Wooden Shjips are a solid, tight band who unite to create droney-yet-dancey psych rock. Their minimalist approach to 60s-steeped psychedelia can be predictable at times, but the fact that the band has managed to create several remarkably approachable albums proves that they know what they’re doing. These former San Franciscans have carved out a little nook amongst their Velvet Underground, Stooges, and Suicide influences and made it their own.
Last night at The Chapel, Wooden Shjips lulled the sold-out crowd into their grasp from the start with opener “Black Smoke Rise,” off their 2011 LP, West. From there, under the projected curtain of fuzzy, morphic imagery, the resonating journey oscillated between sleepy, hazed, repetition and throbbing psychedelic dance jams. Intertwining songs from West and Back To Land, their 2013 follow-up, created contrasts in their energy and the crowd’s response.
Guitarist and frontman Ripley Johnson effortlessly weaves and, at times, spontaneously leaps between the boundaries of monotony and virtuosity, using the rest of the band members’ pulsating groundwork as a base on which to build his experimentation. His guitar work and subdued vocals take turns mingling and syncing with the other instruments, creating an undulating yet constant richness. Each member of the group seemed to be genuinely into the sound, though admittedly none of them were ultimately very compelling to watch except for Johnson. It is apparent that he embodies the band’s ethos and is the driving force in sculpting the essence of their music.
“Lazy Bones” was one of the last songs of the weeknight show and a definite crowd pleaser, with the dancing front row dwellers breaking into a youthful mini pit and the rest of the crowd genuinely grooving to the addictive guitar riffs and spunky drumbeats. The venue loosened up after this satisfying tune, giving the core of the crowd space to enjoy the rest of the set and the immediately demanded encore.