It's been over forty years since bands like the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, and Quicksilver Messenger Service fused psychedelic elements into folk, blues, and rock and roll, creating the "San Francisco Sound" that many still consider the signature identity of Bay Area music. Given that movement's lasting impact on rock music, it probably shouldn't be a surprise that there's a fertile psych rock underground percolating in the Bay today. Some of the scene's many upstarts come together this weekend for a smorgasbord of psych rock called the Frisco Freakout. It's happening this Saturday at The Parkside in Potrero Hill.
Billed as a "Psychedelic Dance Party," the first annual day and night event features ten psych-inclined bands along with DJs and visuals, and it captures a great sampling of experimental progressive acts under one roof. True to the umbrella nature of psych rock, the sounds range from acoustic folk to heavy rock, with quite a few potential highlights, like San Francisco quartet Wooden Shjips. The band's loose stripped-down grooves have won broad critical acclaim and earned them performances at high profile festivals like last month's All Tomorrow's Parties curated by My Bloody Valentine. There's an impressive minimalism at work on 2007's Wooden Shjips, utilizing repetitive phrases and trippy echo-saturated vocals to create melodic spiraling jams.
Local singer-songwriter Greg Ashley, long one of my favorites, also performs. Ashley might best be known for his psych rock band The Gris Gris, but he's also an accomplished solo artist. Painted Garden, his latest release on Birdman Records, is a lush album of layered pastiche folk-rock. The musician's also using his sound-crafting expertise as a popular producer for local bands. Ashley's solo acoustic performances tend to underscore his songs' warm melodies and intrinsic vulnerability, so his set should be a nice break between heavier acts.
The party's not all Bay Area groups, however, with two of its most popular bands being Crystal Antlers, hailing from Long Beach, and Earthless, from San Diego. The former recently rereleased their debut EP on Touch and Go, and it's a great first impression from this garage-influenced five-piece, packed with raw rock blasts. Earthless close the Freakout with their ornate stoner rock. The band cites an eclectic mix of German and Japanese heavy bands as inspiration for their spacey, winding compositions.
Also performing at the Frisco Freakout are The Bad Trips (Ventura), Assemble Head in Sunburst Sound, Ascended Master, Sleepy Sun, Mythical Beast (Kansas City), Sequin Trails, and Art Lessing and the Flower Vato. If that's not enough to tempt you, proceeds from the event will benefit Creativity Explored, a San Francisco nonprofit visual arts center that enables artists with developmental disabilities to create, exhibit, and sell their art. It's definitely a worthy cause for what should be a rich day and night of forward-thinking music.