REVIEW: Monster Magnet fires up Thee Parkside

Monster Magnet, Dave Wyndorf

Monster Magnet performs at the Thee Parkside in San Francisco on Oct. 12, 2018. Photos: Shawn Robbins and Sean Liming.

SAN FRANCISCO — The sold-out crowd was packed into the tiny, sauna-like Thee Parkside as Monster Magnet stormed the stage Friday night, unleashing the thunderous riff that begins their 1995 hit “Dopes to Infinity.” It was like a stick of dynamite had gone off inside a shoe box.

Monster Magnet,

Monster Magnet performs at the Thee Parkside in San Francisco on Oct. 12, 2018.

The legendary New Jersey stoner-rock outfit played San Francisco Friday near the halfway point of a month-long North American tour in support of its 2018 album, Mindfucker.

Frontman Dave Wyndorf, clad in a sleeveless MC5 T-shirt and his long black hair covering his face, struck rock poses as he looked at the fists raising the devil horns. The band moved from Mindfucker’s “Rocket Freak” right into “Twin Earth,” from 1993’s Superjudge. Wyndorf’s raspy scream soared over the chugging power chords.

Monster Magnet’s latest incarnation, consisting of founding member Wyndorf along with four members who all of who joined in the 2000s, filled the small stage. Despite the dimness, guitarist Phil Caivano wore dark glasses, while on the far side of the stage Garrett Sweeny dished out wah-pedal-inflected solos and jammy outros on almost every song. Drummer Bob Pantella kept the chugging juggernaut on track as the band finished “Radiation Day” with a flurry of squealing guitars. The guitar duo of Caivano and Sweeny was joined by Wyndorf on guitar on several of the songs, creating a wall of overdriven sound that crashed over fans.  

“Look to Your Orb for the Warning” had a mellow roots-rock vibe to it, with Wyndorf singing, “I’m going down now,” until the band blasted into overdrive and Sweeny cranked some ripping guitar solos. When the band broke back into the chorus, the sweaty crowd sang “it’s down by the river” along with Wyndorf before a spacey outro jam carried the song to its conclusion.

Wyndorf and company finished their regular set with the familiar riffage of the band’s hits “Negasonic Teenage Warhead” and “Space Lord.”

Dark Sky Choir, Brian Allen

Dark Sky Choir performs at the Thee Parkside in San Francisco on October 12, 2018

After a brief break, the band launched into its encore with the sprawling rock epic, “Spine of God,” from the 1991 album of the same name. The track alternated between mellow verses and the thundering power chords on the chorus.

“You’re the center of the goddamned universe, baby!” Wyndorf told the crowd during an especially intense guitar solo.

Monster Magnet closed out the set with 1998 cut “Powertrip.” As the sweaty crowd filed out of the bar, steam rose from their bodies.  

Electric Citizen, Laura Dolan

Electric Citizen performs at the Thee Parkside in San Francisco on Oct. 12, 2018.

Dark Sky Choir opened the concert. The members wedged themselves onto the crowded stage and proceeded to pummel the crowd with brutal power chords and lead guitarist Fred Gorhau’s six-string pyrotechnics. The New Jersey rockers had plenty of hair for head banging, except drummer Mike Sakowski, whose bald pate served as follicular counterpoint. Frontman Brian Allen stared the crowd down between blood-curdling screams and the quartet looked downright mean. Bassist John Moyer, who used to play with seminal heavy metal act Disturbed, controlled the low end as the band played songs from its 2016 debut and 2018 self-titled EP.

Cincinnati hard rockers Electric Citizen took the stage next.

“We’re going to pretend we’re playing a basement show because it doesn’t get any more rock and roll than that,” frontwoman Lauren Dolan told the crowd. The quartet launched into a set full of Sabbath-esque songs. Dolan’s voice cut through the wall of sound with an Ozzy Osbourne-like sharpness as the band played songs from its 2014 debut, Sateen, and 2016’s Higher Time.

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