Model A freaks out in the mud

Call Me Ishmael

Call Me Ishmael

Sometimes it is difficult to look forward without looking backward. This is, it seems, a logical way of passage for many musicians, a way to connect with the influence of past masters while recasting that influence into something new, something that ultimately becomes more about the future than the past. In fact, it could be argued that this is what all music does, even the most cutting-edge sound arising out of some cultural zeitgeist that draws from the power of a past moment, that past part of a continuum that moves inexorably up to the present moment, the moment of innovation and change.

Last week’s Cloud Forest Freak Out at the Colonial Theatre worked backward to such a past moment, attempting to capture the vibe of the 1966-1967 London Paisley Underground or 1967-1968 San Francisco Haight-Ashbury live-music scenes. A huge light show by Rainbow Prism Atomic Lightshow ( cast the stage area into a maze of psychedelic light as Iris, Model A, Call Me Ishmael and Strike Him Centurion ran through their sets.

The event had potential, but it also was fraught with technical problems that resulted in a lot of downtime. Model A, in particular, took nearly an hour to get set up and playing, in large part because of technical issues with the lead microphone. Once playing, the band’s sound was muddy to the point of incoherence, with Brandon Schilling’s vocals wandering aimlessly over a wash of midrange noise. The problem was so acute that it was ultimately difficult to determine where the songs were—if they were there at all. On the one hand, it appeared that Schilling’s vocals could use a stronger sense of melody. On the other hand, this might have been simply because the vocals were the only thing cutting through the mud; whether the band was providing structure and melody was impossible to determine. After waiting an hour, it almost was too much to bear.

More effective, in part because it seemed less rooted in the 1960s psychedelic moment, was Call Me Ishmael, a band that rightfully won the Best New Band award at the Sammies earlier this year. Ishmael is one of the area’s tightest and most interesting acts, providing a sense of dynamic range and melody that is hooky without being redundant, and this show was no different. Furthermore, Ishmael’s set seemed relevant, not only to the particular event but to contemporary music, a set that perhaps showed psychedelic influences but kept its eyes on the future, making us remember that the Freak Out essentially was a version of the late 1960s organized by people who mostly were born a decade or more later.

Look to for upcoming events like the Freak Out. Once the kinks get worked out, such shows could have real potential for bringing something new to the Sacramento area.