By Dave Pehling
SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Along with fellow late ’80s and early ’90s East Coast heavyweights Monster Magnet and Palm Desert heroes Kyuss, Southern California quartet Fu Manchu helped foster the downtuned, psychedelic style of heavy stoner rock that rose to popularity during the 1990s and remains influential to this day.
While the Orange County band got it’s start in the mid-1980s as a hardcore punk outfit called Virulence, a number of personnel changes would lead to a shift in sound that incorporated elements of classic rock, metal and proto punk that nodded to everything from Hendrix and Black Sabbath to Blue Cheer and the Stooges. With longtime guitarist Scott Hill taking over on lead vocals shortly after the band changed it’s name to Fu Manchu and released it’s first single in 1990. Hill quickly developed into a commanding frontman, leading the group through the recording of several more singles before they produced their debut album No One Rides For Free in 1994.
Fittingly issued on Bong Load Records, the recording showcase the fiery early line-up featuring longtime drummer Ruben Romano, bassist Mark Abshire and lead guitarist Eddie Glass. While Abshire would be replaced by Brad Davis by the time the group tracked it’s follow-up album Daredevil, Fu Manchu’s nearly constant touring paid off when the band hit it’s stride with the 1996 release of In Search Of…, the band’s first for new label Mammoth Records.
Powered by the enormous fuzzed-out riffs of Hill and Glass on catchy songs like “Asphalt Risin'” and “Regal Beagle,” the album still stands as a bonafide classic of the genre. Though Glass and Romano would depart acrimoniously, reconnecting with Abshire to start the equally potent if more heavily psychedelic power trio Nebula, Fu Manchu landed on its feet with the addition of monster drummer Brant Bjork (who had helped found Kyuss in addition to producing No One Rides For Free) and new guitarist Bob Balch.
The new line-up continued the band’s hit streak into the next century on such fan favorites The Action Is Go, King of the Road and California Crossing. Even after Bjork vacated the drum chair to focus on his own prolific solo career with new drummer Scott Reeder taking over in 2001, Fu Manchu has remained a consistent live draw with tours promoting both new material (their most recent album Gigantoid was released in 2014) and the anniversaries of some of the quartet’s classic efforts.
The band’s current tour celebrates the recent 3 LP reissue of California Crossing that features two records of the original demos for the album including some previously unreleased material as well as a newly remastered version of the recording. Joining the might Fu will be Port Orchard, WA-based rock veterans Mos Generator. Led by principal songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and singer Tony Ross, the trio has been making music that draws on obscure heavy blues and proto-metal bands like Pentagram, Wishbone Ash and Atomic Rooster as well as more intricate progressive rock (King Crimson) and fusion (Mahavishnu Orchestra) since coming together in 2000.
While the band switched up its rhythm section a few years ago to accommodate a busier touring schedule, Ross and Mos Generator have only grown in popularity with appearances at such noted heavy music festivals as the Maryland Doomfest in 2016 and last July’s Epicenter Fest in San Jose. This Tuesday night show at the Ritz in San Jose is sure to be well attended by die-hard fans of heavy sounds.
Fu Manchu with Mos Generator
Tuesday, Nov. 14, 8 p.m. $11.50-$13.50