By Dave Pehling
SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — As members of both iconic gothic-rock pioneers Bauhaus and neo-psych outfit Love and Rockets, guitarist Daniel Ash and drummer Kevin Haskins played a major part in two of the most influential groups to emerge during the late ’70s and ’80s, laying the groundwork for a legion of post-punk and alternative bands that would follow in their wake.
Though they only released four studio albums between the founding of Bauhaus in 1978 with singer Peter Murphy and bassist David J (Haskins’ older brother) and the band’s abrupt dissolution in 1983, the quartet achieved a level of impact unmatched by many groups that emerged in the wake of punk rock’s initial explosion in England. Imitated by many and matched by none, Bauhaus crafted a dark vision that held sway over so many disciples that the band entered a rarified eschelon occupied by the likes of the Velvet Underground and Black Sabbath in therms of the breadth of their reach.
While Bauhaus eventually reunite for two rapturously received tours in 1998 and 2005 prior to recording one final album — the celebrated swan song Go Away White in 2008 that led to a last acrimonious split — Ash and Haskins also hit great heights of commercial and critical success with David J in their trio Love and Rockets. Reviving the spirit of late ’60s psychedelia with their nuanced songwriting and gifts for hooky, hypnotic tunes, the band made alternative rock before the genre even existed. They managed one huge MTV hit in 1989 with “So Alive,” but it was the body of work the band created over 15 years starting in 1985 that earned them a rabidly loyal cult of fans.
Love and Rockets would also enjoy a high-profile reunion in the late 2000s, playing lucrative festival gigs at Coachella and Lollapalooza before Ash announced in no uncertain terms in 2009 that he wasn’t interested in reviving the band again. Ash put out a handful of solo recordings since then (including the career overview Stripped in 2014 that found him offering up new versions of classic songs) but it wasn’t until recently that he reached out to Kevin Haskins with the idea of returning to the stage and revisiting the songs of Tones on Tail, his early ’80s experimental project with roommate and Bauhaus roadie Glenn Campling on bass that eventually included Haskins on drums once Bauhaus had split.
Recruiting Haskins’ daughter Diva Dompe to play bass and keyboards, the new trio began playing live shows under the moniker Poptone earlier this year to great acclaim. Though the band touches on a handful of Ash-penned Love and Rockets tunes and a sole Bauhaus song (with the odd Adam Ant and David Bowie cover getting thrown into some sets), the bulk of the Poptone repertoire is drawn from the minimalist “doom and dance” pop experimentation tracked by Tones on Tail during their brief existence between the musicians’ other two bands.
The band played in San Francisco at Mezzanine last October, delivering an energetic set packed with fan favorites to an enthusiastic crowd. To promote it’s forthcoming live in the studio debut album, the band returns to the Bay Area for two shows this week, headlining the Regency Ballroom on Tuesday before moving south to play the Catalyst in Santa Cruz on Wednesday. Poptone is joined by like-minded LA band Automatic featuring Haskins’ daughter and Diva’s sister and former bandmate Lola Dompe on drums.
Tuesday, May 15, 8 p.m. $29.50-$35
Wednesday, May 16, 8 p.m. $24.50-$30