Sorry, swore off the sweet leaf

Word has it this issue of SN&R is all about the laughing tobacky. Yeah, I’ve roasted a bowl or two in my time, but next month I’ll celebrate 15 years of straight-edge living.

Nothing against people who like to burn one occasionally, though. I still have a weakness for sophomoric stoner comedies, having been a bit of a doobhound for many years. And I still like music that makes me feel stoned, whether it’s acoustic weirdness like San Francisco’s Dame Satan or harder stuff like our very own Red Host.

Speaking of the harder stuff, I finally caught Church Burner at On The Y on Saturday. The trio was the opening act on a four-band bill, and they didn’t disappoint. Drummer/vocalist Evil Jim hammered his traps like a demonic toymaker, slammed his double-bass drum and kept up a constant stream of vomit-stained vocalizing (talk about multitasking), while guitarist Matthew Mulligan added a maelstrom of Iommi-style riffage—no onanist guitar solos, just meaty thrum—and diminutive bassist Rhiannon Van Kempen kept right up with the low end.

“Are you ready for some old-school Say-tanic black metal?” Evil Jim barked at the set’s beginning, and the six-song set—five originals, with titles like “Santerian Zombie Night” and “Rotting Savior Flesh,” plus a cover of Sabbath’s “Children of the Grave”—was mighty fine, even if the volume was a bit low for my liking.

While its power-trio format works for me, Church Burner says it’s looking for a keyboardist to fill out its sound. If you’re interested, check ’em out at

The next band, Woodland-based Heaven Exempt, brought the metal, except the lead singer performed the first two songs by whistling in a monotone, like some demented Three StoogesCurly trying to imitate a windstorm. One song: entertaining. Two songs: see ya.

So I drove over to Old Ironsides in time to catch Ghosts of California, which has been evolving from a post-Uncle Tupelo Americana combo into a much more interesting guitar-driven band with a harder edge. Someone watching with me mentioned Neil Young’s Crazy Horse, and that’s about right. The songs’ extended guitar codas, featuring Jay Shaner’s increasingly confident guitar work, were especially gratifying.

But the headliner was the knockout punch: Forever Goldrush, performing its first live set in, what, three years? Damon Wyckoff’s John Fogerty-esque growl has been missed in these parts, but the clincher is how great the songs were, one after another: gems that combined country, rock, pop and blues forms seamlessly. Still, as guitarist Josh Lacey now resides in North Carolina, we’ll have to wait another few months for a reprise.

OK, I take back any misgivings I might have had about the Kinks tribute the following night at Old I. The lineup was top-notch across the board. Special kudos to local power-pop band the Polymers, which really nailed the mid-’60s in their stellar set.

As for this weekend, there’s a great Record Club show on Sunday afternoon at the Blue Lamp, with The Regulars, Ghosts of California, Jake Mann and Sherman Baker. The show is listed as a 1 p.m. start but promoter Roger Carpio said the first act, Baker, goes on around 2:30. Check for details.

And now, I must go watch Dazed and Confused one more time. Wooderson!