THIS WEEKEND, Sabertooth Micro Fest hits the historic Crystal Ballroom for two nights of psychedelic stoner rock. Here are the Mercury’s top picks for the all-ages-friendly festival:
FRI FEB 3
Portland indie rock three-piece Skull Diver uses their Bandcamp page as a vision board, listing musical inspirations like Mazzy Star, Portishead and Radiohead alongside Americana, the Grindhouse films, and ’70s psych (a clear theme throughout Sabertooth’s lineup). Their 2015 self-titled debut begins with the sound of a car engine revving, and what follows is an album replete with Americana-adjacent imagery of romantic deaths and nicotine-flavored love affairs. Tracks can be enjoyed for beautiful melodies and moody production, which lends to the escapist feel of this lightly conceptual work. Now Skull Diver is gearing up to release a follow-up called Chemical Tomb—catch a preview at tonight’s show.
Thee Oh Sees
My disinterest in contemporary psych/garage rock is mostly rooted in my inability to tell Burger Records pin-wearing bands apart, both sonically and aesthetically. Many musicians in the genre seem to superficially draw inspiration from a million different places without fully submerging themselves in any. Plus, my fear of the Manson family looms so large that it prevents me from fully enjoying the ’70s southern California vibes. Despite my attitude, Thee Oh Sees are one psych-rock band I can get behind. Prolific (18 albums!) and long standing (founded in 1997!!), they’ve stayed relevant by maintaining multidimensional fuzz with adolescent energy and sonic maturity.
SAT FEB 4
Ezra Furman seems to relish in every faction of the broad “rock” genre. Listeners can hear everything from doo-wop to glam to blues to country twang in his music, sometimes even in the same song. Furman pairs this genre-crossing energy with an endearing croon that sounds like he’s an over-caffeinated Warren Zevon. His understanding of human fault and oddity is palpable, and even when he’s singing about injustice, Furman’s tongue-in-cheek lyrics and use of big band instruments feel like a warm embrace.
Winter reared its ugly head last month, and left many citizens in desperate need of some vitamin D. Though we’ll just have to wait for nature to deliver some sun, Brazil’s Boogarins can offer mellow and sensuous psych in the meantime. The young musicians play stuff that’s pleasant without being passive, bathing audiences in sunlight, tropicalismo, and soft guitar shredding.