By Dave Pehling

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — 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. While the band tracked songs for their forthcoming second album a year ago, fans are still waiting for word as to exactly when Hot Lunch will be unleashing that anticipated slab of rock. For this Hemlock Tavern show Thursday, the group will be joined by local psych juggernaut Feral Ohms.

A corrosive power trio anchored by renowned Bay Area guitarist Ethan Miller who founded Comets on Fire and Howlin’ Rain and more recently became part of the psych supergroup Heron Oblivion. Started in 2011, Feral Ohms delivers a deafening, fuzzed-out fury that recalls the lysergic caveman stomp of late ’60s underground legends Blue Cheer and Sir Lord Baltimore while hearkening back to Miller’s most unhinged early work with Comets on Fire.

After putting out a string of 7-inch singles for a variety of imprints including SF boutique label Valley King and the aforementioned Alternative Tentacles, last year the threesome issued a frenetic live recording tracked at the Chapel in San Francisco on Thee Oh Sees frontman John Dwyer’s Castle Face Records. Last year, the trio offered up it’s self-titled studio debut released on Miller’s own Sliver Current label that manages (barely) to contain the ferocity of the band’s onstage assault. More recently, Silver Current put out a limited edition box set of the band’s singles that quickly sold out.

The two noted local outfits will be joined Thursday by Hot Lunch’s Tee Pee Records labelmates Painted Doll. A collaborative project featuring NYC-based comedian, actor and guitarist Dave Hill (Valley Lodge, Cobra Verde) and Bay Area death metal legend Chris Reifert (who played drums on the first Death album Scream Bloody Gore before founding Autopsy), Painted Doll explores a muscular but surprisingly pop-minded take on ’60s psychedelia that recalls Todd Rundgren’s early group Nazz and the Kinks.

Hot Lunch with Painted Doll and Feral Ohms
Thursday, April 26, 8:30 p.m. $10
Hemlock Tavern


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