Woods has claimed the title as ultimate zoned-out folk band with an edge; their meandering, acoustic epics are interjected by screaming reverb. At the risk of sounding trite, the term ‘folkadelic’ fits their sound quite aptly. They shook a sold-out crowd with an hour-long set at the Chapel on Friday night, and delivered a satisfying balance of well-received singles, lots of songs from their most recent album, and new material.
Jessica Pratt opened the show — is it just me or has she been prefacing every even-slightly psychedelic performance in the Bay Area as of late? Do we need a few more badass, freewheeling ladies to take the spotlight and shake up the pattern? Fellow San Francisco favorite The Fresh & Onlys followed, with their sunny spin on garage rock and a no-bullshit disposition. Frontman Tim Cohen wasn’t timid in telling the distracted audience to “shut up for one second, guys . . .” and enticed them to pick up the band’s latest EP (“It’s good . . . it’s alright I guess . . . ”). They played three songs (title track “Soothsayer,” “Glass Bottom Boat,” and bass-driven “Drugs”) from said EP — entitled Soothsayer and out on Mexican Summer today, September 24th. I’m not sure whether the crowd was (a) too out of it, (b) had already seen The Fresh & Onlys a zillion times, given their live show is ubiquitous here in SF, or (c) just wasn’t digging it — because the band’s trumpet-riddled garage pop was met with unfazed eyes and a peppering of mid-set chatter. You win some, you lose some. The Fresh & Onlys’ set was solid — but it did run a little long for a supporting act, and the constant stream of blunt, in-your-face guitar riffs could have lent to more variation.
Woods summoned an obligatory cloud of pot smoke when they took the stage with their decidedly beachy folk (ironic, considering the four-piece hails from Brooklyn). Fresh from a European tour last month and in preparation for their Woodsist Festival in Big Sur this past weekend (and in Pioneertown later this week), the band ripped the crowd from their too-cool attitude they’d adopted for Fresh & Onlys and showered them in expertly-layered psychedelic odes to the void. Their setlist was heavy with tracks from 2012’s Bend Beyond, like the sunshiney “Cali in a Cup” and the more jagged, screaming guitars in “Find them Empty.” Their sound spans the spectrum from ‘60s-inspired acoustic, to epic instrumental breaks woven with metallic guitar-tinkering and steady, rhythmic drums. They’re an eloquent blend of dazed, kaleidoscopic rock and swirling folk. Heavy on the wah-pedal, but lightened up by vocalist Jeremy Earl’s floaty falsetto and Kevin Morby’s harmonica. What’s a great folk band without their harmonica? Woods is a gorgeous balance of sunny and somber. Even if their audience is weak at beckoning an encore — seriously guys, that was abysmal. They did end up making an encore appearance, if only for one song, and I left The Chapel with my ears ringing and mind craving sunshine.
I was only able to sneak a peek at The Fresh & Only’s setlist — posted below for good measure. Look out for their Soothsayer EP, and F&O guitarist Wymond Miles’ forthcoming solo album (Cut Yourself Free, out October 17) and tour.