While I was finishing school, I would spend hours in a private editing room, working on my thesis film and looking for new music. This is how I found a lot of the bands that I’ve been really into this year, like Khruangbin and The Murlocs. One of the last bands I found that really made an impression was Frankie and the Witch Fingers, from Los Angeles. There’s something about them that feels like garage rock’s version of the Cramps. They fit all of the definitive garage rock elements with a dash of October.
I went to this concert after nine hours of driving from Maine to Rochester, NY, and saw it at The Bug Jar, a beloved bar and venue for students at the college that I went to. I hardly ever made it out to the Bug Jar when I was in school, it felt extremely ironic to be driving all the way back to go to a show there.
The opening acts for this show were both fantastic local groups from Rochester. Debris Field to my knowledge doesn’t have any recorded music available online or an instagram, but keep an eye out for when they do. Their sound is aggressive and cathartic. The only downside was that they didn’t play for very long at all, so I’m hoping next time I see them their set isn’t so early.
The second group was The Low Spirits, whose work is thankfully available on Bandcamp. The Low Spirits are directly channeling the days of 13th Floor Elevators and Eric Bourdon, and breathing new life into an iconic flavor of psychedelic rock. Even meeting the look of those classic psychedelic bands, the Low Spirits are a time machine. But don’t misunderstand, there’s nothing derivative about them. The act works, and it works fantastically.
As the evening went on, I was kind of put off by how few people seemed to be at the Bug Jar, but I was just being an anxious concert goer. The closer we got to the Witch Finger’s set, the more and more packed it got. At the start of the set the room was full.
I don’t have many visual memories of the Witch Fingers set once it started. I spent the duration of the show completely buried in a flailing mass of my own hair. I don’t know if I’ve ever danced as hard as I was able to dance during this concert. The energy created by the band was a perfect match for the size of the venue, engaging every person in the music. I would glance over my shoulder every once in a while, expecting to see a range of interested parties. But nearly everyone was on the same page – these guys rock.
The setlist was made up almost entirely of music from ZAM, the Witch Fingers 2019 release. This album in particular has the element of Cramps-y-ness that keeps me coming back to this group for more, and these songs have the benefit of being pretty open structurally. This meant that there was lots of time for jamming, and the band took advantage of that time.
The only real downside of this show was that it was pretty short. The group had a momentary equipment issue that they played off quite well, but the set felt like it ended one or two songs early because of it. There was time for each of the best known songs from the new record, but not much for the b-sides, and barely anything from their four previous albums. This might just be a byproduct of playing smaller shows with shorter set lists, but the next time I see them (and I’m seeing them again in November!) I hope to hear a taste or two from their earlier catalog.
The setlist wasn’t particularly without heavy hitter. “Dracula Drug,” the opening, ten-minute track from Zam, was played in it’s entirety and without much roaming from the album version. Hearing it almost exactly as it appears on the album was extremely special, there are a few really specific moments on that were really satisfying live. “Work,” the opening track, is fantastic to sing along with, and the same can be said for screaming along to “Underneath You.”
I do have a bad habit of trying to guess the legacies of bands that I like – my friend remarked to me that people who like rock music alway think that the music they like is objectively important, so I’ve been trying not to fall into this trap lately. But I do think that the people who are interested in rock music right now are going to remember Frankie and the Witch Fingers for a long time. They check all the boxes.