Donovan's pal for all of a decade, though never a bandmate, Hartman had witnessed one of the two Sic Alps shows in the Bay Area. "It was, like, 'Oh, I wish I thought of that.' At its core it was pop music, but it had all these other layers to it, where it was like just a little dark, a little deranged. There was something unhinged about it," he says now. "Whether it was an unusual chord progression or just a really, really inappropriate guitar tone. I always find it more interesting if something sounds kind of broken."
Shortly after they started playing together — with Donovan on guitar and vocals and Hartman on drums and other instruments, sometimes at the same time — the pair decided to perform last November at Ocean Beach, loading the drum kit and their "freestanding tower of sound" into Hartman's creaky Volkswagen Bug. "Surfers did come up to us when we were setting up, and they were, like, 'Are you guys going to play out here?' They were like, 'Awesome!'" Donovan recalls happily.
Still conceptual but steadily gaining visibility, the band is preparing for its first extensive US tour — with recordings by Tim Green, a track on a comp on Japan's 777 Was 666, and a cassette on Animal Disguise Recordings on the way. So perhaps it's time for the Alps to trade the Bug for their "power animal," a Volkswagen bus. After all, they have already selected the cover art for their debut: that of a rotting bus with the band name spray-painted on its spotted rump. "There's something about this," Hartman says, gazing at the image on the laptop. "It's made in the '60s, a little rusty but still kind of beautiful and gets the job done." *
SIC ALPS' SOFT TOUR RELEASE PARTY WITH OCS AND BULBS
552 Haight, SF
Call for times and price.
A FIR-JU WELL
Acid-drenched Southern boogie rock? The Atlanta combo did well at SXSW. Wed/29, 9 p.m., Thee Parkside, 1600 17th St., SF. Call for price. (415) 503-0393
LORDS OF ALTAMONT
He'p! Farfisa organ and jet-black hearts. LA's motorpsychos celebrate their latest Gearhead LP, Lords Have Mercy. Fri/31, 9 p.m., Annie's Social Club, 917 Folsom, SF. $7. (415) 974-1585
The Bay Area avant-rock transplants keep those "T-Bone" joints coming. Le Flange du Mal and Clip'd Beaks also perform. Fri/31, 9 p.m., Hotel Utah Saloon, 500 Fourth St., SF. $6. (415) 546-6300
Frontperson Michael Flynn is said to have won a John Lennon Songwriting Scholarship at his Boston music school. The New Amsterdams also play. Fri/31, 8 p.m., Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., SF. $12. (415) 474-0365
Ralph Carney whoops it up with Kimo Ball and Scott Johnson, giddily breaking out the swing, Dixieland, jazz, and pop in honor of a self-released EP, Extended Play from 12 Galaxies. Sat/1, 9 p.m., Argus Lounge, 3187 Mission, SF. Call for price. (415) 824-1447. Also Sun/2, 2 p.m., Amoeba Music, 1855 Haight, SF. Free. (415) 831-1200