Stop Pining for the Past and Go See Small Rock Shows

As you lay about wistfully re-watching that rock doc, pining for the excitement of yesteryear's music scenes, Kyle Crawford recognizes the inspired artists around right now. He started the tiny Wizard Mountain record label with a cassette duplicator, and championed Ty Segall's music years before David Letterman invited him on TV.

In an age of established musicians starting record labels, Crawford works in reverse. After releasing music from local bands like Rank/Xerox, Grass Widow, and the Traditional Fools on his record label, Crawford started a group of his own: Generation Loss, an unnerving rock act with Cold Beat's Hannah Lew on bass. The band name speaks to the potential mistakes of an era so obsessed with the past that we miss out on the present, a generational affliction Crawford actively resists. Generation Loss vies for the now along with scrappy local trio Scraper and Useless Eaters on Friday, Jan. 24, at Hemlock Tavern.

Tim Presley's White Fence is a powerhouse of homespun psychedelic pop. Woozy tape warble and pristine melodies weave together with a keen sense of songcraft. The recording process is so present and manipulated that it functions as another instrument. Considering that, I expected a floundering travesty in concert, the hapless confusion of a home studio project cast adrift on stage, but White Fence live is a compelling rock unit quite separate from its recorded incarnation. A recent live album recorded in San Francisco at Amnesia is testament to this, thanks largely to John Webster Johns, Presley's lead guitarist. Johns' solo project Jack Name comes to Slim's on Friday, Jan. 24; its debut, Light Show, bears a similar pop sensibility to White Fence, but where Presley's recording techniques impart kaleidoscopic psychedelia, Johns uses tape saturation like a nightmarish fun-house mirror.

If a rock song can't speak through just guitar, bass, and drums played together live on a stage, then adding extraneous racket, projecting disorienting visuals, or donning garish outfits probably isn't going to help. Good performances from a core few musicians will engage more than whatever supplementary gimmicks rock bands rely on. For that reason, trios have an especially strong pull on me, and Oakland's BAUS is a prime example of the small-band format.

It's rock, demystified, where the players' gestures correlate directly to the music: The athletic motions of BAUS' fretting hands look like the disjointed riffs sound; the drummer's anxious strikes correspond directly to the skittish grooves. Watching a performer whose movement is divorced from the sounds takes us out of the gig, but BAUS forces concertgoers to reckon with the minutiae, nuance, and physicality of rock performance like only a trio can. BAUS opens for Street Eaters and Alternative Tentacles Records' Japanese import Ultra Bide at the Knockout on Tuesday, Jan. 28.

 
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