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Reunited Power Trio Rocks San Francisco's Make-Out Room

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- One of San Francisco's most beloved underground hard-rock outfits of the 1990s, raucous power trio Mensclub reunites for a rare live show over two decades after their heyday at the Make-Out Room Saturday night.

Formed in the early '90s partly as a reaction to the kind of navel-gazing introspection that was dominating indie rock in San Francisco, the threesome of guitarist Aaron Nudelman, bassist John Blackwell and drummer Tom Galbraith took their cues from Michigan's holy trinity of raw rock n' roll fury: the MC5, Grand Funk Railroad and the Stooges.

Mensclub (Credit: Peter Ellenby)

Nudelman had already made a name for himself in SF as the guitarist for psych/garage band Wig Torture. Blackwell was a member of goofy, weed-obsessed garage punks Three Stoned Men, which featured Nudelman's brother Dave on guitar, while Galbraith had served as a longtime drummer for East Bay college-rock band Field Trip with his songwriting and guitar-playing brother Jim, which put out several albums on Slash Records.

Mensclub may have played up the same kind of humor that its members' earlier bands did, but the trio did not skimp on the riffs, barraging audiences with a high-energy assault of rock. The group became a staple of the Bay Area club scene, putting out a string of 7-inch singles for a variety of labels that showcased the swaggering, aggressive (yet still tongue-in-cheek) onslaught of fan favorites like "Leather Uppers," "Beaker" and "A--, Grass or Gas."

Ass, Gas or Grass by Mensclub - Topic on YouTube

The band would eventually release its full-length debut Comin' to Take You Away for Bar/None Records in 1996, which it would promote with dates up and down the West Coast. The trio also released the three-song Woman Driver EP on poster artist Frank Kozik's Man's Ruin Records the following year, but Mensclub ended up parting ways the following year.

The trio would play sporadic reunions over the decades, mostly at private events (the most recent was at a memorial several years ago). Meanwhile, the band members have busied themselves with more recent projects such as Nudelman's celebrated heavy psych group Hot Lunch. Galbraith plays drums with rock band Portable Madness and the all-star soul outfit Harold Ray and East Bay Dynamite. Fans of Mensclub are sure to be coming out of the woodwork to see them play this rare show Saturday.

Joining Mensclub will be a couple of local acts of note. A project featuring a local crew of punk and metal veterans including singer Bob McDonald and guitarist Andy Oglesby of sadly defunct SF post-punk outfit Hank IV, ex-Acid King/Altamont drummer Joey Osbourne and former Lost Goat guitarist Eric Peterson (bassist Jason Ricci rounds out the quintet), Frisco 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 stoner-metal players, Frisco explores a hard-swinging style of knotty noise punk. The songs topped by McDonald's tuneful, manic vocals that split the difference between PiL-era John Lydon, Joy Division's doomed frontman Ian Curtis and the lurching unpredictability of Scratch Acid/The Jesus Lizard frontman David Yow.. The band plays tunes from its 2019 Secret Serpents Records debut Love Songs for Phantom Limbs and possibly previews new material.

Opening the show for Mensclub is like-minded quintet Very Paranoia. An all-star proto-punk venture, the band features Hot Lunch drummer Rob Alper on guitar (he also played in SLA, the Fells and the Sermon) as well as members of late lamented punk/metal greats Annihilation Time (bassist Chris Grande and new addition Jamie Sanitate on guitar), Assemble Head in Sunburst Sound (drummer Jefferson Marshall) and Dragon Rojo/Salem Lights (singer Cory Linstrum).

Very Paranoia - High Ledge by Cory M Linstrum on YouTube

After coming together in 2018, Very Paranoia released its debut 7-inch single on German psych/punk imprint Who Can You Trust Records. Earlier this year, the group followed up with their first eponymous full-length that features lean, two-minute blasts of primitive ferocity that genuflects at the altar or the MC5 and Aussie punk pioneers the Saints. Advance tickets to the show are available online.

Mensclub with Frisco and Very Paranoia
Saturday, Aug. 28, 6:30 p.m. $10-$15
The Make-Out Room

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