Frankie And The Witch Fingers With The Mad Walls And POW! At The Echo, Friday September 15th 2017
Frankie and the Witch Fingers had a record release party at the Echo on Friday night, and it was an excellent way to start the weekend, as the band always put a madly devil-possessed live show.
The Mad Walls was the first band to open the night, and since they categorize themselves as psych garage rock – meaning like about a million other bands in Los Angeles – I once again have to try to sort out all these so-called psychedelic branding bands. Fronted by Christopher Mercado and very recently formed (2016), the quartet sounded quite free spirited with a morose tone, no particular direction and abrupt acceleration of surf guitar and sonic fury. Their guitar tones and chord progression reminded me about Thee Oh Sees at times (very probably the theme of the night), but their range was large and they could not have been pigeon holed in any simplistic definition, as the next song had a retro surf guitar vibe and the following one sounded like an epic western-like adventure. Last month, they debuted ‘Somewhere Anywhere’ on the label of White Fence’s Tim Presley, Birth Records, and if Presley is a fan – he has collaborated with Ty Segall and Cate le Bon among other things of his impressive discography – they certainly deserve our full attention.
POW!, the next band, was puzzling and wildly interesting too. It’s funny that I have just mentioned Thee Oh Sees, because POW! has released music on Castle Face Records, John Dwyer’s label, and their sonic mess had to be the hardest thing I had ever to translate into words. The group, which emerged in San Francisco with ‘Hi Tech Boom’ in 2014, put quite a number: Their vocalist/guitarist was doing his own thing on one side of the stage, aggressively screaming spoken words over dissonant and strident distortion, while two of his bandmates (including a pretty one with a timeless smiling face) were fronting synths and producing weird noises with upbeat tempos, percolating behind successive guitar punk assaults and repetitive propulsions. Their set was probably too intense and too weird to fit in this paragraph, and since I am close to clueless as to find the right words to describe their chaotic and awesome music, which often seemed to be racing against time and other inexorable entity, let’s listen to Dwyer himself, who described them as ‘rechromed and ready to soundtrack your dystopian near future. Harsh neon synths keep battle with zipline guitars for space above a dark and teeming cityscape. Your guide sounds like he’s liable to lash out at strangers; he rants and mutters like a street urchin and chants like he’s warding off demons, voices or both.’ See? This is why this man is never boring.
Finally, Frankie and the Witch Fingers came on stage, it was the release party of their new album called ‘Brain Telephone’, and it was definitively their party with a mad bloody eye watching everywhere inside the Echo. Their first and title track song sounded like a Ray Charles number revisited by a psych punk garage band, as it had this catchy vintage soulful vibe with a giant pop hook and an infectious groove. I had seen the band a few times before, and with his glasses and clean look, frontman Dylan Sizemore never prepares us for the hysteria that generally follows. Once they started playing, the crowd became rowdy, following Sizemore’s stage moves and incessant head-shaking when he was playing the most furious guitar jams, which made him look like a devil-possessed man. Of course this is an easy comparison as there is the face of a demon holding an old-fashioned phone on his head on the cover of their new record, but there is certainly a part of madness during their show. As I was shooting photos at the front of the stage, a girl suddenly decided to stage dive and landed on my face, knocking me down on the floor… I never saw her coming, there was no harm, but watch out for photographers when you fucking stage dive!
Over the years, Frankie and the Witch Fingers’music has been compared to the Beatles’ ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ mixed with the raucousness of the Flamin Groovies and the chaos of Captain Beefheart, they also have admitted to worship 13th Floor Elevators and the Velvet Underground. If their sharp pop hooks brought a constant retro vibe, the euphoric and vibrating fuzz of the guitars was imploding new discoveries as the music was building an intense sonic-acid trip at each song. I know that psychedelia has to be the most-used word to describe new bands that magically appear every single day at each corner of Echo Park, but, last night, it had never sounded so fresh and good, like a space-out telephone transporting your brain into a retro reverb daze and not letting you go till you are knocked down on the floor.