June 23, 2009

Farewell to The Blacks

The Blacks, The Red Verse, The Ferocious Few
Rickshaw Stop | San Francisco, CA | June 18, 2009

Some groups fade away. The Blacks go down in a furious blaze of glory. San Francisco’s darkest three-piece mounted a final stand Thursday night at Rickshaw Stop, cementing their potent two and a half year alpha-garage legacy with an encore-laden tambourine orgy that forever confirms what we’ve known all along: it is indeed better to burn out.

But if this was some kind of crazed, Bud-soaked wake, it was also a celebration of the dearly departed. Out of loss comes gain. And so Tiger Songs, the band’s propulsive, trash-rock extended play graced the decked-out Tricycle Records display tables. Plus, as is customary with most record release parties, two other kick-ass bands and a steady flow of Red Bull ushered in the main attraction.

Bay Area natives The Ferocious Few paid first respects, quickly proving to a packed-tight house that only half of their name is misnomer. The Few are actually two – guitarist Francisco Fernandez and drummer Daniel Aguilar. The ferocious part is totally legit. Summoning manic, devil-chasin’ spirituals, Fernandez smoked through a string of hoedown tunes with the bluesy yowl of Robert Johnson and an acoustic guitar made of dynamite. “Gasoline & Cocaine” channeled the revved-up grit of the duo’s by now semi-legendary impromptu street performances, while the stomping swing of “Heaven & Hell” sounded much more wicked than anything Dio could think up.

Wedged between two high-octane counterparts, The Blacks’ well-dressed label mates The Red Verse came on like the eye of a storm, deadpanning through a chill set that kicked into gear with an inspired cover of The Clean’s “Anything Could Happen.” When singer Alex Oneil popped a guitar string one song in, bassist Andrew Galluccio crooned a sappy R&B standard, the name of which will be withheld to protect guilty parties. Still, it pleased the crowd, who shouted for more even as Oneil returned. This is what you’d call “taking one for the team.” Well done, Andrew.

And well done Blacks. Calling it quits never felt so good, or entailed so many damn tambourines for that matter. In an epic show of no-holds-barred, Stooges-style melee, Luisa, Gavin and JDK Blacker for the last time conjured all of the things that make them great – pummeling guitar music, horror-movie chic attire, and yes, a giant box full of tambourines. The trio fired a first parting shot with chugging new single, “Gravitas,” a sinister garage rocker with nasty descending riffs and screamo backing vox. It’s a mad mash of Garbage and B-52s that would be the best track in either band’s catalog. It also launched a marathon set of wild-eyed, senses-clearing rock ‘n roll (“White Girl,” “Sunday Boys,” “The Split”) – not so much swan song as screaming death knell. At one point, the band shared the stage with a couple dozen drunken, amateur percussionists as JDK’s grand tambo-experiment breathed its last gasp. This is the kind of stuff that sent all home with hangovers and bittersweet recognition that the sayings are absolutely true: once you go Blacks…

top left: Francisco Fernandez of The Ferocious Few
bottom right: JDK Blacker of The Blacks

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