The Stone Foxes, Vanaprasta, Battlehooch | Redwood City | Review

By: Dennis Cook

The Stone Foxes, Vanaprasta, Battlehooch :: 11.10.11 :: Club Fox :: Redwood City, CA

The Stones Foxes play their final 2011 show tonight, November 16, at The Viper Room in West Hollywood, CA. Vanaprasta is currently doing a Monday residency in November at The Satellite in Los Angeles that continues next week. Battlehooch plays next at Slim’s in San Francisco on January 7, 2012.

Battlehooch by Lydia White
There are many reasons we stay home on weeknights – work, kids, and sheer freakin’ fatigue being just a few – but it’s often outside of weekends where the best new bands are honing their craft in clubs, locals and aspiring travelers happy for any stage that will have them. Having something to prove, a mark to make, a need to make an impression gives these bands an edge that’s succulent and primal, a tangible reminder of rock’s raison d’être. Case in point, a sleepy Thursday evening in the sleepy Bay Area suburb of Redwood City where three bands that should be on your radar knocked the living stuffing out their music and the small gathered crowd.

I rolled in to the hopping, entirely churned-up sounds of San Francisco’s Battlehooch. Quirk rock with a crazed jazz undercurrent, these guys reeled around, spraying us down with music that made one itchy in a good way – call it happy ants in one’s pants. Echoes of the B-52’s, various Skerik skronk units, Les Claypool and earlier SF jitter-beasts like Three Day Stubble fly around Battlehooch’s songs. But for all the energy and kicking bravado, there’s a ton of serious musicianship on display. It’s one thing to be weird but better still if one can be weird and talented, and Battlehooch is the latter. Playing a fair amount of new material (according to a post-set conversation), they worked just outside their comfort zone, which is fun because that’s when music gets interesting. There’s little safe or subdued about Battlehooch, and the mix of instrumentation – including inventive sax and flute – kept everything colorful as they raced to and fro.

Vanaprasta by Nick Walker
Any modern rock enthusiast should have Los Angeles’ Vanaprasta blasting in their ear buds toot sweet. Their glorious, intricately woven debut, Healthy Geomety, was released at the beginning of November and is a lock for one of 2011’s best first albums, a heady mix of sounds that slots them in next to Radiohead, Lake Trout, Subtle and others who’ve steadfastly walked their own path but in a way that allows others to grab their hand and move into the shadows and thick brush. However, even as fine as their album is nothing could have prepared me for the enveloping grope and tremendous power of Vanaprasta live. Huge waves of sound crash and tug at one, the band poking at mini-keyboards and switching instruments in a constant effort to richen things – complications delight Vanaprasta. Lead singer Steven Wilkin is a goose bump raising find, a belter with the force and flow of classic rockers like Glenn Hughes and Robert Plant melded to the quieter, creepier feel of Thom Yorke and a pinch of earnest loverman soul. Likewise, drummer Ben Smiley recalls Zep’s John Bonham one moment and then shatters into beautiful breakbeats like Radiohead’s Phil Selway the next. The rest of the quintet – Collin Desha (guitar/keys/bkgd vox), Taylor Brown (bass/keys/guitar/bkgd vox) and Cameron Dmytryk (guitar/sampler/sleigh bells) – are equally compelling, and as the saying goes, the sum is even greater than the parts.

This is undeniably modern music, a bolt out of the now that gleams bright and sharp as it wings out into the cosmos or the far reaches of the heart and collective conscious. But Vanaprasta isn’t all sturm und drang, as evidenced by the boogie-touched, handclapping dance bomb “Self Indulgent Feeling,” which made those with an actual pulse at Club Fox shimmy delightedly. Each number from Healthy Geometry gained new layers in concert, and it’s clear that they take performance seriously. They let the music move them, allowing it to shift their bodies and expressions in ways that enhance the experience for the audience. Rock feels bold in their hands, a cause worth signing up for, and that’s pretty fucking cool.

The Stone Foxes by John Margaretten
Headliners The Stone Foxes delivered a raw, loud set that made the blues dangerous again and took one back to the Rolling Stones of “Stray Cat Blues” and “Bitch,” i.e. rock unafraid to be nasty and forthrightly manly. Actually, the Stones aren’t even the most apt touchstone for this emerging San Francisco band. What kept coming to mind as they slashed and punched in Redwood City was the early days of The Who and MC5. The Foxes have similar chips on their shoulders as well as the songwriting and musicianship chops to instantly stand out from the pack. Last year’s boffo Bears & Bulls, only their second album, was rib-sticking stuff, and what they’ve done with the material since shows steady growth in muscle and potency. Growling lasciviously about girls that bear their fruits out on the street and the other things that get at a young man, The Stone Foxes feel legit in an age of fakes who talk big about Mick & Keith and the other forefathers but don’t have the huevos to walk the walk, whereas these guys will probably have to get a tailor to let out their pants soon.

As usual, the band didn’t wait for folks to come to them, plowing into their set in a way that demanded attention, pulling in the tokers and talkers from outside as they slapped us awake. Some vocal cord issues kept drummer Shannon Koehler behind his kit while Aaron Mort (bass) and brother Spence Koehler (guitar) took lead vocals for the night. Perhaps this contributed to the general toughness of their playing, a great howl or three escaping from Spence and Mort as Shannon skipped and pounded like Keith Moon’s illegitimate offspring. The whole band seemed to be chasing down something, a fox in the weeds or a rock to stand on, spilling attitude and abandon like sweet wine. A cover of “Six Days On The Road” fit them to a tee, as did the encore of “old Buddy Holly song” “Not Fade Away,” which they scuffed up in an appealing way. A song of eternal faith in rock’s longevity was an ideal closing note for a band that’s doing their part to make sure it’s true.

The Stone Foxes Tour Dates :: The Stone Foxes News

Vanaprasta Tour Dates :: Vanaprasta News

Battlehooch Tour Dates :: Battlehooch News

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