By Brittany M. Powell
Brick and Mortar Music Hall may have had some noise complaint troubles with the San Francisco Sound Commission earlier this summer, but that hasn’t kept the venue or Kymberli Jenson, of Kymberli’s Music Box Presents, from putting on great shows. Last Saturday’s bill included the Asteroid #4 and the Richmond Sluts. It was a handful of loud rock’n’roll bands that blasted us back through the decades with sounds echoing 1960s and ‘70s psychedelia and punk, but also hints of the late ‘90s and early 2000s , when these bands were fresh on the music scene.
They’ve all been around the block, or as frontperson-guitarist Scott Vitt of the Asteroid #4 put it, these are all “old heads” and “mainstays” at this point.
The Asteroid #4, which recently transplanted to the Bay Area from Philadelphia, released its first EP in 1995. Its music is a blend of classic psychedelic rock, with a little melodic folk and shoe gaze tremor, and strong influences from late ‘60s psych rock bands like Love, and early ‘90s British bands like Spacemen 3.
When I asked Vitt how he felt living in California was influencing his band’s sound, he responded, “living and breathing the natural beauty, the mountains, the forests and, of course, the ocean, first-hand, I think it'll be very evident on our next record that we've become a California band.”
And the group sounded plenty at home on Saturday night, as if the packed music hall was its own cozy living room. The set was vibrant and full of the precise kinds of melodies and riffs that can only come from a band that’s been playing together as long as it has -- and is more than comfortable in its own skin. When asked about this, Vitt quoted Miles Davis, “you have to play a long time to be able to play like yourself.”
The Asteroid #4’s set included personal favorites, “Hold On,” which seems to have a Brian Jonestown Massacre influence, “The Unknown,” and “I Want to Touch You,” a Catharine Wheel cover. For the final song, Joel Gion of BJM joined the band on stage for “Into the Meadow.”
After the Asteroid #4, the Richmond Sluts went on, which was an excellent transition into an upbeat set closing out the night.
The Richmond Sluts formed in 1998, in the Richmond District. Imagine the NY Dolls on LSD, with a little bit of the Cramps and the Rolling Stones thrown in to keep it both weird and glammy. I have vague memories of hearing this band play at a few parties back in the day, but I have to say I don’t remember it sounding nearly as tight as it did the other night.
Frontperson Shea Roberts also looks nothing like the Stiv Baters (of the Dead Boys) gaunt 20-year-old look-alike I remember either. While the Sluts don’t really have the same excuse for playing trashy, angsty, garage rock about sex, drugs, and rock’n’roll as their post-pubescent selves did back in the late ‘90s, it doesn’t really matter, cause their talent has matured enough to take the material to whole other level.
Said Shea, “I know some of the lyrics are a little goofy sometimes and the stuff I'm writing now tends to be a bit more serious…but they were all sparked by some emotion I was feeling at the time and I'm OK with that. Maybe we shouldn't take ourselves so seriously.”
We shouldn’t. Not when we can rock out to music like this to keep it in perspective.
Their set included tracks like “Sweet Something,” “Sad City,” and “Paddy Wagon” off their 2001 self-titled release. Shea says that he hopes to keep playing with the new Sluts and that’s the plan “until it’s not fun anymore.”