The annual Sabertooth Micro Fest descended on the Crystal Ballroom last weekend for three nights of psychedelic stoner rock—a genre I'm pretty sure includes any band with guitars loud enough to rattle your teeth and warp your mindset.
Friday's lineup was the heaviest, starting with local black metal band Pillorian (who I unfortunately missed due to my desperation for a torta—sorry, Pillorian). Then came Conan, a British doom metal band whose walls of distorted noise absorbed me like a fucked-up dream. The crowd was stoked to see Yob—the Eugene trio's music was a little too repetitive for me, but I was impressed by the fact that they played loud enough to vibrate my contact lenses against my eyeballs. (Gross, but true!)
What happened next transcends words, but I'll do my best: A few hooded ghouls hobbled onstage carrying a coffin marked with an inverted cross, left it by the microphone, and took their places at their instruments. Then, as the ghouls chanted, the coffin opened and Jinx Dawson—frontwoman of the satanic rock band Coven—emerged wearing a bejeweled mask and matching gloves.
They mostly played songs from the group's 1969 debut, Witchcraft Destroys Minds and Reaps Souls, including my favorites "For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge" and "Wicked Woman" (which includes some choice lyrics about crucifying a dude). Imagine watching a trained opera singer describe her pact with Lucifer while holding a human skull, and you might understand the shock and awe I, a lapsed Catholic, experienced that night. My mind is 100% destroyed and my soul is 100% reaped.
As you can imagine, Coven is a pretty tough act to follow. But Saturday's five-band bill overflowed with talent: Hand Habits kicked things off with drowsy guitar hypnosis, followed by Portland's own psychedelic mystifier Cat Hoch (plus her backing band of all-star local musicians). Then Jay Som took the stage with highly belt-able pop anthems like "The Bus Song" and some lighthearted guitar dueling.
Although Saturday's headliner was Parquet Courts, Michelle Zauner of Philadelphia indie pop band Japanese Breakfast stole the whole damn show. Zauner grew up in rural Eugene, and told the audience that she saw Built to Spill and Denali play the Crystal Ballroom when she was just 16. Though Zauner said she was impressed by the Pacific Northwest legends, she explained that seeing Maura Davis front Denali is what made her realize she could start her own band. Though it was beyond sweet to witness a musician actualize a teenage dream onstage, knowing that Zauner's joyful set probably inspired another young musician in the crowd was even sweeter.