June 4, 2014
Better than: Waking the neighbors with old vinyl on a school night.
Absent from the local scene for a spell, due to reasons various and sundry, Trans Am came back to its second home last night. One can only hope, based on the crowd at the Independent, that innovation on Trans Am's scale -- an unlikely balance of DEVO, Black Sabbath, Goblin, and far too much else to list here -- is better compensated in admiration than currency. No matter: the band is back and that's good.
We missed the powerfully prompt set of Death Cheetah. Penultimate openers Golden Void hit next and were frankly way too good to be openers. They're a pocket Hawkwind, all well-worn '70s grooves and wah-wah solos -- propulsive, fun, and good drinking rock in the best possible way. Onstage the members were a bit wooden; and compositionally, the music was unabashed revivalism, but the Damo-Suzuki-backing-band-on-a-day-off vibe was so earnest and well-played, you'd be a dick to find fault in it.
Trans Am is a weird beast: take a bonkers, hot-shit session drummer and put him behind two semi-frontmen who are maybe reluctant about being frontmen and there you have ... rock magic? Improbable, but true. From the first synth stabs, Trans Am was present and heavy. The crowd was enamored of its slightly dancey (eh, maybe very dancey) proto-metal chunk as the members powered through jams new and old. Like kindred spirits and occasional collaborators Tortoise, Trans Am has this improbable ability to take well-worn modes like, say, the horror chug of Goblin, and brush them alongside wondrous walls of synth strings or primal '70s riffs without making it seem forced. It blurs the lines, somehow making these disparate genres fit next to each other.
It was a damn fun time live, too, though there should have been more people packing the Indy, and they should have been sweatier and jumping in time with the music but, hey: what are you gonna do? Oh, and per some writer's claim that there's not enough adventurous rock in the Bay anymore -- that is just patently untrue. Trans Am came home like the fog last night (thank God, it's cold again), and kept the torch of thoughtful, fun, titanic rock burning.
Trans Am drummer Sebastian Thomsen is a charisma machine -- he radiates Bonham unhinged-ness for about 10 feet in either direction. He's a joy to watch.
Last night was the night of the drummer, apparently, because the same could be said of Golden Void's Justin Pinkerton, who surely passed out into a sweaty clump at the end of his propulsive set.