A young crowd gathered early at the foot of famous Fillmore stage in anticipation of Yuck, the much hyped transatlantic grunge revivalists, who were opening for Aussie psyche rockers Tame Impala in San Francisco on Monday night. Yuck singer Daniel Blumburg calls to mind Dylan from ‘63 (when he was still afraid of the bright lights). His hunched skeletal frame clad entirely in ill-fitting denim twisted awkwardly on his Doc Martin toe-caps. Under his tousled locks, his unsettling gaze was often directed at his band-mates, rather than the crowd, as he swung around his duck-taped Fender Jaguar nervously.
The band played through most of the well received eponymous debut album methodically. “Suicide Policeman” (featured on The Ruckus recently) was tender and gorgeous. The band really came alive during the great album opener, “Get Away” (partially NSFW official video here), in which super-cool Moriko Doi's bass cut through like Kim Deal's, pounding under Max Bloom's J Mascis styled guitar licks and Blumberg’s soaring chorus melody, rendering the song an immediate classic. The problem with writing a classic is that it’s hard to repeat, and the set never really matched it until the slow burning album and set closer, "Rubber". The awkward and timid look of the band is intriguing, but oftentimes on Monday they just looked like they were a little upset, maybe it was just first-night-of-the-tour nerves.
The Fillmore could be considered Tame Impala's spiritual home. They hold the influences of mid-60s psychedelic legends Jefferson Airplane, and Jimi Hendrix up high. In 1966 when Bill Graham put those bands together and created the now historic scene, people came from across the world to be part of what was happening in San Francisco and Haight Ashbury. On Monday night, Perth’s Tame Impala walked out barefoot in white-Ts and skinny black jeans to a very excited and welcoming audience (interspersed with many drunken Australians). They appeared with an effortless cool, as though strolling out into their own back-yard to jam. Like Yuck, Tame Impala appear childlike, but unlike their openers, the Australians play unfazed, like they owned the hallowed stage.
They ripped through the critically acclaimed debut LP Innerspeaker, opening with the epic “Why Won't You Make Up Your Mind?”. On "Lucidity", singer Kevin Parker channels Lennon's dream-like latter-day Beatles psychedelic voice with eerie accuracy. During the extended set closer of "Half Full Glass of Wine", guitarists Parker and Simper created a wall of analog and layered guitar effects with vintage uni-vibe and phaser drenched Hendrix spiraling licks, reminiscent of the epic “1983 (A Merman I Should Turn To Be)”, before dropping heavily back into Led Zeppelin/Jack White styled raucous blues riffs. Bassist Nick "Paisley Adams" Allbrook looks like he recently crawled out from of behind some hay bales (or out of a Harmony Korine film, as fellow gig-goer Stephanie observed), dancing with his "McCartney" Hofner Bass and tripping-out to his amazing climbing bass lines. Drummer Jay "Gumby" Watson creates an irresistible gallop on the floor toms through his blonde curls and a wide surfer's grin, that provokes a head nod from even the surly bar staff (selling warm bottles of Budweiser for $8, Bill Graham would not approve).
It felt good to see two great young guitar bands creating huge vintage sounds; and both are heavily influenced by great rock eras of the past, whether it be the mid-sixties or the mid-nineties. However, it was Tame Impala's effortless and blissed-out psyche rock that stole the night. They head to the UK after this tour to open for the Foo Fighters at their massive Milton Keynes show, and they deservedly look like they may well be Australia's biggest rock export since Wolfmother The Vines um, ACDC. Not that they care.
Thanks to Chris for the photos.