Great American Music Hall
San Francisco, Ca
I’ll be upfront: I had no idea who The Wytches were until two hours before the show. I knew that they were opening up for the Cloud Nothings and that they had a free spot on their guest list, and that was enough. I streamed their latest single before leaving work, intrigued, but unsure what else to expect. Said single, “Wire Frame Mattress,” is composed of slurred psychedelia, grumbled and shouted vocals, and a surf rock send out that breaks into a wavy guitar solo; all before winding back into a synchronized stomp and one more desperate chorus. Whether this was a stylistic outlier or an indication of things to come, I had no clue, but like I said, I was intrigued.
Fortunately, the dark portent of that first single was realized, and in quick time. Wasting no breath on introduction or music on buildup, they took the stage and set straight into a slimy, sinister piece of surf rock; a hypnotizing amalgam of Nirvana and “Misirlou.” Thick with crunchy bass, pounding drums, and shining, winding guitar, each song waxed and waned with madness, only giving brief respite with melodic interludes and the occasional break.
Apart from a few song introductions, the fresh faced trio let their tunes and constantly swaying, moppy heads do the talking. Hailing from Brighton, England, a seaside town known for its beaches and boardwalk, singer/guitarist Kristian Bell, bassist Dan Rumsey, and drummer Giani Honey take the darkest possible interpretation of a long walk on the beach. Be it drug induced, anxiety driven, or just the result of an over active imagination, their vision of coastal rock veers more towards the apocalypse than The Beach Boys.
Sticking true to their name, The Wytches conjure up a wicked, dizzying blend of bizarre ingredients, brewing up a stew that hits like the heaviest, most twisted trip. To my taste, they leaned a little heavy on the screams–I found the songs with more singing to be among their strongest–but maybe I’m just growing old; maybe age is softening my ears and creating contempt for startling sounds.
Instead of caving to the growing anxieties of an irrational 27-year-old mind, I managed to lose myself and my concerns in the music, swaying to the almost tribal rhythms and zeroing in on blistering solos. Towards the end, I coined two more descriptors for their sound–“atomic beach party” and “heavy metal Pixies”–though neither could really do them justice. With meek confidence and strong instrumentation, they come off as both refreshingly original and immediately familiar, escaping any summarizing quip that I could whip up.
The Wytches ended their set with fevered drones, spiraling up into cacophony and breaking into deep thunder. Then, they put their instruments down and quietly left the stage, leaving in appropriate fashion for a wholly casual head melt.