What a treat! Two of the very best bands from San Francisco’s current revival of freaked-out guitar rock — Sleepy Sun and Assemble Head In Sunburst Sound — are touring together, hitting the Larimer Lounge on Thursday in all their fuzzed-out glory. Though they and the current SF/Santa Cruz scene from which they come (along with like-minded acts such as Comets on Fire and Wooden Shjips) are touted by many music rags as the new psychedelia, they really just tread the lines of what most would consider the classic psychedelic sound of San Francisco in the acidic 1960s.
These bands offer far heavier doses, serving up tones more akin to those of Black Sabbath, Blue Cheer and guitar-based Krautrockers like Amon Duul II and Guru Guru than the flower power of Jefferson Airplane and meandering, endlessly stoned shuffle of the Grateful Dead.
At Thursday night’s show, both Assemble Head in Sunburst Sound and Sleepy Sun kicked out the jams. Best of all, they did so without being too jammy. While both bands offer the kind of lengthy songs you can get lost in, they also understand the craft of structured songwriting. In particular, Sleepy Sun understands the power of dynamics within music: offering powerful vocals that can come creeping from within or soaring overtop the middle of burning fuzz. And as the sizzling sounds of distorted six string notes fade into the background they can give a glimpse of sublime pastoral beauty with touches of acoustic folk or burst into a full-band, samba-schooled rhythmic dance.
Sounds great, huh? It was, but we’ll get to them in a minute.
Following a respectable set by hometown, spaced-out noodlers Woodsman, Assemble Head In Sunburst Sound took the stage and launched into two rumbling numbers from their 2007 LP “Ekranoplan.” It was a hazy start, offering a sound of their earlier stoner-rock tendencies but thankfully, the remainder of the set — which drew mainly from their excellent new LP “When Sweet Sleep Returned” — showed they’ve outgrown and improved upon that sound while still keeping the volume levels at maximum rock and roll.
“By the Rippling Green” and “Kolob Canyon” saw lead guitarist Jefferson Marshall deftly handling his Fender Mustang with tasteful fretboard runs that complemented rather than distracted. On the latter, guitarist-singer Charlie Saufley and bassist/multi-instrumentalist Camilla Saufley offered a rough garage rock take on Byrds-style harmony vocals. The pair sounded even better on “The Slumbering Ones,” which offered a taste of sitar-sampled psychedelia as lead singer Saufley switched to 12-string, with sister Camilla moving from bass guitar to Rhodes piano and Marshall manning the low end. The progressive space-rocker “End Down Under” led into a blistering closer of a great set unfortunately seen by only a handful of people.