Six Organs of Admittance
Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012
Bottom of the Hill
Better than: Mushrooms -- either kind.
Ben Chasny used to be the Bay Area's premier cinematic psych-rock wunderkind. Though he's based out of Portland now, his long-standing musical concern, Six Organs of Admittance, always feels so resolutely Californian in its sonic philosophy and intent that it seems inappropriate to strip him of the title. A Humboldt native who did time in Santa Cruz and Oakland before high-tailing to it Oregon, Chasny's music has the kind of hermetic, quasi-spiritual, and casually heretical vibe of a man who might start a cult if he suddenly took himself too seriously. As it stands, he's the Jodorowsky of indie rock, silently churning out a heroic catalog of albums, some of which have passed under the radar, several of which have been celebrated, and none of which compromise that occult strangeness.
Live, Six Organs of Admittance is a perpetually moveable feast, as Chasny adopts the "whoever is around" policy of live band recruiting. A decidedly low-key crowd turned out to Bottom of the Hill this Saturday to find out whether their former hometown boy would opt for the epic or the intimate.
Donovan Quinn played a staid set of Velvet Underground-esque psych-y jangle, although this was an extremely de-fanged take on the VU template. It was pleasant and pretty if a little lacking in engagement. Still, Quinn's voice was lovely, and the addition of a synth keeps this decidedly ordinary band from slipping into total oblivion.
Young Moon upped the charisma quotient quite a bit with an improbably entertaining set that sounded precisely like a mumbling Bruce Springsteen fronting The Killers. Sole performer Trevor Montgomery sang and played guitar to epic backing tracks and was clearly working out some kinks at this, his second show. It was nonetheless a refreshing and simple approach that worked.
Six Organs of Admittance was a full band this evening -- flush with members of Chasny's former band, the beloved S.F. psych outfit Comets on Fire -- and it capitalized well on that fact. From note one, the musicians were thunderously on-point, as well as thunderously loud. Chasny fingerplucked wailing arena rock leads while the fellow Comets on Fire alum Noel Harmonson created an excoriating backdrop on second guitar. A band's discursive and trippy guitarists are nothing without an airtight rhythm section -- bassist Ben Flashman and drummer Utrillo Kushner fortunately brought precision in spades, alternately gentle and pummeling as needed.