Saturday night at Bottom of the Hill was devoted to the heavy, the freaky and all points in between, but before Acid Mothers Temple and Mammatus had a chance to melt any faces, Triclops! took the stage to rip them clean off. I had been expecting from them something along the lines of their various East Bay scum-punk pedigrees (Fleshies, Bottles & Skulls), but was pleasantly surprised when they busted out with a chaotic/complex prog-core sound that split the difference between At The Drive-In’s hair-on-fire thrash and the bad-trip Grand Guignol of pretty much anything Mike Patton is involved in. In the finest hardcore tradition, singer Johnny couldn’t remain standing on stage for more than a few seconds at a time, leaping into the crowd, crawling around on the floor and on people and into trashcans, mic still in hand. Also, totally dig the guitarist’s wicked transparent green Lucite guitar.
Now, as you know, this is San Francisco, where hippies were invented. Indeed, the entire Bay Area has a rich heritage of hairy freaks tripping balls and running into the forest and coming back out with some wild, brain-defying music. As such, the bar is already pretty high for bands wishing to follow in such acid-laced footsteps. And with titans like Six Organs of Admittance and Comets on Fire currently ruling the scene, how can any band out-freak, out-psych, and out-stone its peers? Mammatus makes it look almost too easy: grow beards, take the stage wearing sarongs (or, failing that, colorful tablecloths), have one guy whose only job it is to wave around a huge wooden staff in slow motion, and write fifteen-minute songs that employ all manner of twin harmonic guitar leads, dank sticky stone-age riffage, smoke machine (sadly, not nearly enough smoke was being manufactured by the crowd), and plenty of echo on the vocals. Also, I’m pretty sure they were singing about dragons at one point.
As incredible as Mammatus was, I was expecting Acid Mothers Temple to top even them. After all, they’re some kind of crazy cult from Japan who put out like five albums a year! They’re crazy! And they certainly looked the part, with a grey-maned wizard wrenching pure oscillating noise from his keyboard, a shawl-clad woman not doing as much singing as just swaying around beatifically and shaking what appeared to be a necklace of shark’s teeth, and a dead ringer for Faith No More’s Jim Martin playing a left-handed guitar upside down. But apart from the four-part a cappella chant that sounded like a drunken, homeless Firesign Theatre album being played backwards, their psych-noise freakouts turned out to be a little too free-form, jam sessions extended well beyond the point of payoff. Even when they hit upon a perfectly pretty two-chord riff, they ended up playing it over and over until it lost its charm and then some, until, blessedly, about seven minutes in, the guitarist’s amplifier simply gave up the ghost. That was as good a sign as any that it was time to cut out for the evening.