K-Holes stopped off at San Francisco's Brick and Mortar Music Hall on Tuesday night, as the band's North American tour in support of their second LP Dismania continued down the West Coast before turning back east. The Brooklyn-based noise punk quintet was joined by two Bay Area acts also with fresh releases — Dirty Ghosts and Blasted Canyons — for what was a loud and aggressive show from start to finish.
Blasted Canyons, the band Heather Fedewa (aka Hether Fortune) plays in when she's not doing her Wax Idols thing, kicked off the evening with an incendiary half-hour set. With a sound consisting of guitars, drums, and synth, the band members (Fedewa, Matt Jones, and Adam Finken) rotate among the instruments, rarely playing two tracks in a row with the same arrangement. The constant movement around the stage makes for a hectic set, but the band creates beautifully loud and spaced-out distortion and feedback-filled interludes between songs, set to run until they find their new places, when they'll then run seamlessly into the next song.
Tearing through a mixture of material off both their debut LP #1 and their recent EP 2nd Place, Blasted Canyons paved the way for the acts to follow with both frenetic punk tracks (opener "Holy Geometry", "Lasers Vs. Lizards") as well as more synth and noise-driven songs ("Finken's Lament"), priming the room for the sonic assault that was to follow. Closing with a trifecta of blistering punk brute force — "The Artist Formerly Known As Satan", "Blood On The Wall", and "Ice Cream Man", with its rousing, chanted vocals — Fedewa and company left the stage to a crowd that finally had its blood pumping.
After Blasted Canyons came San Francisco rock outfit Dirty Ghosts, fresh off a long tour in support of their debut Metal Moon. Playing without keyboardist/percussionist Nick Andre, the presently-molded trio of Allyson Baker (guitar, vocals), Erin McDermott (bass), and Ben Tuttle (drums) ripped through a short but energetic eight-track set that started with what Baker and McDermott dubbed (in overly-exaggerated accents from their native Canada, naturally) the band's "most aggressive tune," the forthcoming single "Katana Rock". The rest of the set was highlighted by an adrenaline-filled take on "Ropes That Way", a particularly improvisational "19 in '71" with Baker and McDermott dueling at center stage, a previously unreleased track entitled "Eyes", and closer "Battle Slang".
As K-Holes readied to take the stage with the clock approaching midnight, the room finally began to fill, with the locals' anticipation clearly building for the Brooklyn band's first San Francisco show since their December 2010 gig at the Hemlock. A five-piece now that they've added saxophonist Sara Villard, they dove into their set with the brooding and tribal-sounding "Native Tongues" off their 2011 self-titled debut, calling the audience to attention for what would be an intoxicating 35 minutes. Lead vocalist Vashti Windish immediately made her presence felt, an imposing figure clad in a simple white t-shirt and black leggings with a mess of curly, bleach-blonde hair on top and standing front and center while leading the swell of emotion in the room during the opener.
The band's latest single off Dismania, the rumbling, Black Lips-sounding "Frozen Stiff", followed with guitarist Jack Hines taking over the vocal duties, before he and Windish traded verses on a rowdy and rocking version of "Dirty Hax", a song that very much benefits from the addition of Villard. Her sax took the track over the top, completing the boisterous cacophony that K-Holes do so well.
The hardcore-influenced "Short Zippers" was driven by Julie Hines' thunderous but playful bass line, which she played on a custom bass loaned to her by Dirty Ghosts' McDermott. K-Holes then spaced-out on "Acid", a swampy dirge with a free-form feel, before moving into the guitar riff-heavy “Mosquito”, which sent a bolt of energy through the crowd.
After denying a request from the audience to play some Slayer, K-Holes slogged through the bellowing “Creatures of War” and “Meat Man”, with Windish and Mr. Hines sharing vocal duties again on the latter, a rambunctious track paced by Cameron Michel's violent pounding of his minimalist kit. The first single off Dismania, the bludgeoning "Rats", followed with Villard again shining, dropping to her knees to summon the power to belt out the notes.
Closing out their first San Francisco set in nearly two years, the quintet dove off the deep end with a moving take on the Jim Morrison-influenced noise jam "Swamp Fires" that faded away behind a cloud of distortion. Only when the last note finally ended and Mr. Hines thanked his audience did the crowd roar back its appreciation, almost bewildered that the blast of melodious noise known as K-Holes was already calling it a night, but too satisfied to protest.
K-Holes Setlist (Brick and Mortar, 6/26/2012)
"Creatures of War"
Dirty Ghosts Setlist (Brick and Mortar, 6/26/2012)
"Ropes That Way"
"Shout It In"
"19 in '71"
Blasted Canyons Setlist (Brick and Mortar, 6/26/2012)
"Fries Yr Eyes"
"Death and a Half"
"Lasers & Lizards"
"The Man In Question"
"The Artist Formerly Known As Satan"
"Blood On The Wall"