Friday, September 25, 2009


OM / Lichens
The Independent, San Francisco
September 24, 2009

According to the Umlaut Archives I saw Sleep at least a dozen times back in The Day. The problem I've had with OM is that no matter what they play, the original lineup of Al and Chris would ALWAYS be 2/3 of Sleep to me... and I simply couldn't get past that. However, now that Chris has reportedly retired from music and Al is working with new drummer Emil Amos, my interest in OM had come back *on* to see what new music Al would create with this new dynamic.

Long story short: Al and I go WAY back... so far back that I remember a time before Sleep... before he was even in a band... before he could buy alcohol legally. So, it was nice that we ran into him as soon as we entered the club and he graciously ushered us back to the dressing room and offered us exotic imported beer from the band's backstage bucket. What does Tecate mean in English anyway?

Umlaut > Al

At one point a guy who I didn't know came into the dressing room and apologized for having his bag next to me on the couch... which was not even a problem.. but he apologized and moved it anyway. Then out of the blue he and Al did a vocal warm up together and the guy headed towards the stage. After a moment I went out to watch Lichens... and realized "Lichens" was the guy who I'd just met backstage... DOH. I caught him mid-song while he was singing acapella and performing some trippy vocal gymnastics. I didn't really know what to make of it... and not to marginalize his performance because it was impressive and unique... but at that moment I went to the bar to get a beer.

As much as I'll always respect Al in his musical travels, OM has never connected with me. However, as Al took the stage with the new drummer and also Lichens (who sat behind a table at stage left with a keyboard, an electric guitar, and some other instruments) I was hopeful that this would be a more fully realized experience for me than the last time I saw OM. They were also joined by Lorraine Rath (who has worked with Amber Asylum in the past) on flute for a song or two.

I enjoyed the first part of the set but, since I'm not familiar with OM's material, I focused more on watching how Al interacted with this latest incarnation of his band.. OM's music isn't necessarily dark.. but it's not happy either... it's somber... serious... and maybe too serious for Umlaut.. After awhile, since I was up in the VIP balcony, I found myself looking down and watching most of the crowd bob their heads and sway to the trance vibe coming from the stage. It was all rather Hippie... and I'm not sure if I mean that in a bad or a good way.

One thing that struck me as I watched OM was that Al is a WAY more spiritual person than I am... and that translates into his music... but I'm in a different mindset and, while I did enjoy this set more than the last time I saw OM, I have to admit it didn't engage me. That being said, as I type this it's 1:00AM and I'm listening to OM's latest CD God Is Good for the first time and I'm feeling the music in this context and environment: Alone with my thoughts... typing these thoughts into words... nothing else.. Maybe this is the way I should listen to OM versus in a crowded club.

Anyway, as OM plays in the background, I must give thanks for spending the evening around Umlaut Nation friends / family... so a shout out to Timo, Lori, Sarah, Richard, Pam, Justin, Alan, and Jen.

No merch audit... but a CD cost $12. On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called us fags. It was cool seeing OM at The Independent... For the newbies: Back in The Day the space was called The Kennel Club and Sleep played there many times... many.... times... good... times.

Grotus / Neurosis / Sleep
The Kennel Club - May 1992
(From the Umlaut Archives)