My imaginary award for Best Local Performance of Treefort 2017 has to go to the psychedelic space rock outfit Sun Blood Stories and their performance at the Linen Building on Friday night, with a set that, despite being extremely ear-searing and chock full of bizarre sounds and instrumental tones, also came through with ample amounts of charisma and serious left-hooks, most notably their blazing, bizarre, yet endearing psych-rap-rock cover of Beyoncé and Jack White’s “Don’t Hurt Yourself,” which closed their set out with the sort of consummate charm and audience bewilderment other performers could only hope of one day achieving. It was one of a few sets I caught where the band members and the audience seemed to be competing with each other to see who could be more intoxicated, which only served to enhance the strong feeling of togetherness.
When the members of Sun Blood Stories spoke with Boise Weekly earlier this month, they talked about a problem they encounter when performing songs from their new album, Twilight Midnight Morning (Obsolete Media Objects, 2015). They enjoy playing the material live, but other songs just don’t seem to fit into the set.
“We talked about possibly interjecting new songs,” Amber Pollard said. “We have other songs; we’ve written other songs. But this album needs these songs, and we need to play it this way. It doesn’t work any other [way].”
SBS’s album release show at Neurolux on June 23, supported Pollard’s statement. The local quintet played through almost all of Twilight to a crowd of more than 100 people. The confident, impassioned performance suited what The Obelisk called the “vitality and adventurousness” of the album.
First act we saw was local Boise band Sun Blood Stories. Their performance was one of the best for the weekend! There was so much power and stoney rock and roll from these high desert homies.
Sun Blood Stories’ second album, Twilight Midnight Morning (Obsolete Media Objects, 2015), was one of the best local releases of 2015. At the El Korah Shrine on March 24, the dark psychedelic rock band played a set of songs from its upcoming third album. The spacey drones, tangled guitar lines, howled vocals and muscular rhythms sounded even fiercer and more mesmerizing than the group’s earlier material.
“I am the turner of the new soil,” sang Ben Kirby and Amber Pollard. “I am the burner of the old.”
Imagine driving through a sagebrush-spotted desert, the sun a red orb slowly retiring to the bleary-lined horizon. Radio frequencies barely breach the isolation, and the music that filters through is slow and visceral, haunting, pagan and mood-alteringly psychedelic.
This is the sound of “high desert ghost music,” the prescription followed by members of the Boise band Sun Blood Stories. A live performance by the group is more than just a set list, it’s a convergence of sound, sight and emotion in the tradition of the concept album.
“We’ve been told it’s like a modern day opera, which is kind of cool,” said Amber Pollard, who sings and plays slide guitar in the band.
Later that night, a mesmerizing set of psychedelic noise from Boise’s own Sun Blood Stories brought the Water Cooler close to capacity, with a slew of guest musicians joining in for the band’s finale. Holland Andrews lent her voice again, this time combining with Sun Blood Stories’ slide guitarist Amber Pollard. Both singers knelt down at the edge of the stage, as they layered their splintering and soulful voices over the spaced-out barrage of noise coming from the band. The result was extraordinary to witness up close, and it’s impossible to imagine anyone in attendance leaving the venue unmoved by the staggering passion that poured off of that cramped stage.
Imagine Bobbie Gentry’s haunting vocals on the classic “Ode to Billie Joe,” but with the instrumental guts of The Black Keys. Then dress the whole thing up in face-paint and add percussion so vicious that it’s a rare tambourine that survives a whole gig. That’s Sun Blood Stories.
But earlier this year, Kirby filled out the act with drums, bass, keys and saxophone, turning Sun Blood Stories from a strong solo act to one of Boise’s best bands with wider-than-usual appeal.
What really makes Sun Blood Stories great is that if you strip it all away–the roundhouse heavy beats, the sultry sax, the smoothness of the organ and the low pulse of the bass–you still have songs that will chill your bones and licks that seem plucked straight from a Southern crossroads at midnight.