Wax Cactus is an up and coming San Francisco rock band, birthed from the tough streets of the Tenderloin. Despite their gritty origins, the band has been able to find a delicate balance between hard rocking heavy hitters and sweet soulful songs. Their attention to song craft, as well as technical prowess and showmanship, align them with the style and philosophy we still adore from classic rock legends like Neil Young & Crazy Horse and the Grateful Dead. Rather than coming off like a retread of those great bands, the band has forged a sound that hearkens to that golden era, yet remains refreshing in the current state of over processed, cookie cutter acts that dominate the musical landscape.
They’ll be joining their funky friends, Sans Pablo, this Saturday night (2/9/13) at The Connecticut Yankee. Give a listen to the band live below, and make sure to head down to the venue to check them out. Show starts at 10pm. Discounted tickets can be purchased in advance here.
Moxie Kids are an indie rock duo based in San Francisco. Chris and Kyle are lifelong friends who have been writing music since the age of 11. With many years of experience together, and many years logged playing in other bands, the two have reconnected and spawned a new project that seems like it was destined to be. Pulling from the blues and rock’n'roll, as well as garage and disco-punk, the band has forged a fresh sound that rests it’s laurels on solid songwriting and proficient playing. Make sure you come out to The Connecticut Yankee tomorrow night (11/9/12), to watch the band open at TurnStyle Music Group’s first show in San Francisco.
Watch the band rock their song “In the Storm” live below.
So from melody driven bands carrying the essence of psychedelia and the spirit of California, we will shift gears to bands whose psychedelia is more overt, heavier and darker. The first time I posted about Sleepy Sun, the song was one of their lighter, more acoustic based tunes, that definitely draws from the same vibe as Devendra Banhart’s freak-folk. Unlike Banhart, who primarily stays in that zone, Sleepy Sun leans more on rock, yet it differs from Howlin’ Rain, Blitzen Trapper and The Mother Hips as it’s ties to blues and other roots styles is much less direct. The sound is obscured by more stylistic use of effects and darker tones.
Below is a trailer that shows the band hard at work in a studio in the iconic desert near Joshua Tree. They are gearing up to release their third studio album, Spine Hits, on Tuesday, April 10th. I heard about this first from the nice folks over at Relix. From what we hear in this brief clip, it sounds as if the band is pushing their sound in slightly different direction. It will be really interesting to see if it retains enough of their core, while incorporating enough new ground to be a success.
The band will be touring the country in anticipation and support of the new album. Here are some dates in the Northeast:
To close out our week, I want to offer one more artist operating in the cross section of psychedelic music and more traditional forms like folk, rock, blues and soul. Devendra Banhart has been on the cutting edge of this revival, releasing his demo album, The Charles C. Leary a decade ago. His trippy-hippie tone poetry style of freak-folk has garnered him much critical acclaim and a loyal indie fan base. Check out the video for “Seahorse” below. The song starts out with some pastoral folk and transitions to a bossa nova/tropicalia feel, finally resulting in Crazy Horse styled guitar jam that is absolutely revelatory.
We’re going to shift gears and get back to some music with classic sensibilities for a while. The burgeoning psychedelic revival happening on the West Coast has spawned two main strains and Ethan Miller of Oakland based Howlin’ Rain has created art in both. Up until 2006 he offered psych rock of a heavy, dark and noisy bent with Comets On Fire, but since then he has explored the other side of psychedelic music that leans more on the blues, roots music and classic soul. Almost more of a singer/songwriter approach, stressing melody over atmosphere. Below you can check out a short documentary, courtesy of Relix, that catches the band in the studio, on the road and on stage. The most poignant parts come when Miller is being interviewed and speaks candidly about the process and struggle of being in a band these days. At least he has the magic touch of legendary producer Rick Rubin to aid with the band’s latest release, The Russian Wilds, which is scheduled for release this Tuesday, February 14th. You will get a sample of the sound Miller is achieving, which has been linked directly to his upbringing in the pristine Northern California enclave of Humboldt County amid the majestic Redwoods.
Even if you think you’ve heard all of the Blues Rock you could stand, and are of the belief that it’s all been done, here comes 27 year old Austin, Texas native Gary Clark Jr. I’ve always been a fan of this classic style, which upon most of American rock has blossomed from, but in the last 5 years I’ve gotten away from this stuff for more progressive styles. It would really take something fresh, and truly visceral to grab my attention and that’s exactly what Gary Clark Jr. has done. He has a commanding voice that is soulful without any affectations. A characteristic which has been missing from popular music lately. Not to mention his mastery of the guitar, which he uses deliberately to build emotion and tension in his songs, and is never too self-indulgent with his improvisation. His presentation is devoid of pretense, and for that he captures the true essence of all the great classic artists like Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton and Buddy Guy. Check out the single that is pushing him into the mainstream, “Bright Lights”. This live version was filmed at the Crossroads Guitar Festival in 2010.