Show Review: Boris at Regency Ballroom, SF 10.8.11

by Stefan Wicks, Senior Customer Support Rep

My only previous experience with the Regency Ballroom was seeing the monolithic stoner metal band Sleep perform. On the way to the 10.8 Boris show I was recalling surprisingly vivid memories of standing in the ornate wooden ballroom with its intricate wood carvings and crystal chandeliers. Sleep’s massive amplifiers on stage shook the whole thing. The sound at the Regency is great because with the right band it’s not just sound, it’s touch. You can feel it in your body. You receive the vibrations through your feet like an elephant can feel a fellow elephant’s low grumble of warning when a rhinoceros approaches.

Japanese amplifier worshipers Boris did not disappoint, solidifying the Regency’s place as holy ground to those who bow down before the gods known as Sunn, Orange and Marshall. Despite some brief technical difficulties toward the beginning of their set they started out strong, got stronger, then got transcendent. Here’s how it went down:

Their first few songs weave between heavy rock grooves and My Bloody Valentine style washy vocals and guitars. Then they start to rock so hard that they might as well walk up to each member of the audience, punch them in the stomach and kiss them in the face all at the same time. I mean this was a musical performance that made your blood run. This was an experience that reminded you that you were alive.

Now after this balls out rock assault they drop right into solid 4 on the floor dance grooves. The audience stands bewildered and a general WTF vibe seems to permeate the room. Female guitarist Wata takes lead vocals on this song and her serenade is reminiscent of Sarah Cracknell interpreting french ye ye pop of the 60s. If St. Etienne on acid tastes like fennel then this song would taste like a steak seasoned with fennel with ice cream doused in sweet liqueurs for dessert. No one dances. I now know what it is like to stand in a room full of awkward dudes with boners.

After our ice cream liqueur dessert we get some soft serve Slowdive swirl, then it’s time for some traditional Japanese melodrama in the tradition of 90s goth tinged rockers L’arc-en-ciel. Then more rock assault, then 2/3 of the way through their set they turn up and tune down. Those who came for the heavy shit are about to get their money’s worth. The drone begins, and this is truly where Boris is at the top of their class. Despite the wide array of textures, styles, chord changes, melodies, and non melodies Boris has employed across their expansive back catalog, they are most often touted as a “sludge/doom” band. I can only assume this is because this is where their strengths lie, although even within their “doomiest” songs there is still a range of emotions and musical textures seldom achieved by Sabbath worshippers releasing albums which may as well be called “Volume V.”

Boris expressed their full range at the Regency show. Only the most cantankerous of souls could have walked away from this show saying they did not get what they wanted, not an easy accomplishment for a band who has been releasing records for 15 years. One thing that can be said definitively about Boris is that unlike 70s prog rock bands, who are ugly people making ugly music, here we have beautiful people making beautiful music. Another thing that can be said definitively is that they are the greatest rock band on the planet.

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