Carlton Melton, White Manna, The Cheeps, Glitter Wizard: June 23 at The Shakedown

“I can already tell, the night’s setting itself up to be one of those magical types,” a post by Hollie Huthman, Shakedown owner, an hour before the Carlton Melton show.

Little did she know…

While Hollie might have had the feeling of a special night, it wasn’t immediately obvious to those in attendance before the show started. It was a slow night in town, one of those nights were their isn’t a good crowd anywhere, most people opting to spend the damp June night at home. As a huge fan of San Francisco’s Zen Guerrilla, I was stoked to finally see former members Rich Millman (guitar) and Andy Duvall (drums) in their new dome rock scene, Carlton Melton. They brought Glitter Wizard and White Manna with ‘em, so ya knew they were probably gonna be good. Plus The Cheeps were playing, one of my all time Bellingham favs.

The night started off with Glitter Wizard, who was unexpectedly awesome. A mix between Hawkwind, and the Scorpions, the band had a look that made you think, “oh there’s a shtick,” (the guitarist was wearing leopard skin leotards and top), but the music was fantastic, making their look an added bonus. Mid 70s prog rock with a touch of metal, great way to start off the night. To top it off, the drummer had manscaped a falcon into his chest hair. No way around it, that’s awesome.

Following Glitter Wizard were Bellingham’s The Cheeps. The band has been around off and on for about 15 years, with most of the last decade they’ve been on hiatus. With half the band living on the other side of the mountain, they only get together a couple times a year for special one off shows which is a shame because they’re an amazing band and because you can tell how rusty they are when they do play live. Great garage rock with the infamous LP on vocals (he threatened to cut off his hair for the show, but backed out at the last minute), the band felt disjointed – which is to be expected, but disappointing because when they’re on, they are so, so good. Any time they play, it’s a good day, just wish they could get the band back in full force.

Up next was White Manna, who had the line of the night when they asked for more mushrooms in the monitor (and got it). The five piece were unbelievable – intense, hypnotic and fluid psych rock, and their songs were right with what I love in music. They stretched out the songs, jammed on a different plane all with a force that good psych rock bands have – that indescribable feeling of a band playing at a different level, connecting on stage, playing as one. Sounds clich , but White Manna was special that night.

For most bands, following White Manna would be impossible, but most bands aren’t as amazing as Carlton Melton. The three piece are music vets and road the musical wave that Glitter Wizard started. Starting off with drummer Andy on guitar, the band mesmerized the audience with a hypnotic piece, which revolved around softly picking notes, putting everyone into a trance. After getting behind the kit, Carlton Melton does what they do best – play dome rock. Huge guitar sounds with wild solos, spaced out and often thundering drumming and a bass lines that held it all together, CM were simply phenomenal. Rich played to the crowd, with the solos front and center of the stage, usually to the Glitter Wizard and White Manna crew who had gotten more mushrooms in their monitors and were enjoying the sounds. For their finale, they covered Pink Floyd’s “When You’re In” – building the song slowly before Rich leapt into a ferocious guitar solo. As the song is coming to a climax, Rich handed the guitar over to the guitarist for Glitter Wizard who jumped onstage and tore into his space jam. The sound of the guitar started to fade in and out and as Rich, now manning the guitar pedals, tried frantically to switch cords for the solo. Suddenly, as Andy and John thundered through, nearing the end of the song, smoke started to pour from the guitar amp, with flames soon following. Everything stopped as the crowd, stunned by the site of an amp actually catching on fire watched as the band put it out, then roared with a deafening cheer – Rich had played with such intensity, such ferocity, it caused his amp to overheat and catch for. Just like that, the show was over, with bands and audience alike floored by what they’d just seen.

Had Rich’s amp not caught fire, the show would’ve still been legendary, it was an epic night of music. But to have it end like that, end with something no one in the bar had ever seen before, it was… frankly… perfect.