By Dave Pehling
SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Taking their name from the gritty 1980 prison-corruption drama starring Robert Redford, the veteran players of local heavy-rock quartet Brubaker deal out muscular, tough-as-nails tunes befitting the bruising moniker. Sacramento-based guitarist Gene Smith and drummer Neil Franklin have been playing together for well over two decades in both the legendary rock juggernaut Kai Kln and their jazzier, more acoustically oriented outfit the Ricky and Del Connection.
Back in 2012, the pair teamed up with bass virtuoso Larry Boothroyd (Victims Family, Triclops! and Jello Biafra’s Guantanamo School of Medicine) and six-string maestro Christian Riley (formerly of Bluchunks and Walrus) to form the new outfit. Though the musicians had been friends and regularly played shows with each other in their previous bands dating back to the early 1990s, Brubaker marked the first time the four seasoned musicians had joined forces.
Matching Smith’s gruff, authoritative growl and wailing slide guitar to Riley’s inventive riffs and the relentless groove of the muscular rhythm section, Brubaker quickly assembled an arsenal of head-banging, Southern-fried boogie jams. With a bluesy vibe that hearkened back to the members’ favorite heavy rock from the 1970s while still bringing in elements of hardcore fury and grunge heft, some of the songs sounded like Molly Hatchet or Ram Jam being blasted out of a punk-rock cannon.
In 2014, the group convened at Louder Studios in Grass Valley to record with noted producer Tim Green, whose impressive resume includes work with such like-minded heavy hitters as Melvins, Comets on Fire and Earthless. In the space of only a couple of days, the crew bashed out the propulsive tracks that make up its ferocious eponymous debut.
Kicking off with the bottleneck-fueled rocker “John Bascal,” the pummeling effort alternates between killer instrumentals — the Allman Brothers meets Helmet crusher “Creampuff” and the soaring, Celtic-flavored “Arkitookus” — and swaggering vocal cuts like “Cauliflower and Beer” (which takes it’s lyrical inspiration from the Redford prison flick), and the stomping anthem “Chirpy Bird.”
The band has played regular engagements throughout the Bay Area since that release, sharing stages with the likes of Oakland headbangers Blackwulf, punk legend Mike Watt and his band the Secondmen and aforementioned psych power trio Earthless. Last year, the group returned to Louder to track their currently untitled follow-up album. This time, they invited Earthless/Golden Void guitar hero Isaiah Mitchell to guest on several tracks.
The band puts some of that new material on display when it headlines Bender’s in San Francisco’s Mission District Saturday night. For this show, Brubaker is joined by Boothroyd’s longtime guitar foil Ralph Spight (cofounder of Victims Family and musical director for Biafra’s Guantanamo School of Medicine) who plays a mix of punk, surf and fractured rock tunes with his side project, the Freak Accident.
Brubaker with the Freak Accident
Saturday, February 4, 9 p.m. $5