold-out album release show, a black-clad crowd congregated at the Starline Social Club in Oakland to worship the melancholy drone and spiritually charged doom rock of King Woman.

The powerful February 17 performance—fronted by vocalist and Sacramento-raised Kristina Esfandiari—previewed the band’s LP, Created in the Image of Suffering, via Relapse Records of Mastodon and Pig Destroyer fame. Following the band’s 2014 EP Doubt, the album has its full-distribution release on February 24, the same date King Woman will perform at the Starlight Lounge in Sacramento.

In Oakland on Friday, supporting bands Petheaven and Unconditional Arms delivered an emotional opening act, blending atmospheric goth-rock and mournful shoegaze. When King Woman took the stage, the crowd had swelled to fill the room and witnessed as Esfandiari became possessed by a sonic and spirtual force—summoned from whence perhaps only Esfandiari herself can say.

Channeling an occult tidal wave of emotion and spiritual outcry, Esfandiari held nothing back, taking command of the room throughout the hypnotic performance in a slow and steady headbanger of a show.

Esfandiari addressed the enraptured audience, making a sincere nod to the Ghost Ship tragedy last year.

“I know it’s been a rough couple months,” she said. “It’s important for us to have these experiences through music and express ourselves. That’s why we’re here.”

A cheer rose from the crowd at this rallying cry, and King Woman returned to the music. Then, possessed by her muse once more, Esfandiari delivered the doom rock that had united metalheads and mellow goth-shoegaze fans alike under an Oakland roof.

Parting the crowd into a horseshoe-like bend at a gesture in front of the stage, Esfandiari descended to sing to the audience directly at face-to-face level. She concluded an impassioned and captivating performance by lying on the venue floor before taking the stage to finish out the show.

—Matt Kramer