Real Live Action

Sleepy Sun

w/ Sun Wizard

Biltmore Cabaret; July 3, 2010

Review By Olivia Meek and Frieda-raye Green

Desert God

Sun Wizard, a local long-haired foursome opened up the night with some charming harmonies and poppy guitar licks that made you want to get your braided pigtails swinging. Sun Wizard caught the ear of the crowd early on in the night, setting the mood for conscious listening.

Then the six members of Sleepy Sun took the stage. Sleepy Sun: an ideal name for the blissed out, sun-dazed heavy metal that this San Francisco/Santa Cruz sextet pumped out at the Biltmore on a cusp-of-summer night in early July.

The whole visual experience of the band felt very Californian: melting, Bob Masse inspired poster art, an excess of harmonicas, long hair and a truly psychedelic sound. Singer Rachel Fannan added to the West Coast vibe by invoking a primal energy onstage with her spirited, transfixing dancing. Hallucinogenic, drippy guitar ebbed and flowed around epic vocals in a multi-layered evolution of sound that channeled heavy metal originals like Sabbath or Zeppelin. The songs were long; a sort of deconstructuralized jam that made you feel like you were either sun drunk in the desert or part of an esoteric occult gathering under the full moon (or both).

From the crowd’s perspective, you could see that each band member took their musicianship seriously enough that the music they made had real integrity. When Sleepy Sun started playing, they did not at first face the anticipating crowd, but instead faced each other, showing that they valued the quality of their communication and collective music making. By the time they did turn around, the energy in the room was heightened and visceral.

Three guitars (two electric, one acoustic) wove together to produce a tower of sound, sometimes cacophonous, sometimes melodic. Guitarists Matt Holliman and Evan Reiss worked together to produce driving drone tones and a textural sound experience. Percussion including a clave and congo drums wove a folk-gypsy-world feel to the pysch-rock spectacle. Bret Constanino’s raw and earnest voice climbed with and around the soaring, haunting heights of Fannan’s vocals. The crowd was right there with the band, caught up in the hazy, heady and inebriating energy of the live show.

When Sleepy Sun finished, the afterglow of the music felt like those vibrant, kaleidoscopic colours you see when you’ve stared at the sun for too long. A memorable, DOPE show—made you want to extract their energy into a bottle of essential oil and wear it.