You don’t need a guitar (to rock!)
It’s not every day you get to see 21 bands in 12 hours. Even rarer is watching a bunch of avant-garde rock bands from around the nation play at a bar surrounded not by other buildings, but by fields, farmland and a giant haystack. The city came to the country on Saturday at Operation Restore Maximum Freedom, a music festival hosted by KDVS, the UC Davis college radio station.
The show was held at Max’s Plainfield Station on County Road 98 near Woodland, a place with some serious rural attitude. The mural on the front of the building depicts farmland, a skydiver, and a hunter with a rifle and an NRA hat. Add to that some gleaming Harleys parked out front, country music on the jukebox, duck-hunting wallpaper, friendly bartenders, and a kitchen serving down-home pub grub. The fenced-in area out back had a wooden stage shaded by fig trees and a large grassy area for the audience.
A few Sacramento bands were on the bill. Eat the People played experimental improv-rock with homemade instruments. Gift of Goats sacrificed our ears to some primal noise punk, and Hotel Pistol raged with a Melvins-like fury. Other locals included Black Dahlias and the Knightmares.
A remarkable thing about many of the bands on the roster was their collective lack of that one element as sacred to rock ’n’ roll as the papal ring is to the pope: the guitar. Yes, many of the bands had chosen to curtail the six-string habit in favor of other noisemakers. And they made some impressively heavy, inventive, rhythmic and enjoyable music without it. Le Flange du Mal, from San Francisco, played heavy, abrasive junk rock with wild sounds swirling out of keyboards, samplers, voice, drums, and trumpet played through electronics. Death Sentence Panda, also from San Francisco, seduced the crowd with angular noise-pop created with drums, clarinet played through electronics, flute and punky vocals à la Deerhoof.
A Hawk and a Hacksaw, from New Mexico, inspired awe and crazy dancing with its high-energy gypsy folk-core. Haunting fiddle playing is accompanied by a combination accordion player and drummer who uses bells; a drumstick attached to his hat; and foot pedals hitting gongs, cymbals and drums, making music that sounds like a combination of Nino Rota and Balkan speed folk.
Yip-Yip, two mutants from Orlando, Fla., performed in masks and matching uniforms, looking like a cross between rabbits and the sand people from Star Wars. Their sound was crafted from digitally diced horn samples, retro synth sounds and hard electronics tweaking. Not as exciting, the Zom-Zoms, from Austin, Texas, did a passable Devo impression with lots of screaming.
KDVS is alive and well, continuing to bring vibrant music outside the mainstream to Sacramento (and its surrounding croplands). And if the music got too artsy for you, there was always Hank Jr. on the jukebox inside and Pabst on tap.