By Dave Pehling
SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — A trio of high-powered Bay Area bands comes together for a good cause this Saturday when veteran proto-punk quartet Hot Lunch, new act Terry Gross and psych explorers Carlton Melton team for this benefit show raising funds to help SF poster artist Alan Forbes.
A fixture on the San Francisco music landscape since the mid-1990s, Forbes is probably best known for his long association with singer Chris Robinson (he designed the Black Crowes iconic logo), but has made album covers and concert posters for a who’s who of modern rock acts including Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh, Queens of the Stone Age, Melvins, Earthless, High On Fire, Faith No More and Swans just to name a few.
With his mix of classic ’60s style psychedelic lettering and imagery incorporating skulls, eyes and oscillating patterns with pop culture and cartoon characters, Forbes has developed a unique style that pushes the tradition of ballroom concert poster artistry into the modern age. He also co-founded the independent Valley King Records imprint, doing the artwork for the label’s limited edition vinyl releases for a variety of psychedelic, punk and heavy rock groups.
A recent diagnosis of an unnamed but serious medical ailment has placed the artist — who doesn’t have health insurance — in grave peril. A GoFundMe campaign launched in late August by friends has collected over $30,000 in the space of a few weeks and has been left open to continue raising funds that Forbes will need to cover necessities as he gets treatment. Not surprisingly, musicians in the Bay Area have come out of the woodwork to offer their support for this, the first of what could end up being a series of benefit shows to help the artist.
A force on the San Francisco underground for over a decade, veteran proto-punk quartet Hot Lunch was founded by singer Eric Shea after the split of his muscular retro-rock outfit Parchman Farm in 2006. Features talented locals including former Mensclub guitar hero Aaron Nudelman and the pulverizing rhythm section of drummer Rob Alper — ex-The Sermon as well as guitarist with reunited Sacto garage-punks SLA — and bassist Charlie Karr (best known for his work with the Alternative Tentacles band Harold Ray Live in Concert), the group soon became a fixture in S.F. clubs with their fiery live performances.
However, the gestation of Hot Lunch’s first album would take considerably longer. Funding their own recording sessions in 2012, Shea and company captured the fuzzed-out fury of its stage show on analog tape at Louder Studios with lauded producer Tim Green (Comets on Fire, Melvins, Sebadoh, Earthless) just prior to Green relocating the facility from San Francisco to his new home in Grass Valley. Unlike the many acts who do little more than mimic the sonic template of influential early ’70s bands, Hot Lunch interweaves elements of skate punk, psychedelia and prog rock into their unique sound.
The eponymous album’s 2013 release on the small German label Who Can You Trust? in Europe and Tee Pee Records stateside led to sponsored recordings and concert appearances for Scion A/V and Converse, considerably raising the band’s profile. And for good reason: Echoes of the MC5 and other more obscure ’70s riff rockers like Sir Lord Baltimore and Dust can be heard in the headlong drive of “Handy Denny,” “She Wants More,” and the wah-wah fueled “Killer Smile,” but the more straightforward salvos are balanced by a number of equally potent curve balls.
The band boldly recasts a tune by prog-rock power trio Emerson, Lake & Palmer, transforming “Knife Edge” from a virtuoso keyboard workout to a doom-laden dose of guitar mayhem. The album’s second side ventures even further afield, unspooling an Arthurian legend on the nearly eight-minute “Lady of the Lake.” Replete with lyrics about wild mushrooms and crystal harps, the multipart song even has a British-accented spoken-word soliloquy that brings to mind “The Necromancer” from Rush’s heady third album Caress of Steel.
Since then, the quartet has issued a number of singles and EPs, most recently the five track Scion A/V collection Slappy Sunday that was released for free download in 2015. Having recently emerged from the studio after tracking their forthcoming second album, Hot Lunch headlines this benefit show at the El Rio in San Francisco’s Mission District along with a pair of talented, like-minded local groups.
Droning power trio Carlton Melton has been putting out its guitar-heavy soundscapes for the better part of the last decade. Made up of guitarist/synth player Rich Millman, drummer/guitarist Andy Duvall (both former members of late, lamented SF blues-punk Zen Guerilla) and bassist/drummer Clint Golden, the band kicks off the show with a set of improvisational psychedelia. Making its live debut at the show will be new trio Terry Gross with local guitar vet Phil Manley (Trans Am, The F–king Champs, Life Coach), bass player Donny Newenhouse (Film School, Hot Fog, Buffalo Tooth) and drummer Phil Becker (Pins of Light, ex-Triclops and Lower Forty-Eight). Contrary to what you might expect from a band named after the unflappably calm NPR interviewer, bashes out a kinetic, krautrock-influenced style of propulsive rock.
Alan Forbes Benefit with Hot Lunch, Terry Gross and Carlton Melton
Saturday, Sept. 16 9 p.m. $10
The El Rio