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Stoner-Rock All-Stars the Freeks Headline Bottom of the Hill

By Dave Pehling

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- The Bottom of the Hill hosts this Subliminal SF show Thursday with a trio of bands including SoCal fuzz merchants the Freeks, local noise-punk crew Frisco and stoner-rock band Disastroid.

The Freeks are anchored by Ruben Romano, a talented musician who first made waves providing the hard-grooving propulsive backbeat as the drummer for both Fu Manchu and Nebula during their prime. When Romano was just a teen, he and fellow future members of Fu Manchu Scott Hill (guitar), Mark Abshire (bass) along with singer Ken Pucci got their start in the punk band Virulence.

Virulence / pre - fu manchu "blank stare" 1988 by Fu Manchu on YouTube

After several EPs and the full-length If This Isn't A Dream on Alchemy Records that fell through the cracks as the record label went out of business shortly following its release, the group went through several personnel changes and eventually morphed into Fu Manchu.

With Hill taking over on lead vocals shortly after the name change, the band quickly developed a sound incorporating elements of classic rock, metal and proto punk that nodded to everything from Hendrix and Black Sabbath to Blue Cheer and the Stooges. The group would record several singles before they produced their debut album No One Rides For Free in 1994.

Fu Manchu - No One Rides For Free - 02 - Ojo Rojo by DReynolds61 on YouTube

Fittingly issued on Bong Load Records, the recording showcased the fiery early line-up featuring lead guitarist Eddie Glass. Abshire would be replaced by Brad Davis by the time the group tracked it's follow-up album Daredevil. Fu Manchu's nearly constant touring and refinement of its stoner-rock sound paid off when the band hit it's stride with the 1996 release of In Search Of..., the band's first for new label Mammoth Records.

FU MANCHU Asphalt Risin' by thisisnotcharles on YouTube

Powered by the enormous fuzzed-out riffs of Hill and Glass on catchy songs like "Asphalt Risin'" and "Regal Beagle," the album still stands as a bona fide classic of the genre. By 1996, Romano and Glass would split from the group, founding Nebula with Abshire and exploring an equally ferocious but more psychedelic style of stoner rock on the classic Let It Burn EP and their debut effort To the Center recorded with Seattle studio maestro Jack Endino (who recorded Nirvana, Mudhoney, Soundgarden and Tad).

Elevation by Nebula - Topic on YouTube

Romano would stay with Glass in Nebula for a decade, but his growing interest in songwriting -- he co-wrote all the songs on Nebula's Atomic Ritual and Apollo albums -- and playing guitar led him to leave the band and start the Freeks. Arguably taking an even more expansive and psychedelic approach, the Freeks could be Romano's most experimental project yet.

The Freeks "Basque in the Splendor" by FREEKS-tv on YouTube

The band's line-up has evolved over more than a dozen years, at points including such luminaries as Zen Guerilla/Carlton Melton drummer Andy Duvall, Roadsaw's Hari Hassin and Bob Lee (Backbiter/Mike Watt) behind the kit. The band has released four albums with its last two issued on the Heavy Psych Sounds label.

[bandcamp width=100% height=120 track=1729827370 size=large bgcol=ffffff linkcol=0687f5 tracklist=false artwork=small]

The Freeks recently spent time in the studio, recording new songs for the band's upcoming next album. The current line-up of the band features Romano back playing drums, longtime guitarist Jonathan Hall and Monster Magnet/The Atomic Bitchwax six-string wizard Ed Mundell, bassist Ray Piller (of Cleveland bands Biblical Proof of UFOs and the Duvalby Bros.) and singer Jason Huebner.

For Thursday's show at the Bottom, the Freeks will be joined by Frisco. The latest band project of a local crew of punk and metal veterans of singer Bob McDonald and guitarist Andy Oglesby of sadly defunct SF post-punk outfit Hank IV,  ex-Acid King/Altamont drummer Joey Osbourne, former Lost Goat guitarist Eric Peterson and bassist Jason Ricci first came together in 2017.

Diamond Cutter by Frisco - Topic on YouTube

Taking a decidedly different direction than one might expect of a band featuring a pair of heavyweight metal musicians, Frisco explores a hard-swinging style of knotty noise punk topped by McDonald's tuneful, manic vocals that split the difference between PiL-era John Lydon and the lurching unpredictability of Scratch Acid/The Jesus Lizard frontman David Yow. The group has become a regular attraction in Bay Area clubs, supporting such notable acts as Red Fang, Big Business and Qui. The band released its debut album Love Songs for Phantom Limbs in 2019, capturing the quintet's bracing stage show on wax.

Opening the show is SF power trio Disastroid. Formed over a decade ago by singer/guitarist Enver Koneya and bassist Travis Williams, the band puts a unique twist on the typical stoner-rock formula by adding elements of early '90s Amphetamine Reptile Records style noise rock and later instrumental post/math-rock to the mix.

Disastroid - Money and Guilt (Full Album) by TheWoundedGalaxies on YouTube

The band issued a series of self-released albums and EPs starting in 2009, gradually building its local following as they refined their sound. More recently, Disastroid shared Bay Area stages with established touring acts like Fu Manchu, Mondo Generator, Helmet, Church Of Misery, Big Business, Fatso Jetson and Yawning Man as well as SF's own experimental punk mavericks Oxbow.


In addition to appearing at the 2018 edition of the Psycho Las Vegas music festival, the band got signed to stoner/psych imprint Heavy Psych Sounds, which issued Disastroid's latest effort Mortal Fools in 2020. For this show at the Bottom of the Hill Thursday, DJ Sasquatch Borracho plays records before and between bands.

The Freeks with Frisco and Disastroid
Thursday, April 21, 7:30 p.m. $15-$17
The Bottom of the Hill

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