Maus trapped

Pub date February 24, 2009
SectionMusicSectionSonic Reducer


SONIC REDUCER San Francisco street rats, go play some other day. House heads, scamper beneath some disco ball far away. And, kraut rock kidz, don’t you dare mistake Maus Haus for just another tinned Can tribute band — German spelling or nein — though the Bay Area ensemble has been known to rock the occasional Faust track behind closed doors.

Instead Joseph Genden, Tom Hurlbut, Jason Kick, Sean Mabry, Josh Rampage, and Aaron Weiss — all real birth names, folks — make some of the most original music to scuttle along the edges of aural indefinability, right here in the Bay. Just don those giant Mickey ears and take in the boom-bleat orchestral art-rock bounce, chugging motor-iffic rhythms, and squealing theremin-like shrieks of "Rigid Breakfast," the opening track of Maus Haus’ latest, Lark Marvels (Pretty Blue Presents, 2008). Fractured psych patients, bent-but-not-broken folk-funksters, soft-acid bluesmen, Silver Apples acolytes, and Captain Beefheart praise-sayers — all these descriptors touch on, yet don’t quite capture, the inviting, inventive sonic nest Maus Haus has built.

"It’s a project that started out as a guideline of concepts that we wanted to fulfill but we had no actual idea of what the music would sound like," explains drummer-keyboardist-multi-instrumentalist Mabry by speaker phone alongside Kick.

"We definitely like a lot of late ’60s psychedelia — that’s something we all agree on," vocalist-keyboardist Kick adds. "But we didn’t intend to do anything with a retro sheen necessarily." Rather, Maus Haus chose to simply identify with the pioneering spirit of early psych. "Our heart is kind of in the same place," he says.

Hard to believe this gang of friends — some assembled via Craigslist, a clutch relocated from the Midwest (Wisconsin, Michigan, and Indiana), two hailing from Sacramento and Half Moon Bay, and all involved in bands as varied as Social Studies, Battlehooch, and Pope of Yes — started working on music together just two years ago, and at the encouragement of friends, they played live together for the first time a year ago. "It felt like there needed to be a band to represent the songs," Kick says, "instead of it just being an esoteric recording project.

Enter the crazy quilt of onstage instrumentation, in full pack-rat effect when Maus Haus played Bottom of the Hill not long ago. "We have so much stuff onstage it’s kind of ridiculous," says Kick. He counts off a Rhodes keyboard, Omnichord, drum set, assorted floor toms, an electronic drum pad, two MicroKorgs, the theremin-emuutf8g Chaos Pad, trombone, sax, trumpets, bass guitar, MIDI controller, and laptop, though he says, "We might stop using the laptop because computers shut down at the worst times." Sounds like the song "We Used Technology (But Technology Let Us Down)" was written from experience.

So what are these brain baths that Maus Haus recommends as one of several "special things to do" on their MySpace site? That suggestion, along with the rest of the list, emerged from a series of surrealist word games undertaken to generate lyrics. "Nerdy but true," says Kick. Still, one imagines a good saline solution dousing — accompanied by Maus Haus’ bubbling score — might set the imagination reeling. "You can do it clothed," Kick offers, "or naked."


Fri/27, 5 p.m., free


806 So. Van Ness, SF

Also March 4, 8 p.m., $8

Rickshaw Stop

155 Fell, SF



Who’s brave enough to tackle a 1971 rock opus its very creator could never conjure live? Bay Area rock brainiacs Mushroom — that’s who. And here they go again — reprising their Feb. 21 Make-Out Room reprise of Pete Townshend’s Lifehouse, which was scuttled by the Who and ended up in pieces on Who’s Next (MCA, 1971). "The main thing," e-mails Mushroom maven Pat Thomas, "is that there have been a lot of ‘tribute’ shows and even ‘tributes’ to specific albums, but in this case, Mushroom is performing a ‘rock opera’ that the band themselves (the Who) never got around to performing." This time around, Naked Barbies’ Patty Spiglanin will fill in as Roger Daltry, Citay’s Josh Pollock will shoulder Pete Townshend duties, Brightblack Morning Light’s Matt Cunitz will be Nicky Hopkins, and Thomas will ape Keith Moon. Townshend was never able to talk the rest of the Who into realizing his Matrix-ish, Web-prophesying sci-fi followup to Tommy, but, according to Thomas, "It’s PT’s intensity and conviction that led me to explore the possibility of performing Lifehouse, music that I’ve been obsessed with for 34 years." Mike Therieau will open with a tribute to Ronnie Lane and the Faces.

March 6, 10 p.m., $10. Starry Plough, 3101 Shattuck, Berk.




Soulful indie emanates from the former SF/Sacto twosome; skirt-swirling pop from the latter Brisbane, Australia pair. With Matt Costa and Robert Francis. Wed/25, 8 p.m., $25. Slim’s, 333 11th St., SF.


Stately black metal growl from the SF/Brooklyn combo, which celebrates its new self-released CD, Beneath the Hooves of Time. With Grayceon, Nero Order, and Wanteds. Sun/1, 8 p.m., $8. Parkside, 1600 17th St., SF.


Oakland’s own takes out his classic throwback R&B once again, after a series of dates opening for Columbia labelmate John Legend. Tues/3, 8 p.m., $32.50. Fillmore, 1805 Geary, SF.