Heavy Lode

My wife’s fork paused midway to her mouth, the bite of meatloaf suspended between plate and oblivion.

“I should be tripping,” she said.

Not standard dinnertime conversation ‘round the cabin these days, I assure you, boys and girls. No, not at all.

But these were unusual circumstances, as I’d just tossed in the cassette that had arrived in the mail earlier that day and cranked up the old JVC tape deck. It should be noted that I needed to think about it for a moment or two, as we haven’t played any tapes for a while. But, you see, this was a limited edition 60-minute bootleg compilation cassette of last year’s Frisco Freakout – no discs to be had, boys and girls. No, none at all.

I think what was pounding its way out of the speakers at the very moment that my wife’s forkful of meatloaf stalled in mid-air was a short peek in through the gates of Hell titled “Def Lezbian” as performed by Art Lessing & The Flower Vato. We were finding it to be a little unsettling, but then along came the Wooden Shjips with a driving-too-fast-by-moonlight “For So Long”. And let me tell you something right now, boys and girls: WHEN THE WOODEN SHJIPS ARE THE VOICES OF REASON, THEN WHAT YOU HAVE IS ONE SERIOUS FREAKOUT. Me, I like the Shjips’ sound, which I think I referred to once as “what it would have sounded like if Howlin’ Wolf and Creedence Clearwater Revival had dropped acid together.” On “For So Long” they do that thing they do so well: establish a groove and ride that rascal.

For those who like their freakouts on the harder side, you have Crystal Antlers with “Vexation” or an excerpt of “From The Ages” as powered out by Earthless. Or, experience the soundtrack to a Martian prayer meeting by cranking up Ascended Master’s “Cloud Chambers.”

I hadn’t crossed paths with Assemble Head In Sunburst Sound before the Frisco Freakout compilation – these guys alone would make the tape worth having. Bringing us “The Chocolate Maiden’s Misty Morning,” AHISS comes off sounding like the Airplane if Grace Slick had taken a header off the stage and left Jorma, Jack, and Paul Kantner to huddle with drummer Spencer Dryden in a rolling, tumbling, cascading jam that deserved not to end. Fine stuff.

For my taste, the other highlight was the Bad Trips’ “Backwards”: what sounds like backwards (HA!) tone samples swarm and loop as the drums groggily come to, eventually locking in with the bass and chugging along. More sound textures are slathered on, but the rhythm section is fastened on with a death grip – ain’t nobody deterring them from their chosen course.

And, of course, there’s the novelty of the lo-fi cassette and its black-and-white hand-lettered case … I mean, could it get any cooler? The liner notes identify Robert Cogswell as the taper responsible for the compilation: you done good, Robert.

Just imagine: this many years since the birth of psychedelic rock and where do you go to find the heartland? Still right in Frisco, baby.