La Calle, Death Cheetah
The Tin Roof
Jan. 9

Two strange instrumental acts created some strange noises and dense rhythms at the Tin Roof on Sunday. A good crowd of musicians, artists, and old friends showed up to check out the fusion of acoustics and electronics.

With visual artist and musician Kevin Taylor at the helm for both sets, the show offered a mix of left-field musical genres, from Krautrock and space rock to cinematic electronica.

A Charleston native known for his skating, painting, and punk-rock-ish original music, Taylor relocated to San Francisco a few years ago. He regularly returns to visit family and organize a string of performances and presentations around the holiday seasons. On Sunday night, he buzzed around the stage with both La Calle and Death Cheetah, bobbing and weaving from corner to corner. Swapping an old Guild six-string for a vintage bullet mic, he tinkered on his Marshall amp and a battery of effects pedals. He twiddled on a table (an old ironing board, actually) full of computers, mixing boards, and machines. He created waves of feedback and subtle bleeps. He strummed a few mildly dissonant chords. He stayed busy.

As a full ensemble, La Calle kicked things off with a repetitive groove propelled by tuba player Clint Fore and drummer Chuck McCormick. Keyboardist Kevin Hamilton (a guy who normally handles jazz bass duties) added tones from an old Casio while bassist George Baerris (an accomplished art-rock drummer) harmonized and interacted with Fore’s brassy blurts, occasionally adding some raw, distorted riffs. If Taylor was the spoke rotating from machine to machine, Fore was the solid fulcrum, firmly planted in the middle of the commotion.

While the music seemed loosely improvised, La Calle’s set was surprisingly melodic and tightly structured. Some tunes were like lumbering reworkings of instrumentals of the early rock ‘n’ roll era (Imagine Tortoise covering Duane Eddy). The group interaction was subtle enough to sound rehearsed, but the overall sound came across as spontaneously composed.

Taylor started working on his Death Cheetah project seven years ago with Hamilton and drummer Dave Easlick. They chose the moniker to pay tribute to a neighborhood kitten who apparently cheated death (a death cheater, get it?). Taylor and Hamilton handled things as a duo during Sunday’s closing set, using pre-recorded tracks and samples to create pulsating beats and weird atmospherics. Hamilton stuck with his electric Fender bass and Casio, creating some low-toned sounds and rhythmic rumblings. Taylor was more mad-scientist about things on his side of stage. Together, the pair pushed a strange, atmospheric, effects-laden sound around the room.

(Apologies for the dark and murky video footage — it was a shadowy gig!)

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