The Regent was hosting a mini festival on Saturday night, Desert Daze, a night of bands with a more or less psychedelic touch, and I got lucky to get a ticket just before it sold out. I had never heard of the headliners, the UK band Temples, but I was apparently the only clueless person attending the show, and since their debut album ‘Sun Structures’ entered the UK charts at number 7 in February 2014, they have to be in everyone’s radar.
Five bands performed under a very psychedelic atmosphere thanks to live projection, some ‘liquid light show’, created in situ by Mad Academy, and JJUUJJUU was the first group to take the stage, starting a gig which turned out to be more than 5-hour long,
JJUUJJUU was probably one of the most psychedelic bands of all, in the mysterious sense of the term, as the quartet installed a dense and druggy spell inside the theater, looking like ancient priests with woolly ponchos and long hair, while the rest of the set was all throbbing, building heavy layers of psilocybin-infused dance. The result sounded more like a ritual than a rock show, although they were rocking very hard at some point, inducing a large dose of head banging. The singer was an impressive character, chanting litanies more than singing, while the experience was dynamic and energetic, almost transcendental, piercing a dense fog of fuzz, opening a heavy portal for the mystics among us, and me if I were into new age stuff … it was the kind of thing that makes you see the planets align or hallucinate during a midnight sun, and surely the perfect loud sound to open Desert Daze.
Froth played Amoeba a few weeks ago, and they were playing second, probably more at ease under the liquid lights than in plain white light. Their music oscillates between psychedelia, shoegaze and inventive bits of Krautrock, offering a more varied palette than you would expect at first. They made a big splash in the fog, rebuilding it through a dense vortex of guitars absorbing everything around them, but at times going into nostalgic melodies driven by frontman JooJoo Ashworth’s fragile vocals and a pathos evoking more Pacific Northwest 90s bands, rainy days and heartbreaks than desert daze and the sun at the zenith. A lot of pop melodies filtered through the daze during their set, the band was playing them with precision while never completely abandoning themselves to the fuzz. They were warmly acclaimed by the crowd, and played a few songs of their new album ‘Outside (briefly)’ just released on Wichita Recordings, and getting a lot of good reviews everywhere.
We need more women like these Deap Vally girls, at times when females are too often associated with cute pop music, their heavy bluesy badass set was as liberating as a metal show. Their guitar-drums duo may be a classic formula but they brought it to a new level of rawness and raucousness, unafraid to do a little of trashing around, playing as loud and distorted they could, shouting like mad furies, as Lindsey Troy’s howl evokes Black Sabbath or Led Zeppelin’s good old days, with a female twist. With a feisty attitude, the two girls were gold-shining under the red/blue/yellow lights, and they attacked their songs with crashed cymbals, massive bluesy riffs, hoarse wails and the same restless energy all set-long. They incarnated girl power in this men-heavy lineup and it’s not a wonder that Deal Vally was picked as the opening band for The Rage and Rapture tour featuring iconic Blondie’s Debbie Harry and Garbage’s Shirley Manson.
Night Beats had a lot of style, bringing up another layer of psychedelia, sometimes heavy on the 60s with even a touch of British invasion, as there was plenty of mad distortion and reverb coming from their rebellious guitars. They looked badass and in complete control of their music, as frontman Danny Lee Blackwell, who was often holding his guitar like a riffle, had the slick gesture, the hat and the magnetic stare of a tough hero of a spaghetti western. If they named themselves after Sam Cooke’s 1963 album, they have cited The Thirteenth Floor Elevators as inspiration, although their guitar-driven set had a Black Rebel Motorcycle Club feel with tons of bluesy riffs and a fuzzy psych-rock flawlessly executed. They brought us deep inside the desert daze with even an Arabic-inspired line, a guitar-drum whipped acid trip and an increasing chaos of goodness.
Then it was time for Temples, the headliners of the night, they were certainly welcome like true stars, and if I knew nothing about them, I immediately liked their rockstar look, skinny silhouettes, black leather and frontman James Bagshaw’s full head of angelic hair. The sound was certainly much poppier than everything we had heard before, with a dreamy vibe à la Tame Impala, sweet hooks and a big organ. This has suddenly nothing to do with the heavy fuzzy psychedelia of the other bands, and it sounded… more European? Yeah it’s strange how music can have a nationality, before knowing they were from the UK, I thought this music doesn’t sound like American music… may be it was this vague Kinks vibe they brought on certain songs, before their psychedelic side would take over once again. The band released their debut album ‘Sun Structures’ in 2014, they have just released ‘Volcano’ a few days ago, so they naturally performed a mix of both albums, and I noticed a few people front row getting really into the set, with violent head banging and full body clapping. I could easily understand the appeal, the songs had a sweet catchy sound, and a bright and explosive lightning to go with them. With many European-pop-flavor flourishes around Bagshaw’s high-octane vocals and an overall synth-pop sound affirming itself as the set was progressing, we were very far from JJUUJJUU’s deep stupor, and the night had moved on to a candy-like pop sensibility. I have to add that, since Temples got official endorsements from UK rockstars Noel Gallagher and Johnny Marr, they should be alright.
Desert Daze Caravan is a mini festival which started in San Francisco last month and will bring Temples, Night Beats, Deap Vally, Froth and JJUUJJUU around the country for a total of 17 dates, including a few in Canada and Mexico. A day before, they even played Pappy and Harriet’s, which had to be the most intimate festival ever. Temples brought back the psychedelia with an encore and a song called ‘Mesmerise’ from their first album, and it was probably summing up everyone’s mind after 5 hours of intense live music.
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