By Dave Pehling
OAKLAND (CBS SF) -- The Uptown in Oakland hosts a two-day marathon of psychedelic, garage and stoner rock bands this weekend when Holiday On The Moon gathers over two dozen acts for an epic interstellar journey that heads into orbit Saturday afternoon.
Organized by Clay Andrews (guitarist/singer for San Francisco psych explorers The Spiral Electric) and Alexander Mann (principal songwriter for Silent Pictures, formerly with Mellow Drunk and Boyskout), the festival brings together a mix of internationally known bands and local outfits together for two 10+ hour days of expansive sounds, including Saturday headliners Dead Meadow.
Tempering hefty, bong-hazed riffs with equal doses of dreamy guitar drones and transporting melodies, talented power trio Dead Meadow has been making its unique style of heavy psychedelic rock for two decades. Founded in Washington, D.C. in 1998 by guitarist/singer Jason Simon, bassist Steve Kile and drummer Mark Laughlin, Dead Meadow crafted a sound that managed to appeal to Sabbath-worshipping metal fans, greybeard hippies and shoe-gazing indie kids alike.
Built around Simon's languid, fuzzed-out guitar (and fueled by liberal use of his wah-wah pedal), the trio's self-titled debut album on Fugazi bass player Joe Lally's stoner-rock focused label Tolotta Records fit in comfortably with the imprint's other releases by Philly-based instrumentalists Stinking Lizaveta and several of doom icon Scott "Wino" Weinrich's bands. Dead Meadow's caught the attention of famed UK rock DJ John Peel, who commissioned the group to track the first and only "Peel Session" recorded outside of the BBC studios (the recording eventually saw release on a couple different labels earlier this decade).
Gaining momentum, the band quickly followed up with a second studio album -- Howls from the Hills -- for Tolotta as well as a live album produced and mixed by neo-psych maven Anton Newcombe of the Brian Jonestown Massacre that documented one of drummer Laughlin's last shows with the group before leaving to attend law school. Stephen McCarty, the former drummer for D.C. slowcore band Canyon, filled out the line-up in time for the recording of their first effort Matador Records, Shivering King and Others, in 2003.
That album showed Simon and company further refining their deft touch with hazy atmospheres and sprawling psychedelic guitar epics. Dead Meadow would add second guitarist Cory Shane for the recording of their next collection of songs -- Feathers in 2005, but that album found the group in it's most restrained and pop-minded mode yet. While the expanded line-up did not last beyond that album and tour (Shane would depart in 2007), the trio would soldier on, relocating to Los Angeles and exploring new creative avenues including the live film/soundtrack project Three Kings in 2010, a brief collaboration with like-minded Australian guitarist Andrew Stockdale of Wolfmother and a reunion with original drummer Laughlin.
Simon also branched out into solo recordings in a similar if sparser, more folk-oriented style that echoes elements of Bob Dylan and British acoustic guitar heroes Bert Jansch and John Renbourn (though more recent solo material like 2016's Familiar Haunts has shifted to a more electric sound). While there have been occasional tours since the group issued it's 2013 double album opus Warble Womb to keep fans satisfied, Dead Meadow last year marked two decades of making music with its first new album in five years, The Nothing They Need.
Featuring contributions by former guitarist Shane and all three of the band's drummers including new timekeeper Juan Londono, the latest record finds the crew churning out some inspired heavy psychedelic rock that shows a significant debt to the sounds of Neil Young and Crazy Horse. The group returns to the Bay Area this weekend as one of the headlining bands for the two-day Holiday On The Moon Festival at the Uptown in Oakland, anchoring the Saturday line-up with a set at 11:30 p.m.
The balance of the Saturday bands features an array of local acts including sun-baked, hard-grooving SF psychedelic soul band Down Dirty Shake, fest organizer Andrews's band the Spiral Electric (who issued a sprawling new eponymous double album earlier this year), a pair of acoustic sets by garage/psych crew Locus Solus, bluesy San Francisco hard-rock power trio Chief, Sacramento-based garage duo Pets and several others along with DJ music from Brian Jonestown Massacre member Joel Gion and DJ Raul.
On Sunday, the festival continues with closing set by veteran psychedelic spaghetti western group Spindrift. Initially formed in Delaware during the early '90s by songwriter Kirpatrick Thomas, the band pursued a more droning, shoegaze-influenced psychedelia before going on hiatus. Spindrift resurfaced after Thomas moved to Los Angeles in 2001. Shifting towards a sound inspired by Ennio Morricone's soundtracks to Sergio Leone's Italian '60s Westerns starring Clint Eastwood, Thomas and his collaborators crafted a uniquely cinematic style of music.
Their 2003 album The Legend of God's Gun would serve as the basis for a feature film of the same name made by Thomas and director Mike Bruce. While Thomas would work with a revolving array of musicians, the band maintained its psychedelic western sound over the course of the next decade, contributing songs to a variety of television shows and films.
Prior to Spindrift closing out the festival, Sunday's acts include psych pop Everyone Is Dirty, the organ-driven psychedelic groove of formerly local band the Spyrals (who have relocated to Portland, OR), hooky shoegazers silent pictures, jangle-pop outfit Fake Your Own Death, an opening acoustic set from Dead Meadow's Jason Simon and DJ sets from well-regarded local tastemaker DJ Omar (Popscene, Club Leisure, Sixxteen) and the Innerlight Presents DJs among others. Stimulating, retina-searing visuals will be provided by Mad Alchemy Liquid Light Show, White Light Prism, Astra Mori and New Oscillations. For tickets, additional information and set times, visit the festival's website.
Holiday On The Moon Festival
Saturday-Sunday, Sept. 28-29, 3 p.m. $25-$45
for more features.