Rocket Queen: Here Comes the Sunn 0)))

Getting the most music from this heat wave.

It could be argued that my first exposure to drone was an accident of my own design during my high-school years. I tossed a 45 single of Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song" on the turntable one day while the speed was still set to 33. Robert Plant's opening vocal line, "Awwww, ah, ah, awwww!", stretched itself at an epically low pitch that turned it into an ominous-sounding threat instead of the victorious gallop it was at normal rotation. In fact, the song was really no longer about rhythm or time; it was more about tones and atmospherics.Those are the hallmarks of modern-day drone, and the calling cards of the genre's standard-bearing leaders, Sunn O))). Named after the Sunn amplifier brand, the core duo, Stephen O'Malley and Greg Anderson, create an all-consuming environment of deeply reverberating guitars that moves and melds around the listener. Thanks to a tendency to use A flat—the same intonation as a bagpipe—their sound is downright intestinal, the sort of aggressively ambient blitzkrieg on the ears that either entrances or offends listeners. On record, they are big fans of collaborating with like-minded artists, such as the Japanese genre-surfing rockers Boris, and rarely handle singing duties themselves, choosing instead to bring in guest vocalists, including alt-country siren Jesse Sykes, Thrones leader Joe Preston (formerly of the Melvins and Earth) and Julian Cope from The Teardrop Explodes. When they take the stage this week for two nights at Neumos (Wed., Aug. 5 and Thurs., Aug. 6), they'll be in quintet form, with O'Malley and Anderson joined by vocalist Attila Csihar (best known for his work with black metal band Mayhem), multi-instrumentalist Steve Moore, and local horn player Skerik. Expect a rapt, adoring audience and an impenetrable degree of fogginess—both literal, emanating from machines onstage, and sonic.The atmosphere in the penthouse of the Sorrento Hotel last Wednesday couldn't have been more different than the darkness Sunn O))) will unfurl. While everyone in Seattle was finding new ways to complain on Facebook about their face-melting status, One Pot mastermind Michael Hebb was once again stirring up an intoxicating stew of top-notch musicians and elegant cuisine. Similar to the event he'd hosted at the Capitol Hill Block Party the previous weekend, but with much more formal ambience, Hebb and his collaborator Chase Jarvis assembled an impressive team of players, including The Dutchess and the Duke, Rocky Votolato, Dave Bazan, John Roderick, the Blakes, members of the Dandy Warhols, Sera Cahoone, and Mudhoney.Though it was incredibly difficult to pull myself away from the parade of performances and dishes inspired by the century-old hotel's original menu, I had to take a temporary detour to Neumos to catch Brawley Banks, the new project from Joram Young and Justin Schwartz of Cobra High, former Foo Fighters drummer William Goldsmith, Tonie Palmasani (Veils, Red Stars Theory), Ben Strehle (the Blessed Light), and all-star bassist German Nuestro. I might have missed a course or two (and, sadly, Dave Bazan's purported tear-jerking performance), but dropping in on Brawley Banks' set was well worth it. When former Fastback Kim Warnick initially described them to me as "Presence-era Led Zep meets Mountain," she hit it right. The band practiced for an astonishing three full years before they were willing to unveil their ultra-bottom-heavy blues-infused hard rock, and it's clear that all their woodshedding paid off. The only thing standing between this band and massive success is that Goldsmith is about to embark on an extensive reunion tour with his former band, emo pioneers Sunny Day Real Estate. That tour starts in September, and Brawley Banks currently lists no other live dates on their MySpace page, but hopefully another opportunity to catch them will arise some time this fall.As soon as Brawley finished, I dashed back to the Sorrento just in time for the main course and a delightful performance by The Dutchess and the Duke, who took the evening's theme, "Songs About Eating and Drinking," to heart, reworking one of their numbers to incorporate culinary non sequiturs. Once the bananas Foster was served and all the plates cleared, Mudhoney took to the tiny rooftop patio and set up for a full-volume, plugged-in set. They only got in a handful of songs before the cops were called, but for 15 glorious minutes they reminded everyone why they really are one of this music community's most reliably exhilarating bands. I can't really think of a better way to have spent the hottest day of the year.rocketqueen@seattleweekly.com

 
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