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 potent retro-rock outfit Parchman Farm in 2006. Shea pulled in several talented locals for the group, including former Mensclub guitar hero Aaron Nudelman and the pulverizing rhythm section of drummer Rob Alper — ex-The Sermon as well as guitarist with Sacto garage-punks SLA — and bassist Charlie Karr (best known for his work with the Alternative Tentacles band Harold Ray Live in Concert). Hot Lunch soon became a fixture in S.F. clubs with their fiery live performances.
The gestation of the band’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 multi-part 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 and a new 45 featuring the tracks “Haul of Meat” and “Pot of Gold” for European label Who Can You Trust? Records last year. Earlier this year, the band announced plans to release its appropriately titled sophomore album Seconds on Tee Pee Records in March.
Expanding the group’s sonic palette, Seconds finds Hot Lunch embracing an ever-widening dynamic range with the haunting middle section of “Smoke Ring” and the sprawling prog epic of album closer, “Skulled to Neptune.” But fans of the group’s burly proto-punk attack will be pleased by the hefty crunch of “Human Reissue” and the energetic fury “Black Angel’s Curse” kicks into following Nudelman’s acoustic introduction.
For the Hot Lunch record release party at Light Rail Studios Saturday, the group will be joined by a pair of like-minded heavy rock acts. Originally formed in Santa Cruz before relocating to San Francisco, Glitter Wizard has been bashing out its unique style of over-the-top hard rock for over a decade. Twisting together elements of Black Sabbath, Hawkwind, Blue Cheer and Black Oak Arkansas (Wendy Stonehenge, the band’s outlandishly Spandex-clad lead singer, works the stage in a high-energy frenzy that recalls Jim “Dandy” Mangrum), the group independently released several singles and full-length efforts before putting its third headbanging space-boogie opus Hollow Earth Tour out through Italian imprint Heavy Psych Sounds in 2016. Opening Portland, OR-based band Pushy offers up meaty slabs of twin-guitar powered ’70s boogie rock drawn from the rising band’s latest salvo, last year’s Hard Wish.
Hot Lunch with Glitter Wizard and Pushy
Saturday, March 16, 8 p.m. $10
Light Rail Studios