Red Devil Lounge | San Francisco, CA | 08.15.02

Question #17 on the Music SATs:

Transcendental Hayride is:
a) a hayride
b) a show
c) an experience
d) none of the above

The correct answer should have been a), but might actually be d). I was pretty excited about my first “Hayride” last Thursday, August 15 when one of the newer Bay Area bands, Transcendental Hayride, took the stage at the Red Devil Lounge. They’ve officially been a six-piece band for about six months, with aural pleasure coming from two percussionists, two guitars, a bass and a keyboard. It seemed most of the crowd had only heard of them through a vigorous campaign of CD give-aways at some of the city’s more popular music venues. It worked for the Disco Biscuits and moe. on Phish tour, right? Something went right as most in attendance had heard them before and, on the strength of a solid promo CD, were eager to see them for the first time.

Well, they took a little while to find their groove. Sounding equal parts Jupiter Coyote, Wilco, and [fill in name of a jam band], they incited milling around and provoked spontaneous standing. If you’re like me, and you hate being left in the dark as to when the bands’ drugs are kicking in, then you’ll love the Hayride. A few songs in the lead guitarist who, by the way, sported a baseball hat (I guess he didn’t get the memo) piped up with a doozie: “Hey, our drugs are kicking in so…” Are you kiddin’ me? The counterpoint to that dorkiest of statements was the middle third of the show, and reason enough for seeing them. Alternately funky and spacey, this part of the show pulled you in with contagious hooks and steady rhythmic backbone, around which the jam could take purchase and flesh out. Some Southern grit with a spacey dash of astro-funk; very nice. This was the stuff of the promo CD. This was the spark that could start something. In short, this was the Hayride.

Then the drugs wore off. Or something, because the last third of the show was unremarkable. But, what the hell, they felt like rock stars. Immediately following their last song, the bassist (Eric L.) was sucking face with a (dare I say?) groupie on the stairway and was oblivious to people stepping around them. I think the “L” stands for love.

Why, might you ask, would one care so much about a band few have heard of and whose performance was less-than-incendiary? Because everyone has that obscure favorite band from their hometown that just missed the gravy train. Ever heard of Indecision, Agents of Good Roots, or the Hogwaller Ramblers? Exactly. Transcendental Hayride could be really something. Maybe. They really found themselves at one point in the show. The baseball hat disappeared, the riffs became haunting, the keyboardist stopped raising his hand meekly in the back of the class and came to the chalkboard... things were looking up. The potential is there, and should be easier to find than a needle in a Hayride.

William Gentry
JamBase | San Francisco
Go See Live Music!


[Published on: 8/16/02]

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