It’s near impossible to pinpoint with any certainty where and when Stoner Rock earned its distinction. After all, hasn’t getting stoned and listening to rock music been a thing since the beginning? Or was there a time when people enjoyed a nice cup of earl grey with their tie-dye and Pink Floyd? Probably not, and we’re not about to fuck with historical custom. But modern Stoner Rock, though still well paired with a joint, is different from the floral psychedelic pop of mainstream 60s and 70s music it descends from, and the lineup for this weekend’s Sabertooth Micro Fest at the Crystal Ballroom will help you grasp how.
Red Fang. Witch Mountain. Earth. Built to Spill. Super Furry Animals. Mikal Cronin. You get it. It’s about guitar riffs slowed down and soaked in cruel, dark hypnosis, sound manipulations that freak out and excite, beast skulls emblazoned on every amplifier, and crushed out blast beats from bass drums as big as Godzilla’s braincase. But it’s not Heavy Metal remember; it’s neither Glam Rock nor Death Metal. Stoner Rock is comparatively restrained, and this self-awareness clues its artists into the reality that modern, stoned audiences don’t want to be subjected to the public masturbation of a three hundred BPM ‘Flight of the Bumblebee’ style guitar solo anymore. It’s just too much.
Instead, Stoner Rock likes to get freaky and psychedelic, preferring bizarre noise loops and head-bobbing bass lines that give the listener the feeling of being embraced by a benevolent, fuzzy monster. Moreover, if you enjoy the howling of dire wolves and guttural Viking growls interspersed with Alan Watts voiceovers telling you “Time to wake up!” then Stoner Rock is something you probably already listen to before going to sleep. But for those charlatans and interlopers like myself, there’s always the Blasphemous BrewFest going on in Lola’s Room downstairs on Saturday and Sunday where we can taste to excess the intoxicating elixirs of seven bad (as in: damn good) beastly beer crafters to get us in the properly bewitched state. Oregon’s Cannabis Concierge and the Daily Leaf have also teamed up to host a Sabertooth VIP bus safari of the stoner’s paradise that is Portland prior to the shows on Saturday. So get a ticket, eat some mushies or eddies, and get past the guards before it’s too late. And just for the record, pretty sure Stoner Rock began with Black Sabbath’s “Children of the Grave” back in ole ’71.
Sabertooth Micro Fest is February 5-7 at Crystal Ballroom. Tix available HERE.
Words by Ethan Martin.