By Dave Pehling
SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Over the course of more than a decade, Portland, OR-based quartet Red Fang has established itself to be one of the most talented, hard-working bands in heavy rock. Since first coming into wider recognition with the release of their eponymous Sergeant House Records debut in 2009 — and the viral Dungeons-and-Dragons inspired video for “Prehistoric Dog” that featured the beer-shotgunning band clad in 12-pack armor battling wizards (it’s been viewed over four million times on YouTube) — Red Fang has earned a sizable international fan base with its relentless touring schedule.
The band’s subsequent albums — 2011’s Murder the Mountains, the band’s first for noted metal imprint Relapse Records, and the follow-up effort Whales and Leeches in 2013 — further solidified the quartet’s reputation, though their continued partnership with “Prehistoric Dog” video director Whitey McConnaughy on a run of hilarious clips didn’t hurt. The recordings showed the band refining their compelling mix of sledgehammer riffs and hook-laden tag-team vocals of bassist Aaron Beam and guitarist Bryan Giles (second guitarist David Sullivan and drummer John Sherman round out the band).
Last year, the group convened to record outside of Portland for the first time, traveling to Ventura in Southern California to work with renowned producer Ross Robinson — who has helped track albums for everyone from Korn, Limp Bizkit and Slipknot to At The Drive In, Sepultura and the Cure. The resulting album Only Ghosts came out last year and found Red Fang pushing it’s sound in experimental new directions while still pounding out the band’s signature blend of heavy riffs and indelible melodies. This weekend, the popular group returns to the greater Bay Area on it’s current California Ghost Rush Tour with Bay Area pop/prog favorites Once and Future Band.
Anchored by frontman and keyboard/guitar player Joel Robinow, Once and Future Band first came together in 2012. Made up of veteran musicians who already had a history together — Robinow and bassist Eli Eckert were both members of experimental riff rockers Drunk Horse in addition to playing with drummer Raj Ojha in local psych-guitar hero Ethan Miller’s band Howlin’ Rain — the group coalesced to give Robinow’s ever-growing book of songs an outlet outside his home recordings.
Early line-ups of Once and Future Band would feature noted Bay Area guitar wizards Isaiah Mitchell (the Earthless and Golden Void virtuoso who was also part of the same storied version of Howlin’ Rain) and Phil Manley (Trans Am, The F—ing Champs), who contributed to the group’s 2014 recording debut, the Brain EP.
The band would later welcome guitarist Raze Regal (of local psych band Planes of Satorai) as a full-time member. That line-up would produce their proper full-length debut on Castle Face Records. The dazzling self-titled effort is simultaneously more ambitious and more accessible, weaving candy-coated high harmony vocals and earworm melodies worthy of Harry Nilsson, Steely Dan’s Becker/Fagan combination and ELO mainstay Jeff Lynne into the tunes’ meticulously crafted arrangements. But where their ’70s prog-rock forebears would sometimes drift into ponderous pretension, songs like the ascendant opener “How Does It Make You Feel?” and the joyfully propulsive “Rolando” have an undeniably infectious vibe.
Since celebrating the release of the album last January, the band has remained busy. In addition to playing it’s first ever run of arena shows opening for experimental metal mavericks Tool on the East Coast which introduced their eclectic sound to thousands of new fans, the band was invited to play post-punk icons Wire’s curated DRILL Festival in Los Angeles last spring and recently shared the stage with like-minded Swedish psychedelic explorers Dungen for a number of shows around Northern California that saw former guitarist Mitchell rejoining the band as a special guest. For the show at Slim’s, the two bands will be joined by San Francisco sludge metal/punk band War Bison.
Red Fang with the Once and Future Band
Thursday, Oct. 19, 9:30 p.m. $18-$20
Friday, Oct. 20, 8 p.m. $19
Saturday, Oct. 21, 8 p.m. $23-$25