Sunday, March 07, 2010


Shrinebuilder / Harvestman / A Storm Of Light / Brainoil
The Voodoo Lounge, San Jose, California
March 5, 2010

A little over a year ago the announcement of the Shrinebuilder project caused my jaw to hit the floor. It's NOT an understatement when I say that Shrinebuilder are a supergroup straight from the pages of the early-90's xerox 'zine version of Umlaut. I did ALOT of shows and On Tour mileage with the Melvins, Neurosis, and Sleep back in those heady xerox Kinko's Days... From Canada down to Mexico.. From L.A. to New Orleans. Seriously, good times, man... seriously.

From Umlaut #9 - Fall 1993

Dude, a bill of Neurosis / Tad / Sleep... Epic.. and the floor of that club in Hollywood was carpeted and afterwards we walked to a nearby 7-11 and stumbled onto the filming of the opening scene from Ed Wood with Johnny Depp standing across the street from us underneath a rain machine. Epic.

Anyway, this was the first of a 3 night Bay Area stand for Shrinebuilder, and it was special how these shows were basically the band's "homecoming" shows since 1/2 of the band grew up here. The Bay Area vibe resonated even more with Meg and Tony of Totimoshi being on the band's crew. It was nice that The Rock Godz acknowledged the significance of this show in Umlaut's history as Dave Edwardson of Neurosis and I both arrived at the door at the same moment and a hearty handshake was shared. Once inside we immediately ran into Umlaut Nation charter members Crow and Big Wayne and we were soon joined by Al and Dale of Shrinebuilder for the obligatory "what's been going on" conversation / photo op.. It was almost like old times, man... almost.

Umlaut / The Drummer (Pic by Big Wayne)

Brainoil were on first and cut from the same basic vibe as other local Rock heroes Drunk Horse, Orchid and Saviours, but with more Sludgy Doom behind their songs. A Storm Of Light are all the way from Brooklyn, NY and I didn't connect with them at all. Sorry. It could have been a reaction to how ANNOYED I was that The Voodoo Lounge serves beer in PLASTIC GLASSES!! BEER in PLASTIC GLASSES?!! SO San Jose...

The direct support for the night was Harvestman (aka Neurosis' Steve Von Till solo), which was an interesting counterpoint to the headliner, but historically and aesthetically it made perfect sense of course. Steve's solo material is brought to life onstage with an arsenal of equipment that takes the music from acapella vocals to blasts of guitar thunder. Steve is like the Kris Kristofferson of Punk Rock now; whatever happened to that little Crusty Punk I once knew? Although the set was marred by the LOUD talking from the San Jose scenesters at the bar (Why come to a concert if all you're going to do is TALK... Fucking idiots..) the pathos of the songs cut through the bar bullshit. On another note, having Harvestman on the bill also allowed for a special reunion of former Downtown San Jose residents:

1992: Von Till / Umlaut - Downtown San Jose

2010: Umlaut / Big Wayne / Von Till - Downtown San Jose

After Steve... err.. I mean... Harvestman... was done it was funny watching the fanboys press against the stage to stare googly-eyed as the Shrinebuilder legends set up their own gear. It was also heartwarming watching Wino untangle his effects and cables while wearing his spectacles. Four Eyes Rule!

Having seen Wino over the years fronting The Obsessed, The Hidden Hand, and Saint Vitus it was interesting seeing his trademark vocals and guitar intertwined with 3 other musicians who have unique volume trademarks of their own: Al's sludgy bass and rhythmic vocal style, Scott's Beast of Hell vocals and guitar, and Dale's pounding pounding pounding. Shrinebuilder are a Frankenstein-like monster where each member's trademark sound appears whenever that member is featured; boom... Sleep... boom.. Melvins... boom... Wino... boom... Neurosis. In that sense it's a quintessential Super Group IMO; each part of the band is too huge to merely share the limelight so they don't even try, they just take turns. I've read and heard complaints about the 40 minutes of new music this lineup has created... but I don't understand what people were expecting. The magnitude of this band is so massive, at least in Umlaut's world.

Shrinebuilder hit the stage at around 12:20am and the first part of their hour+ set was truly epic... then it got jammy in the middle... but it ended strong. I have to say the highlight of the set was the deep groove of 'Blind For All To See'... although 'The Architect' with both Wino and Scott trading vocals floored me as well, not to mention Wino's solo during the song. Total Godhead, man! At one point, to fill out the set, the band went into some jammy stuff (including a drum solo by Dale) that started to lose my interest, but they closed off strong with a final 15 minutes that included a cover of Joy Division's 'Twenty Four Hours' that worked for me.

It still amuses me how clueless The 'Burbs are about events like this; I think the Voodoo Lounge has a capacity of 300 and it was probably half full; I didn't do a merch audit. On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called us fags. This was a late one and I didn't step back inside the safe confines of Casa de Umlaut until 2:40am.. Will Umlaut make it to the San Francisco Shrinebuilder show?? Stay tuned... not to mention that both Umlaut and Shrinebuilder will be in Ohio next weekend. Crazy... It's almost like old times, man.

Yes, Umlaut did make the San Francisco show. Click HERE for that rant.