As twilight faded over the rooftops, two cool California bands blew into the Rock ‘N Roll hotel with three objectives: peace, love and rock and roll. Is that technically four? Anyway.
Howlin’ Rain headlined, bringing with them a 2012 version of 1970s rock. This tour is an announcement, nay, a soulful celebration of the release of their newest album, “The Russian Wilds.” Years in the making, “The Russian Wilds” was constructed with the help of master producer Rick Rubin, so be warned: if you listen, you’re going to hear thoughtful, well-worn tracks. Like a leather hide, tanned in the sun and cut into a fine-fitting jacket (free flowing fringe attached, of course), songs from this album are authentic. The smallest guitar solo, with just the right effects pedal, nestles in with a rollicking organ solo and steady drums (“Cherokee Werewolf”). Sweet harmonies weave together with a prominent bass line and repeated guitar motif piece reminiscent of the seminal classic “Hotel California”, then they unwind in a flamenco-feeling breakdown (“Phantom in the Valley”). Humble enough, Howlin’ Rain played their songs with little or no introduction, letting the harmonied guitar lines speak for themselves. Endless solos and long bridges tacked onto already very long songs can make one hyperaware they’re listening to an old soul, a relic redrafted. It’s your dad’s music (just check out “Collage”). And who doesn’t want to hear that, jamming and all, once in a while? You may not admit you want to, but you do. A lot of head bobbing went down at RNR. Howlin’ Rain’s players are skilled and their intricately crafted songs kept their audience’s interest.
So if Howlin’ Rain came with guitars filled with a slow vintage rock homebrew what did fellow ‘Friscers Assemble Head in Sunburst Sound bring to the party? More psychedelia, that’s what. Also a lot of hair swinging. This blended that same ’70s feel with hair metal, and more modern indie rock trends. Reverb-heavy vocals flowed over an impassible wall of jangling guitar and funky bass, glued together with tricky drums (“Sunshine”).
Assemble Head wrapped their groovy licks around our heads, combining traditional pro rock with modern soloing. Their singer had a voice with a unique pocket that stood out against the rest of the instrumentation, but that’s not what left the crowd intrigued. On songs like “Two Birds,” it’s this combination of jammy solos and textures of a modern indie (and a sprinkling of old time punk) band that really tied their sound together. Howlin’ Rain’s guitarist guested at the end of their set, which is appropriate as both bands are stuck at approximately the same time in the past. Assemble Head is certainly more varied, but it’s no wonder Howlin’ Rain are “family and friends” to Assemble Head, as well as tour mates.
- Howlin Rain
- Assemble Head & Sunburst Sound