TVD Live: Wand and Heaters at Happy Dog, 4/4

PHOTOS: ORIANA BELAVICIt was a night of psych rock of all kinds at Happy Dog, and let’s just say it got really weird. The best place to start is the main event for the night, Wand. Here’s some of the notes (verbatim) I jotted down at the show about Wand:

“Loud, HEAVY.”

“Like beating your head against a wall, including the feeling of light headedness.”

“This is like a bag full of bricks.”

“Holy shit, they are actually making people leave… and it’s awesome.”

That last note summed up how awesome Wand was. This was the scene to give some context to explain why this was so cool:

Happy Dog is a fun little bar that also serves great hot dogs. Regardless if they are hosting a show or not, the place is usually pretty crowded on a weekend night. This Saturday night was no different. About an hour before the show, the place was hopping and there was some sort of party going on in the room downstairs. The vast majority of people weren’t there to check out the band and this is probably the case on most of the nights of shows.

As we got closer to show time, and as the openers played, the bar went to a small admission fee to get in. A lot of people filtered in throughout the night, seemingly surprised at the fee, but paid it anyway because the bar is that awesome.

But as Heaters and Wand played, you saw a look of confusion wash over the “normal’s” faces. The uninitiated. People who were just there to eat hot dogs and drink beers. And after they finished that hot dog or adult beverage? They just kind of filtered out to find somewhere else to go. As the party in the downstairs room wrapped up and they carried their stuff out of the club, that familiar “what the fuck is THIS?” look washed over their faces. This scene wasn’t for these people.

As Wand’s set wound down with a long, repeating, instrumental interlude, the crowd was just a few handfuls of diehards. It wasn’t an empty bar by any means, but the band’s set was a true test for the weird people in the room. Bring us your strange. Your unwashed. Your heavy psych-rock nerds yearning to rock. This night was yours.

Wand was loud, heavy, and trippy as hell. They are clearly a psych-rock band at their core, with long stretches of music to that you could easily lose yourself into with a clear mind… let alone if you were imbibing illicit substances.

However, where Wand is different from other psych/garage rock bands is their dedication… no, INSISTENCE… in being heavier than heavy. There were songs where a synth came into play, but it could never stand up to the heavy bass and pummeling guitars. The synth became a ray of sunshine trying to poke out through the clouds—only for the clouds to not only overcome, but bring heavy thunder with it.

I hate when anyone compares a band to Nirvana. It’s not fair because that’s an unattainable goal. There won’t be another Nirvana. Now that the disclaimer is out of the way, I’ve never seen a band live that came as close to how Bleach-era Nirvana sounded as Wand did. Or maybe like early Soundgarden. Whether intended or not, Wand has a real “Seattle Sound” before that scene blew up.

On the other side of the coin, you had the openers of the show, Heaters. If you had to pick a band to describe the psych-rock genre, you could do way worse than Heaters. There are other bands out there like them, but I was taken aback by how clearly Heaters fit into the lineage of bands like the 13th Floor Elevators, The Zombies, and other west coast psychedelic luminaries. But Heaters are from Michigan and put their own subtle twist on this cherished music.

Sure, there were delays/ flangers/ phase shifters/ reverb effects with bright guitars, but they weren’t prone to the meandering and noodling that other similar bands fall into. Heaters made tight, driving music that filled the room like smoke and wrapped around your head to pull you closer.

Both of these bands make weird music for weird people. Even if you’re into whatever “indie rock” is, this probably isn’t what it sounds like. But on this night, if you didn’t like it, you were welcome to leave. Only the true weirdos remained standing.


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