Live Shots: White Hills, Carlton Melton, and Dirty Ghosts


What if god – note lowercase emphasis – was a drummer? Assume that this god is the mythical male being you’ve come to know through Renaissance-era oil paintings, clutching lightning bolts, triumphant with lengthy white locks and foreboding upward gazes. What would this particular god do behind a drum kit?
He would hit very, very hard, smashing symbols with abandon, flipping sticks into the air then casually catching them mid-song; all the while his face would convey a knowing smirk, that wild-eyed yet faintly bemused stare toward the sky. You'd have Andy Duvall, former member of Zen Guerilla, current drummer-guitarist for Carlton Melton.

At the Rickshaw Stop last night, Duvall and Carlton Melton (a band, not a dude) — excuse the expression — melted minds. The appreciative crowd of mostly polite late-20-somethings kept spinning around towards each other with wide-eyed, “are you seeing this shit?” glances at their companions. The instrumental four-piece played entire set without a word. Duvall’s drum solos were heavenly.

The San Francisco band was tucked in between two rock and capital Roll acts, which made for an extended night of remarkable music. First up, another local: Dirty Ghosts. After Carlton Melton, the touring act headliners, New York’s White Hills. Now this, my friends, was a good bill.

While Dirty Ghosts looked a bit like the Ramones (half of them at least, in tight leather and jeans) and sounded like punk riffed hard rockers (with a killer rhythm section), White Hills oozed glam — from silver-painted face to see-through bass to sequin-covered blouse — and apparently played so similar to the Entrance Band that one of my show companions legitimately asked, “did they used to have a different name? Was it the Entrance Band?”

The joyously noisy space-rock outfit does have a similar aesthetic and sensibility — the long hair was flowing all night long — but White Hills jumps out of the stoned space rock at points to near metal, with such brutal wailing riffs.  White Hills also had something in common with openers Dirty Ghosts, both boasted a gifted electronics dude, on stage tripping out sounds and twisting knobs on beat machines; only Dirty Ghosts’ dude, who just so happens to be Aesop Rock (extra credit: he’s married to electrifying, swooshed-banged lead singer-guitarist Allyson Baker), also was tasked with handheld percussion (cowbell, shaker).

White Hills, led by an equally appealing duo of hair shakers, guitarist Dave W. and bassist Ego Sensation, sped through gnarly psychedelic rock off H-p1 (Thrill Jockey), and, like Carlton Melton, never really addressed the audience. Quite honestly, they never really needed to: a nice reprieve actually from the “really great to be here, how’s everyone doing? I need a beer” throwaways we hear at nearly every other show.  Just rock incredibly hard and loud and we’ll be satiated.  There’s no want for god-like skills here, that’s just an added bonus; it’s acid-laced frosting on the Day-Glo cake.


All photos by Chris Stevens.

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