San Francisco Bath House, Thursday March 14
Wednesday night’s show was my first encounter with the odd entity known as Birchville Cat Motel. His performance was the aural equivalent of tantric sex – all the funny feelings with no apparent climax. This is not to label it as pleasurable; as an audience we were pushed to the limits of tolerance by a spectacle that was as much endured as it was enjoyed.
In spite of this – to anyone with an ear for the often contested boundary between music and noise, I would recommend Birchville Cat Motel as a worthy listening challenge.
In contrast, US five-piece Comets on Fire were the sonic embodiment of the seasoned porn star – all about the money shot. They brought every song to a violently theatrical conclusion, with much thrashing of guitars and flailing of drumsticks. Playing every song as if it’s your last can leave your audience a little jaded, but the band never lost their momentum – despite having to retune their mistreated instruments between virtually every song.
For all the free-form aesthetic of their show, Comets on Fire were never shambolic. Even though at first glance the band could be mistaken for an impromptu jam session, the only moment of true improvisation occurred in their last song – when Mr. Cat Motel joined them on stage to add his two cents worth of raw noise. Their sound was chaotic, but it was a chaos built on the rigidly structured traditions of rock and blues. This subtle underlying structure made Comets on Fire accessible to the audience, and ensured they could convey just how much fun psychedelic blues-rock can be.
A special mention must go out to Ginger Brown, for opening the show with their grand reworking of rock and roll conventions – driven by the all-powerful Hammond organ. Sufficiently mind expanding, they bridged the gap nicely between the real world and the joyous musical orgy of drunken cowboys and bedroom freaks that was the rest of the night.