Physical Suicide Deterrent System Project at the Sweetwater Music Hall, by Carolyn McCoy

Physical Suicide Deterrent System Project (photo: Carolyn McCoy)

Words by Carolyn McCoy

Sometimes a band gets into your head and rearranges your brain synapses so that you are never the same again. Once music like that enters your body, there is nothing to do but to allow it to become part of who you are. With a force of sonic madness that can only be thought of as “getting fucked by music”, Marin County grunge rock band Physical Suicide Deterrent System Project has no problem making their music hit you like a truck, in a way that feels really good.

The music of Physical Suicide Deterrent System Project, (or PSDSP for short) is more complicated then just “grunge”, as the band pulls from jazz and psychedelia while often eschewing normal verse/chorus/bridge song structures to create a river of sound that takes you on a sonic journey. The sounds are accompanied by intelligent and poetic lyrics that uphold deep imagery to tell a story of both darkness and hope.

PSDSP has mainly been hitting the Bay Area bar scene, but it was a joy to witness their magical chaos at the famed Sweetwater Music Hall in Mill Valley, CA recently. Seeing the band live is a very different experience than hearing their recorded songs, as the rambunctious dynamic between PSDSP’s three members is much greater than the sum of their individual parts. Frontman and songwriter Eli Carlton-Pearson tosses himself around the stage with his guitar while wailing, screaming and howling his vocals. Each song often goes from vicious insanity to the sweet whisper of someone telling you a secret, all in about ten seconds. Michael Pinkham’s fluid drumming and the wicked six-string bass playing of Brian Wilkerson round out a band that has a habit of bursting into a cosmic explosion of sound; simplicity is not what this band is about.

With their incredible back catalog of songs, the band ripped us open from the get-go with “Swells,” then tore through punk thrashers like “Stolen Fruit,” “Shoulder,” “Overpass,” and “Give It Up For The Ocean,” as well as the instrumental jazz-like “Time Thing” and the sweetly crafted “Love Grows.” PSDSP ended their amazing set of rollicking hardcore tunes with a killer version of their punk-ass, bass-thumping rager “Orders Of The Motherboard,” bringing the crowd to a happy mosh pit with plenty of pogo dancing and headbanging.

A PSDSP show is like a spiritual experience, bringing the powerful force of the band’s creative juju into our bodies as it uplifts and shifts our reality. Spirituality comes in all shapes and sizes, and, to me, spirit is music, changing who we are and how we see the world.