Thursday, the twenty-fourth of July, year of our Lord two thousand and eight. All told, a shitty afternoon for me. In the interest of conveying to you the extent of said shittiness, I begin this write-up by tempting–as too many of us “music writers” are wont to do doo indeed–yet another unfortunate, diarrhea-inducing food metaphor. See, mere hours (or was it months?) before the show at Rickshaw I had before me a most delectable apple. She was all the sustenance I might need. So I did what any reasonable prudent person might in this situation. I did partake. But, in earnest, I moved too quickly and in too damn many directions before allowing things to settle, and so all my idiotic bouncing around brought on a rather tempestuous intestinal response. Black lightning struck my insides, singeing my stomach, which, thus aggravated, emptied itself of everything, everything I tell you: 13-year-old gum clogs, ancient snausage deposits, a couple pennies, so many delusions of grandeur, the tongue of a Ferragamo loafer . . . you get the gist. The subsequent heartburn was nearly unbearable, and as it took its hold over my chest and I gasped to catch my breath, I knew I had brought this wretchedness upon my self, by dint of gluttony, avarice, spasm; for dearth of sincerity. . . .

But what better way to begin again from the beginning than by digesting a downright amazing free show at the Rickshaw Stop? Got to the threshold, asked the doorman (Le Page is his name?) where I could scoop up some decent Chinese. Came back with a couple slices instead, and there was Assemble Head in Sunburst Sound about to take the stage.

Whoopty Whoo! These guys rock. Charlie Saufley plays a nasty brand of blues we like to call the “choogle” (their word, not mine), and exudes a welcome stage presence–heavy on confidence, light on hubris. The songs are well developed and the resolutions are timely, wholly satisfying. Lardas and Marshall are a formidable rhythm section to say the least. It’s clear that the band would function just fine as a trio–Saufley, Lardas, Marshall–but when you add Anderson Labridge’s Tai Chi stylings on the theremin, and Camilla Saufley’s vox/keys/bass versatility, the “psycho rock” really starts to take shape. The best thing about them, though, is that while manifesting as a technicolor chimera (forged, it stands to reason, under the aegis of mom and dad’s hippy nostalgia and to the tune of old Byrds LPs), they don’t bite. They breathe a little fire, it’s true, but the worst they’ll do to the ever-stoic San Franciscan concertgoer is inspire him to engage in bit of dancy-dancing. Not head bobbing, but honest to goodness rattling, of the middle school variety. Yup. Moreover, Assemble Head in Sunburst Sound deserves highest praise for a kick-ass number late in their set, written in 6, which drove the middle-aged couple next to me into a kick-ass, middle-aged waltz.

Mammatus was next, a metal trio out of Corralitos. I loved Nicholas Emmert’s (guitar/vocals) use of the word “dudesses,” as in, “Good evening, dudes and dudesses!” That’s what got me up out of the rickshaw on the second floor where I’d been napping between sets. (You know the one–it’s tucked back there in the left corner of the balcony.) After this brief salutation, Mammatus flew straightaway into what was pretty much an epic-metal assault (is epic-metal a viable genre?), and as much as it pains me to admit this (I spent many a formative hour in the back of a busted Mazda MPV listening to Rift, Junta, and crackly-ass Fillmore bootlegs), Nicholas Emmert makes Trey Anastasio look like a Sophomore. He’s got great taste for licks, excellent timing, and gets the most of a somewhat limited vocal range by keeping things simple: long, sonorous lines that overlay all the fits, starts, and paralytic crashes. Freels provides some terrific harmonies on the bass, making his way up and down the neck adroitly, while the other Emmert, Aaron, does much more than just hold things together, splashing and crashing like a contemptuous gremlin whipping a semi down the Great Everdark Highway in the rain, fueled by diesel and trucker speed–angry, yes, and slippery, but on time. During their last number, Nicholas Emmert returned the crowd’s enthusiasm by climbing to the top of the stacks and wailing away at his axe-thrash finale. A fine send-off, really.

Darker My Love, five cool doods. Yes, cool and collected in deportment, but hard-driving and full of hell, they blasted the joint for sure–feedback, drone to taste, good interplay between vocalists Presley and Barbato. Coolest of all: Jared Everett, front and center, on rhythm guitar. The only thing that interrupted his flat affect was a bit of gum chewing, maybe a smarmy grin or two. Watching Everett, I kept thinking, “This is the kind of dood who’s ‘chill’ but has a pet crocodilian backstage, a little one, tho, probably about the size of the shark that bit Ryan Seacrest on the mug.” Barbato, bass/vox, is now wearing a beard that would draw the envy of most any Early Man, post baccalaureate, bear gay, and/or lumberjack. Cool hat, too. Overall, they’re achieving something soulful, colored by chthonic urges, with melodies redolent of flowers moribund; what lyrics I could decipher had to do with fast, free love and agitated reminiscence. Some have (s)ited their infatuation with the 60s. Some are wrong a lot of the time. If there exists what can be termed an “infatuation” here with muddier times, it’s held in the interest of smearing the polymerized walls of the Now with doody-style graf that reads, “Come on, be a real dood, dood.” I fell in love. For real tho. Can you tell? It tastes like burning.

Burning: both a shitty afternoon and an amazing rock and roll show (maybe the best free show I’ve seen in SF, def. my most memorable Rickshaw stop). Funny how that works–love, music, food for the soul and all that. Trite, yes, but true as a pair of dirty underoos.

Here’s more encouraging news for the News section at the Bay Bridged: after Emmert hopped down from the stacks and Mammatus finished up their set, the moshpit they’d engendered continued to roil, churning its way into Darker My Love’s performance. Oh, my erstwhile bellyache! I took great solace, as a matter of fact, in witnessing that San Francisco can enjoy indie music right viscerally. And why shouldn’t we? A band like Darker My Love provides more than enough rumble for the innards. I’ll credit the Rickshaw, of course, for blasting bass and shaking chassis, but in the end it’s the musicians who make the gravy, the sharkfin soup, and the dancing shoes. So I’ll credit Darker My Love, Mammatus, and Assemble Head in Sunburst Sound for reminding me that only a fool will eat and run when he ought to be savoring, and celebrating, what he has before him.