Tuesday, April 12, 2016
Ripple Field Trip - Mondo Drag At The Elbo Room 3/29/16
In the first of what I hope will become many reviews for the one and only Ripple Effect, I was given the opportunity to catch a show at the Elbo Room [http://www.elbo.com/] in San Francisco on March 29th. Mondo Drag's album release party for their latest, "The Occultation of Light" on Riding Easy Records [http://www.ridingeasyrecs.com/]. Supporting Mondo Drag that evening were two other Oakland based bands - Fine Points and Queen Crescent.
Admittedly I was unaware of Fine Points being on the bill until I saw a band other than Queen Crescent getting set up. I was checking out merch as they began their set full of bright, shimmering guitar lines under reverb drenched vocals. As I finished browsing and chatting I grabbed a drink and found a spot to chill. Fine Points played about 5 or 6 songs, most of which had me bobbing my head to the point where I can't say I didn't enjoy it. I just can't say much of it was memorable for me.
Queen Crescent began setting up and quickly got sound checked and ready to rock. They opened the set with the newly released single Zodiacal Woman [https://vimeo.com/149729448] - with a siren's song of an intro that would draw in any unsuspecting concert-goer not already familiar with their sound. Moments later Guitarist Andrea Genevieve kicks on the fuzz while welcoming in the thundering rhythm section of Drummer Amy Martinez & Bassist Eden Savage. With a few flurries on her flute Melissa Vu gets the jam started and off they go; fuzzy riffs and galloping rhythms galore. This song has some great flute/guitar interplay throughout and ends with a section that, to me, clearly pays homage to Sabbath with a riff and vocal delivery reminiscent of "A National Acrobat". They followed that up with a few unreleased new songs and Culture Vulture, from their self-titled March 2015 release. Their 5 song set felt very short, but maybe that's just because these ladies rock hard and fast and make the time fly by. Other than wanting more, they put on a great set and solidified my belief that they should be signed sooner rather than later. They mentioned to me that they have a single coming out on a split 7", but I can't find any solid information on that to share. They hope to be hitting the studio soon to record an EP of new songs and are itching to get writing on a new concept album soon. If you don't yet know them, do your ears a favor and check them out.
Queen Crescents gear was quickly cleared and Mondo Drag took the stage; Keyboardist/Vocalist John Gamino moved from the shadows his keyboard rig - a huge Hammond XK1 rested above what I assume was a Fender Rhodes organ - a sign of the deliciously warm sounds to come. To the side of the organs were 2 smaller synths and other gear. We were treated by an opening of Initiation, a winding 6 minute jam with a mid-section of solos traded between keys and guitar. As this was their album release party, they seemed to play mostly songs from "The Occultation of Light", which is an absolute stunner of an album, somehow improving upon last year’s self-titled release. Giving us a performance that did not disappoint, Mondo Drag weaved through their set almost effortlessly. As each song made its myriad dynamic shifts, everyone on stage looked comfortable and ready for the next. Drummer Ventura Garcia and Bassist Andrew O'Neil gallop along ever so hypnotically, allowing Gamino's keys and the guitar of Jake Shely to slowly build tension filled landscapes, aided by guitarist/synth-man Nolan Girard's rhythm guitar and spacey Moog sounds.
When listening to Mondo Drag, one can't help but think of the organ heavy prog masters of days gone by; Uriah Heep, Deep Purple, Floyd. The songs truly make you feel like you've traveled back in time for a night. Impeccable songwriting, to say the least. The harmonic textures put together in these songs are so rich and refreshing. I can imagine the amount of time these guys spend obsessing over each song, arranging and re-arranging, composing and scrapping and recomposing and rearranging. John briefly addressed the crowd near the end of their set to thank everyone and effectively say goodbye before they head to Europe for the next leg of their tour. Someone in the crowd, whom I assume was a friend of the band, frantically handed a gift-wrapped vinyl to John. A Keith Emerson (RIP) signed copy of an Emerson, Lake & Palmer album. Fitting. They pressed on for another song or two, playing I believe 8 in total, ending the show shortly after midnight.
As most of the crowd dispersed I headed to the merch table and picked up 2 copies of Queen Crescent's LP and chatted with Andrea and Amy for a quick minute while they graciously signed the LPs. I was also lucky enough to snag a copy of Mondo Drag's self-titled, but was only able to find 3 of them to have them sign it. Regardless, I now have those to force upon the ears of guests in my home.