If you’re looking for a by-the-numbers revival psych band wearing paisley shirts and Cuban heels, don’t bother with The Shivas. If, however, you prefer a faithful ’60s sound taken to the next level, look no further. The Shivas is what you seek. Like the Hindu deity for which the band is named, this group is the Destroyer. That is, destruction in its highest form: transformation.
The Portland, Ore. outfit shuns mere homage but instead furthers early psychedelia, a style that sadly degenerated into LSD burnout jams. The Shivas builds on the music played by the first kids who were called “hippies.” At the time, this meant guys with shagged hair and tailored bell bottoms, not the later temple-bead wearing acid heads crowded into filthy crash pads.
Adding controlled helpings of garage and surf, The Shivas presents a dark and at times sinister tone. This is due in part to Jared Wait-Molyneux’s moody vocals delivered in a style reminiscent of singer David Houston of Sacramento’s Public Nuisance, circa 1966. But it’s Eric Shanafelt’s profound bass playing, both dirty and melodic, that anchors the band and keeps things from getting too cerebral. I’m not sure what sonic trick he has up his sleeve, but it sounds much like the warmth and roundness of a tube amp.
The deep bass is countered by Rob Mannering’s bright guitar playing that ranges from head Byrd Roger McGuinn’s distinctive 12-string sound to the jangled power chords of The Chocolate Watchband’s Mark Loomis. Mannering also touches on the rapid-fire leads of Jerry Garcia from the Grateful Dead’s first and overlooked self-titled LP, which was short on spacey jams and long on garage energy.
The understated drumming of Kristin Leonard is more than simple timekeeping. It’s sharp when it needs to be, but gelling with the feel of the rest of the group, she emphasizes the dark side with the thud of resonant tom beats.
In the press, much is made of the band’s youth. Big deal. There’s plenty of early twenty-somethings who deliver a hot rock show. It is the origin of the band that’s impressive: a high school outfit that despite lineup changes has kept its integrity and focus on a chosen style. In fact, The Shivas has been at it longer than the early psychedelic music scene lasted in the first place.
One can tell the band members also know their shoegaze and their indie rock, but if I had to guess, I’d say Wait-Molyneux’s teenage record collection included the bluesy groove of Arthur Lee’s Love and the wail of Sky Saxon and The Seeds. In any case, he and his bandmates have used their psychedelic education well. It’s like the college graduate who does more with a degree than teach the same old textbook lessons learned. The Shivas expands upon the limited base of early psych to surpass it in arrangement, complexity and, most important, subtlety.
On the way to South by Southwest, The Shivas returns to Burt’s Tiki Lounge to transform the concept of what should have been done all along with the psychedelic revival.
Also playing is The Glory Bumps—the latest outfit fronted by longtime local psych champion Mark Campagna—with a voodoo/Latin/Stones vibe. DJ deja spins cosmopolitan lounge and samba tunes all night.