Cave: Chicago psych band returns for Fire On The Bay Psychfest

Coming Oct. 10-11, Bellingham will experience a heapin’ helpin’ of psychedelia, courtesy of the Shakedown and two bands in particular: Cave and Nik Turner’s Space Ritual. The shows have been dubbed Fire On The Bay Psychfest.
Cave, who hail from Chicago, are the main feature, as they will be playing both nights, while Nik Turner (one of the founding members of space rock pioneers Hawkwind, of which Lemmy Kilmister was once a member) and his band will be playing the second night.
Since first making a name for themselves in Columbia, Missouri in 2005, Cave has become one of the most notable psych rock bands in the United States. The band, which is usually referred to as a “collective,” eventually moved to the friendly climes of Chicago – which has a deep legacy of experimental rock music including Screeching Weasel, Big Black, Ministry, American Football and the Jesus Lizard, just to name a few. Chicago is also home to many influential music labels, including Touch and Go Records and Drag City Records, which is the label that will release Cave’s latest release Threace.
Cave consists of a few core members, including keyboardist Rotten Milk, guitarist/ organist Cooper Crain, drummer Rex McMurry and bassist Dan Browning. The “collective” end f the band’s name is for their constantly rotating cast of musicians during recording sessions and live shows, Crain said.
“Members have come and gone over the years, so maybe that is why it’s called a collective,” Crain said. “It doesn’t matter to us what people call it.”
Cave are currently playing a 29-city tour for the release of Threace, their fourth LP since putting out the first record in 2007. Threace sees the band further honing their sound, which is equal parts moody and raucous. While the band very much falls into the psychedelic rock genre, their influences blend everything from Kraut rockers like Can and Kraftwerk to a more muscular, noise rock sound. The new album still holds true to their original sound, which was heavy on repetition and loud-soft dynamics.
Crain said repetition particularly appeals to the band because it is “reaching an Alpha State through variations on a theme.”
“Building tension and keeping it interesting with repetition is harder than it seems,” Crain said. “Which is why it’s a challenge to us and we try to challenge ourselves and variate how to use repetition differently. We like to move it around.”
Another core factor of Cave’s music is the instrumental focus, rather than relying on lyrics and vocals to portray the meaning of a song. Crain said that when they do use vocals (which is not very often) they purposefully keep them light to compliment the instruments’ sounds and focus on what they are playing. The band may have more prominent vocals in their songs in the future, he said, and noted improvisation plays a huge role in the band’s approach to playing live.
“Some songs are set, some have some looser ends so we can play around each night, see where it goes,” Crain said.  “We like to feel the energy and go from that.”
The shows on Oct. 10 and 11 will be Cave’s second and third time playing in Bellingham. Their first show was at the Cabin Tavern in 2011.
“We had a great time, that bar was so much fun playing on the floor like that, which is always the best energy you can get from a show,” Crain said. “We got to play with a dood (sic) from Reeks and the Wrecks and ate super late night Russian dumplings.” (Cave played with PRND, which features drummer Jason Sands, a former member of Reeks and The Wrecks.)
While the show at The Cabin Tavern probably was extremely loud, don’t expect it to be any quieter at the Shakedown, because the band plays LOUD.
“We play loud at times to get certain speaker breakups from our amps,” Crain said. “We haven’t toned it down a bunch, but we added a flute/sax player, so we’ve adjusted to fit those instruments for this upcoming tour.”
Cave’s Oct. 10 show at the Shakedown will feature an opening set by two of Bellingham’s finest psych-oriented musicians, Brandon LaBotz (from Falling Upstairs) and Zach Zinn (playing in a number of bands all the time.) Cave will share the second night at the Shakedown on Oct. 1, with Nik Turner’s Space Ritual. Cover is $7 for one day, or a two-day pass for $11. For more information about Cave, visit www.dragcity.com/artists/cave.