Last Sunday, SOhO was transformed into a grimy country blues bar reminiscent of Bob’s Country Bunker, chain link fence and all. With gritty guitar licks, powerful vocals, bluesy rhythm and harmonica blasts that would make Junior Wells howl, the Stone Foxes thundered swampy blues-rock throughout the Santa Barbara venue.
Isla Vista’s own Givers & Takers opened the night with a melodic and powerful performance. The crowd thoroughly enjoyed the band’s use of hypnotic pedal effects and the graceful intensity of each song. This became clear when the band played “Ancient and Wild,” a song that began with the steady caress of an acoustic arpeggio and delicate vocals and then melted into a hair-raising transformation of heavy guitar, a flowing bassline and howling vocals. Their melodic psychadelia contrasts their raw energy so well that their performances transcend time. The audience continued to groove to the hypnotizing sound while the band created a listening experience that would please any set of ears.
The Stone Foxes approached the stage for a soundcheck and the first chords from lead guitarist Spence Koehler’s Gibson SG rattled the floor that would soon be stomped out in rhythm by a crowd eager for the blend of sweet southern rock and classic Chicago blues that was about to fill the room. With songs such as the soulful and punchy “Patience” and a bluesy rock rendition of Muddy Waters’ “Rollin’ and Tumblin’,” the Stone Foxes managed to shuff le feet and swing hair throughout their set. But a powerful cover of Willie Dixons’ “Little Red Rooster,” courtesy of Spence’s fine slide work, revealed the roots of these San Francisco rockers.
The Stone Foxes maintain banter amongst themselves in between songs, which seemed natural given that the group lives together and that Shannon Koehler (lead vocals and drums) and Spence Koehler (lead guitar and vocals) are siblings. Their friendly comparison of each other’s facial features to small mammals became as familiar as their swinging country blues.
The band ended with “Mr. Hangman,” a loud, in-your-face tune filled with Shannon’s aggressive harmonica work and powerful vocals along with bone-shaking riffs from Spence’s six strings. The end of the song became an engaging jam session as Shannon left the stage and entered the crowd with harmonica and distorted mic in hand. He then continued to shape the crowd into a circle and led their stomping feet to follow Elliot Peltzman’s heavy thumping drumbeat. Shannon even called out to the sound technician to come join the crowd that had become a frenzy of synchronized stomping and a harmonized chant of the line, “You know that I love you, but you ain’t worth the trouble.”
Those who attended SOhO Sunday night left sweaty and satisfied. For further listening, check out the Givers & Takers Saturday, Oct. 27 at Muddy Waters. And be sure to give the Stone Foxes’ most recent album, Bears & Bulls, or their current single “Psycho” a listen.