Live Music Round-Up: Topographies, The Monochrome Set, Frankie and the Witch Fingers, Psychedelic Porn Crumpets

Topographies at Whistle Stop

Rising San Francisco shoegaze band Topographies brought their dreamy lo-fi atmospherics to Whistle Stop last month en route to their South by Southwest dates. The four-piece rocked a short but sweet 30-minute set which featured almost entirely unreleased tracks, as well as their top-notch 2018 single “Roman Figure.” The band laid down their signature whirring guitar riffs and shreddy feedback, and also managed to harness their dissonant impulses into flowing new wave melodies.

Thrilling crescendos and surreal, whispery vocal performances anchored the rest of their set, which also received a stunning visual boost thanks to Whistle Stop’s kaleidoscopic lasers and other dream-like effects machines. It was a tight set with on-point group chemistry. A longtime favorite of ours, Topographies are shaping up into the creative, daring band we hoped they would become. This set left us even more invested in them, and we can’t wait to eventually hear all these new songs on record.

The Monochrome Set at Soda Bar

Now here’s a show that was truly something special. It’s a remarkable feat for any band from the ’70s to still be recording and touring, but it’s even more impressive when that band is still at the top of their game. Take The Monochrome Set, for example. The pioneering post-punk legends never quite received the acclaim and attention they initially deserved, but they’ve managed to parlay their longtime cult following into yet another creative explosion that’s yielded their bold recent album Maisieworld, as well as its enthralling live show.

Playing to a rabid audience in the intimate Soda Bar, the group opened with their classic self-titled track from their 1980 album Strange Boutique. The song’s rapid guitar riffs and jangly garage elements immediately set the scene for the rest of their eclectic, playful set. Frontman Bid and original bassist Andy Warren exude exactly the kind of confidence and stage presence befitting a veteran group such as themselves. The songs on Maiseworld are diverse and theatrical, perfectly playing into band’s fearless on-stage chemistry. “I Feel Fine (Really)” proved to be a rollicking, heart-on-your-sleeve jam, while the anthemic chorus of “Mrs. Robot” took the set to captivating heights. Bid’s ominous and brooding vocal style gave the impression that The Monochrome Set were our tour guides through a dense tapestry of experimental alt-rock, post-punk, and even some space-rock elements. Meanwhile, the more cheery, folk-driven elements on “Maisieworld” came through in hypnotizing fashion, eliciting dancing and head-bobbing from the devoted crowd.

Outside of Maisieworld and their earlier hits, I’m not terribly familiar with most of The Monochrome Set’s discography, and I wasn’t able to recognize several songs they played. However, given the raucous reception they received, they were absolute crowdpleasers. Above all, die-hards and casual fans walked away from the show plenty satisfied. 40 years on, we’re definitely pulling for The Monochrome Set to continue their roll for years to come!

Frankie and the Witch Fingers, Psychedelic Porn Crumpets at Casbah

We’ve been massive fans of Frankie and the Witch Fingers for years, and now it feels like the band is ready to ascend to the stratospheric levels of psychedelic rock. Their stunning most recent album ZAM has launched them to the status of heir apparent within the modern psych scene, and they are absolutely one of the most exciting bands in LA at them moment. Their co-headlining tour with Australian wizards Psychedelic Porn Crumpets was just further proof of that.

Playing to a rowdy sold-out Casbah crowd, the band opened with ZAM‘s jaw-dropping nine-minute opening track “Dracula Drug,” immediately setting the tone for the rest of their disorienting, adrenaline-fueled set. At this point, the band members are so in-sync with each other they might as well be telepathic. Frontman Dylan Sizemore oozes wily confidence, while guitarist Josh Menashe’s shreddy noodling made for quite the stage spectacle. Zooming through ZAM highlights “Work,” “Pleasure,” and the ten-minute “Underneath You,” the band was an unstoppable force, with drummer Shaughnessy Starr and bassist Alex Bulli providing the walloping, pummeling rhythmic kick. As usual, Frankie closed with their epic Brain Telephone hit “Owsley,” igniting the mosh-pits to insane degrees.

It was a tough act to follow, but thankfully Psychedelic Porn Crumpets were more than up to the task. Their signature psych-metal sounds kept the crowd enraptured from start to finish. They opened with “Gurzle,” the head-banging hit from their 2017 album High Visceral Part 2, and never looked back from there. “Buzz” came packed with thrashy riffs and knotty rhythms, giving off a swirl of aggression that turned the dial up even further on the audience moshing. With the encore, they unleashed their defiant track “Nek,” whipping the crowd into an even more insane, stomping fervor. It capped an absolutely perfect double bill of frenetic, high-energy psychedelic rock. Look for these two amazing bands to still be lapping the competition years from now.

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