King Tuff and the Men Lead a Vision Quest at Brick and Mortar, 8/10/13

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Jesse Tampa
King Tuff at Brick and Mortar on Saturday.
By CODY B. NABOURS

King Tuff
The Men
Twin Peaks
Brick and Mortar Music Hall
Saturday, Aug. 10, 2013

Better than: Spending the day with the beautiful people.

On Saturday, around 65,000 people swarmed the misty grounds of Golden Gate Park, dancing to the songs of the beautiful people. That night, in a sweat lodge underneath US-101, the misfits gathered for their own vision quest.

The spiritual journey, double-headlined by the Men and King Tuff, was a communion with the ghosts of the past: for the Men, a tuneful but punishing hybrid of Hawkwind/Stooges/Crazy Horse; for King Tuff, the spirit of the pixiesh, swaggering T. Rex.

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Jesse Tampa
The Men
For those who have been following the Men on record, their newest album, New Moon, tossed a melodic, Zuma-shaped wrench into the noise-machine precedent they'd set with their first two efforts. As they set up their equipment, there were rumblings in the audience about what version of the Men would be playing. The question seemed to be answered when band member Kevin Faulkner (in a Grateful Dead shirt!) set up his steel guitar on stage, but was quickly reversed by the explosion of the band's opening number. What followed was a set of brutal extended jams that conjured up the mystical space-music of Lemmy-era Hawkwind.

Next to the speakers, the sound was punishing. It was impossible to pick out lyrics from the wall of noise. At the bottom-end was the furious bass guitar of Ben Greenberg, who was throwing himself around the small stage in a tie-dye shirt bearing the Sacred Bones Records logo.

On record, the Men haven't quite captured their essence, which brings together the heavy drones and jams of space-rock with touches of hardcore and country hiding beneath the layers of sound. But all manner of misfits in the sweat lodge on Saturday found their catharsis in the waves of barely tuneful noise put out by the five men on stage.

It wouldn't be surprising if Kyle Thomas was born on September 16th, 1977, soon after Marc Bolan departed this Earth a hemisphere away in southwest London. Just as Marc Bolan's T. Rex danced the mystical boogie for the glam kids of the '70s, so too does Kyle Thomas' King Tuff carry the banner for the strutting trashcan rock of the misfits.

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Jesse Tampa
King Tuff's Kyle Thomas
Yes, there are the surface similarities: the King/Rex name, the Marshall stack, the impish smile. But the ghost of Bolan lives in the grungy, baseball-capped, leather vested King Tuff; there is no glam, but there is boogie. King Tuff isn't about the top hats or the shiny jackets. King Tuff plays for the beards and the black T-shirts dotted with nug-burns, for the tank tops and the sweat-drenched. Or as he sings in "Anthem": "Sing the anthem/Of the underworld/Sing the love song/For the ugly girls."

Into the small hours of the morning, King Tuff played guitar hero and swaggering king of the misfits, ripping through gems from last year's King Tuff ("Alone and Stoned," "Keep On Moving") and the buzzed-about and newly reissued Was Dead (Dancing on You, Freak When I'm Dead). He led the packed house to an improbably heartwarming moment with the ostensibly corny "Swamp of Love," and closed it down encoreless with his best song to date, "Bad Thing," which inspired a wide-open melee that would make John Dwyer proud.

For the beautiful people at the festival on the other end of town, the cold bay winds and misty air are unwelcome reminders of the summer in San Francisco. But emerging from the sweat lodge to the wind blowing down Mission Street, the steam rising off the sweaty bodies of the misfits was a sign that, for that night, the vision quest was complete.

Critic's Notebook

The opener: Twin Peaks performed their own transubstantiation, conjuring up the hopes once pinned on the 2001-era Strokes. They veer in the opposite direction that the New York City MIDI-men took: louder, faster, and more urgent. And the singer, with greasy mop-top and denim-on-denim, is a dead ringer for a public school-raised Julian Casablancas.

Curiously missing: "Sun Medallion," the song that got me and everyone else I know into King Tuff, was omitted from Saturday's setlist, sadly. More than any of his songs, it captures his ability to find emotion and magic in simple subjects -- in this case, his sun-shaped necklace.

-- @Longtimejerk



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