A truly great rock record unfurls a whole mess of sonic madness as the needle winds across the vinyl, and White Fence’s Live in San Francisco perfectly captures not only a fantastically psychedelic group, but this fantastically psychedelic city. It was recorded by the LA/SF-based band during a show at Amnesia, that lovely, sweat-damp, crack-in-the-pavement-sized club keeping Valencia weird, and was co-engineered by Thee Oh Sees’ John Dwyer, who released this kaleidoscope of garage/punk/folk/pop on his Castle Face Records label. It’s absolutely my favorite record of 2013.
Drop into Live in San Francisco and you immediately feel ten joints to the wind from the propulsive force of the fuzz-grimed guitars and woozy, groovy melodies. You can sense the crowd winding up on opening garage stompers “Swagger Vets and Double Moons” and “Mr. Adams/Who Feels Right?” as you hear their sloppy hoots. But then White Fence slams into a fierce rendition of “Baxer Corner,” one of my favorite songs because of the way it winds – and winds – its way to toward climax. The band stretches out the “Baxter Corner” rewards over eight and a half minutes, during which time I can only imagine the room’s reaction, fans pogoing in extasy between the barstools and bathrooms, the club smoky from whatever piece of hippie “wood” frontman Tim Presley later accuses the band of burning. You get dizzy from the cacophony just listening, which is exactly how a psych garage record played live in San Francisco should make you feel.
Jennifer Maerz is the managing producer of The Bold Italic and former music editor at SF Weekly.