By Dave Pehling
SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- Rochester, New York-based heavy psych power trio King Buffalo plays songs from their latest ambitious effort The Burden of Restlessness -- the first of a planned trilogy of album releases this year -- when it headlines the Bottom of the Hill Wednesday with local favorites the Spiral Electric and Moral High Horses.
Formed in 2013 by guitarist/singer Sean McVay, bassist Dan Reynolds and drummer Scott Donaldson, the band weaves together elements of melodic psychedelia indebted to pre-Dark Side Pink Floyd, progressive experimentation and riff-focused stoner rock to craft its unique sound.
The trio embraced extended song forms from the beginning, as revealed by the epic, echo-laden 11-minute jam "Providence Eye" that closed their debut demo that they self-released to sell at shows the band performed on the East Coast. King Buffalo would gradually build up a solid following in New York state with steady touring and a string of EP and album releases starting with the band's self-titled three-song effort that was also released as a split with like-minded Swedish psych-blues outfit Le'Betre.
The trio's 2016 full-length album Orion seemed to be the first to truly put King Buffalo on the radar of a wider audience, garnering ecstatic reviews from a variety of online publications and blogs praising McVay's gift for compelling guitar atmospherics and catchy choruses. And while they continued to revel in gradual, more languid song development on extended cuts like the album closing "Drinking from the River Rising," the trio also showed they could be as direct and punchy as any current rock crews on driving anthems like "Kerosene."
The band was soon bringing its music abroad as the threesome launched their first extensive tours of Europe the following year (they have shared stages with such heavy rock and modern psych luminaries as the Sword, All Them Witches and Elder).
Subsequent releases including the follow-up album Longing to Be the Mountain and the Repeater and Dead Star EPs further cemented King Buffalo's status as one of the premiere band's of the American psychedelic underground. With the COVID-19 pandemic eliminating the possibility of touring last spring, the trio decided to focus on filming a number of "Quarantine Sessions" posted to YouTube and writing new material for what was announced as three full albums of new songs in 2021.
The first of the three albums -- entitled The Burden of Restlessness -- came out in June to another round of euphoric reviews hailing the album as the trio's finest effort yet. While the pandemic-related vinyl pressing delays currently plaguing the music industry appear to be forcing the band's third planned album to be released in 2022, they recently announced they've already recorded the second record of four extended tracks live inside a cave, continuing the potent trio's current creative tear.
King Buffalo will be joined by local psychedelic-rock outfit the Spiral Electric. The roots of the band date back to when singer/guitarist/keyboard player Clay Andrews and lead guitarist Nicolas Percey first met while attending a concert at the Fillmore featuring Primal Scream and the Brian Jonestown Massacre in 2009.
The new friends struck up a creative partnership, writing songs that mixed modern and classic psychedelia with Britpop hooks, shoegaze drone and propulsive surf guitars. The pair teamed with a rhythm section and traveled to Los Angeles to record their first EPs -- 2015's Upon Your Shore -- that showcased the band's expansive sound.
The group would follow up with a second EP late in 2016 entitled Ask the Sky that further refined the Spiral Electric's approach to creating neo-psych anthems in the studio. The band built on it's local following, touring and sharing Bay Area stages with like-minded artists from here and abroad including Dead Meadow, Spindrift, the Kills, Swervedriver, Black Mountain, Lumerians, the Dandy Warhols, Cat Power, Jjuu-Jjuu and Turn Me On Dead Man.
Starting in 2018, the band (now filled out by bassist Michael Summers and drummer Matias Dragos) worked on compiling and recording the material that would make up its first proper full-length album. Released in the spring of 2019, the sprawling, hour-plus eponymous effort spotlights a heavier guitar attack without sacrificing the band's knack for crafting swirling, psychedelic ear candy. Recorded with Dead Meadow bassist Steve Kile and mastered by noted engineer Howie Weinberg (Nirvana, the Mars Volta, ), the new album marks a significant leap forward in the Spiral Electric's sound.
Later that year, the band broke in new bass player Cedar Wingate with appearances at several California music festivals including Desert Stars (Joshua Tree), SubZero Festival (San Jose) and Oakland's Holiday on the Moon that Andrews helped organize.
This show at the Bottom of the Hill supporting King Buffalo will be the band's only local live show in 2021 before they head into the studio to record their follow-up to their most recent self-titled opus. Moral High Horses, another San Francisco psych band, opens the show with Sasquatch Borracho playing records before and between bands. Please note that in accordance with San Francisco COVID protocols, proof of vaccination and masks indoors will be required.
King Buffalo with the Spiral Electric
Wednesday, Sept. 15, 8 p.m. $13-$15
The Bottom of the Hill
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