San Francisco’s Dont’s are JJ Don’t (bass), Ken Don’t (drums), Jonny Don’t (vocals), and Joey Don’t (guitar), but as with the Beatles, a fifth Don’t looms like a specter. In this case it’s the Mountain Don’t, a fearsome triumph of mixology that involves a shot of vodka, one of Robitussin, a touch of absinthe, and a splash of Mountain Dew Code Red. It is the band’s go-to tipple, and given that most of the Dont’s songwriting occurs during bouts of improvisation after too much of it, the drink is easily as influential on their sound as, say, kraut rock.
The influence question is unusually tricky with the quartet, who cut their second self-released LP, Inner El Camino, last year at John Vanderslice’s Tiny Telephone studio. While the Dont’s exercise many familiar art rock themes the pinched vocals and twee urbanity of the Talking Heads in "Measure Up" and the beat-driven guitar warfare, DFA-style, of "Blahblahblah" their methods for getting to them are so anathema to that scene that the whole connection becomes flimsy. Improv rock to the degree to which these guys take it (lyrics too are made up midsession) is supposed to be fumbly jam-band stuff.
Joey Don’t, for one, doesn’t buy that line in rock’s sand. "I don’t subscribe to the aesthetics people place between hippies and avant-gardists," he remarked by e-mail. "I like the Grateful Dead as much as I like Can." The good part is that the Dont’s don’t have to be right: they just have to be willful. The music runs its own show, and a tangible sense of liberation crackles across Inner El Camino. It comes up again in Ken Don’t’s description of recent rehearsals: "We’re experimenting with MIDI guitars, drum triggers … our trademark bullhorn miasma. We don’t know where any of that will lead, and frankly, we don’t care."
With the High Violets and the Union Trade
Feb. 29, 5 p.m., free
1600 17th St., SF