“The once fruitful rock 'n' roll city of San Francisco is now a barren womb, fraught with the lasting effects of technological herpes. Thankfully a polyp known as Banquet has formed and is screeching for freedom from the womb's clutches with dual ripping lead guitars, howling vocals and a rhythm section that can make a pregnant woman's water break…”
- Banquet (one-sheet bio)
Conventional wisdom has it that the technology boom and its ensuing hooded-sweatshirt culture is killing Bay Area rock 'n' roll. But a closer look reveals that in fact, the area has spawned a heavy (and heady) renaissance, against all odds. Many of the best bands from the '60s and '70s recorded songs that rallied against injustice and cultural displacement. And if one listens closely, that very (spiced) spirit from San Francisco's ballroom acid-rock era (from Blue Cheer to Jefferson Airplane) is still pulsing in what's happening now as artists and rockers fight for the right to live there.
So out of the ashes of the tech bubble comes real art that is — much like the work of Norman ‘Sailor Jerry’ Collins himself — iconic and artistic, irreverent and soulful, radical and beautiful.
Let’s take a trip with rocker, skater, biker, and Bay Area lifer Eric Shea (Hot Lunch, Sweet Chariot, Parchman Farm, Mover) through some of the heavy psych jams that are rising from those ashes…
ES: “Izilla and Camilla - the marriage of rock, the carriage of roll. So much more than ‘Earthless with vocals.’ And a rhythm section that could start and stop earthquakes on a dime! This is the best of sonic chemistry - equally balanced in the lysergic past and in the uncharted abyss.”
ES: “Flute-rock rules super hard and the government knows it! The revolution isn't about dressing up like Bobby Hutton and raising your fist in the air. It's about venturing out of your comfort zone and getting your hands dirty while oiling up the gears of change. The awesome women of Queen Crescent know this and they have carefully mined the bygone vaults and catacombs of rock to build an upwardly spiraling soundtrack for an inevitable future.”
ES: “A lot of people talk about blasting off into the stratosphere, but few can command the controls of the vessel's cockpit. Enter Mondo Drag - stowaways on Voyager 1 who learned to fly by taking risks and spinning the rewards into astral space-rock gold.”
ES: “Rock 'n' roll clairvoyants - they communicate with the ghosts of the highway, channeling demons and specters alike. Readying themselves for the zombie apocalypse, these guys are twice as dangerous as they sound. Whoever first called them ‘the Hells Angels of Oakland rock’ knew too well that it's better (and wiser) to be on this band's good side.”
ES: “Somebody once told me they played like Alice Cooper fronting Hawkwind. But Glitter Wizard are way beyond that. As far as Bay Area rock 'n' roll is concerned, everybody owes this band a ton of thanks for keeping the trashy glamour of San Francisco alive and kicking (in sparkling red platform boots). And as the singer Wendy Stonehenge freely admits, they don't worship the devil. The devil worships Glitter Wizard.”
ES: “Inspired by Queen Crescent's penchant for waking people up, we took a somewhat political stance with this one. Watching San Francisco's oldest residents get displaced as the Mission district goes up in suspicious flames gets harder to stomach every time. Those who burn down our dreams will have to live with our nightmares.”
ES: “Out-of-the-box cool... Ethan Miller's Midas touch is in full effect again. But it's Meg Baird who wields the power to transform these songs into stormy canticles. If you've ever wanted to listen to Mellow Candle attempt to tame sonic temper-tantrums from inside the galactic nuclei of a black hole, this is as close as you're gonna get.”
So, next time you are in or around San Francisco, keep an eye on the calendars at El Rio, Thee Parkside, Bottom of the Hill, and The Knockout — all perennially great rock haunts. And in addition to the DIY Oakland backyard shows, there are still sweet shows to be had at the bigger venues in town such as The Chapel, Great American Music Hall, Slim's, and The Independent.
Huge thanks to the one and only Eric Shea.