Horny Goat Weed
The crimson warmth of Annie's was a welcome respite from the bluster of Saturday night, with high winds pushing put-upon smokers into the nooks and crannies of the facade. Bodacious women of all hues stared down from their black velvet boudoirs on the wall, and the charmingly intimate Folsom Street venue prepared for another night of rough-hewn independent metal. As oblivious karaoke enthusiasts flitted through to the back room, bands laid out their humble merch, bathed in the blue glow of Battlefield Earth on the TV, Travolta casting a dismissive eye on us man-animals below.

[audio:http://www.stonerrock.com/jukebox/Floating_Goat-Bad_News.mp3]
Floating Goat - "Bad News"

Glitter Wizard were first on stage, running through a shoddy, shaky set involving a broken string, some lame jokes, and a number of unnecessary vocal and synthesizer effects. Lying somewhere between punk, metal, and ham-handed psychedelia, the band seemed preternaturally young, singer "Wendy Stonehenge"'s 70's-style soupcatcher nurtured by that little-known patent medicine, Ironic Tonic. Keyboardist Doug Graves was the odd man out, both in age and in the mix, deploying some decent but inaudible keyboard licks and trippy-lite oscillations from a transistor-rich device next to his keyboard. With a little more rehearsal, the world's fifty-seventh band with Wizard in its name might have some potential, developing their retro sound into something coherent. Maybe they need a new wand? 13 inches, with a basilisk-pubic-hair core? But I digress, magically.

Next, Floating Goat, bringing some hard-bitten confidence and a number of titanic riffs. A power trio in the strictest sense, the Goat kicked out a handful of meticulously arranged Bay Area stoner jams, echoing local heroes like High on Fire and recalling totemic acts like Pentagram, Trouble, and CoC. The attack is led by relentlessly over-committed guitarist Chris Corona, who provides craggy-yet-righteous vocals and an armada of hammer-on trills for his buoyant, tin-can-chewing buddies, when he's not playing in one of his eighteen other bands. Behind a bass drum adorned with a pair of Texas-size longhorns (not a picture, real cow horns) drummer Aaron Barret kept shit heavy and steady, matching his descending toms to Corona's dive-bombing scales, all the while flitting in and out of an idiosyncratic stick-grip flip-trick that left drummers like myself in the audience scratching their heads. Bassist Ian Petitpren tends to hide in the shadows a little (the left side of Annie's diagonal stage is particularly good for this), but his playing is at the very core of the band's sound, providing a weighty substrate for Corona's solos and enabling a consistent potency that many three-pieces never achieve.

Angelenos Professor were the enigma of the night, blending musically anachronistic double-bass pummeling, dulcet Thin Lizzy twin leads, and some borderline-silly falsetto singing. The consensus was that they rocked, although the crowd was understandably a little perplexed by their Frankenstein-like sound. Formed as a side project-cum-alter ego-cum-replacement for better-known rockers Trigger Renegade, who surf a similar New New Wave of British Heavy Metal, Professor gave Glitter Wizard a veritable lecture series on how to deliver a late-seventies vibe. Their particular brand of balls-in-a-vise vocals is hard to pull off live, but the intricate interplay between their two guitarists more than compensated.

Last on the bill were Space Vacation. I was initially skeptical when the guitarist and bassist exchanged their street clothes for leather pants and bullet belts--if you're cool enough to rock that onstage, you'd damn well better have it on when you arrive--and the music proved my first impression not far wrong. The trio, spearheaded by "Heck sort-of-misaligned for leather" brothers Scott and Jay Shapiro, were certainly competent on their instruments, and drummer Andrew Headrick had a lot of look-at-me percussion pyrotechnics in his back pocket, but the cumulative effect was very sour. Don't get me wrong--I am fairly sure these guys honestly like metal--but there's something incredibly frustrating about this growing crop of  gimmicky, laughing-up-the-sleeve bands, Goblin Cock being perhaps the best example (not just on account of their sleeves). Space Vacation have the chops, at least, but the self-parody stuff is just confusing. If you think eighties metal is cool enough to learn how to play it, why not treat it with a little respect? If performing it is your idea of a joke, why not play dress-up somewhere else? You and your friends can all laugh when you shout "are you guys ready to paartaay!" from the stage.  Thinking on it after the fact, Space Vacation reminded me a little of Hightower, in the sense that the music is pretty bad but people turn up at the gigs anyway because the band members are good at skateboarding. I know that bassist Jay Shapiro is good at skateboarding because his million-plus Noe Valley home was just profiled in the New York Times Home & Garden section. Go figure.

Tags: , , ,