From the moment I arrived at The Chapel this past Thursday, a sense of nostalgia held onto me and would not release its grasp until I left the venue that night. Parked directly in front of the box office window, a bus harkening back to the days of Ken Kesey stood with neon red lights lighting the interior and art-covered exterior. As I walked into the prayer-space-turned-concert-house that is the Mission District’s The Chapel, brown suede leather jackets and bell-bottom jeans suddenly surrounded me. The scene was completed by the stage backdrop, which is best described as a two-dimensional lava lamp continuously moving and changing shape at the whims of two artists from Mad Alchemy. The night was poised to be one of psychedelia, sixties’ inspired garage/punk/surfer rock, and wistfulness.
With opening acts involving belly and aerial silk dancers, expectations were high. But Mystic Braves delivered. Coming on around 11:30pm, they reinvigorated the exhausted crowd as guitarist and vocalist Julian Ducantzeiler quickly began the characteristic garage-rock inspired riffs. With that the crowd responded in frenzy and the moshing began almost instantaneously.
This continued for much of the concert, with members of the audience finding any excuse to push each other around wildly; even during some of the slower songs of the set such as “Vicious Cycle” off of their first eponymous album Mystic Braves (2012).The majority of the set was comprised of songs from their prior two albums: Mystic Braves and Desert Island (2014). A number of songs, however, came from the recently released LP Days of Yesteryear (2015). These songs echoed the psych-rock tones that Mystic raves have so steadfastly held on to, and it obviously continues to work.
Despite some technical difficulties through the show that seemed to peeve the artists (a misdirected light and an unresponsive bass amplifier), the performance enthused and delighted; a glance at the audience revealed smiling faces across the sanctuary.
The whole evening was pervaded by a sense of the surreal and the fantastic. As guitarist of opener Coo Coo Birds Johnny “Cat” Shaheri succinctly put it: “This is not a show, this is a séance.” The theme of the spiritual lingered for the remainder of the performance, and I returned home with the feeling that I had left our earthly plane for a few hours.
Article by Jacob Elsanadi, photos by Sofia Duarte