Sunburned Hand of the Man
w/Magik Markers, Ghidra,
Wed Aug 24, Sunset Tavern,
9 pm, $8, 21+
"You gotta see 'em live to really understand their greatness"—Sunburned Hand of the Man epitomize that common saying. The large, amorphous collective's music seems diminished on disc or wax. Live, however, Sunburned excel at shamantric, extemporaneous workouts, as wild spirits inhabit their white Massachusetts bodies and every surface in the club potentially becomes a drum. Sunburned need time to let their magic unspool, to allow their waves of wah-wah guitars to cascade over your mind and layers of percussion to command your hips. Your patience will be rewarded with cumulative psychedelic payoffs and primal energy transferences that can't be conveyed by groups that dole out three-minute ditties.
For allegedly drug-addled honkies, Sunburned can get tremendously funky and loose. Their tracks resemble communal campfire jams where everyone's joints have been lubricated by ayahuasca. Sunburned's transcendent peregrinations have roots in the reverberant indigestion moans of Japanese trance-inducers Taj Mahal Travellers and Karuna Khyal, Dr. John's voodoo R&B circa Gris-Gris, early Funkadelic's scorching grooves, and Amon Düül I's holy-pagan vibe.
Since 1997, Sunburned Hand have issued 20 albums (most of them self-released and limited-edition), with two more slated for 2005. Thankfully, it's not necessary to procure every Sunburned nugget to get their galvanic yet drifting gist. Newbies may want to start with 2002's vinyl-only Headdress, and then try the Jaybird CD-R or the Rare Wood CD. Better yet, see these gonzo guerrillas live—but you may want to don a helmet, lest your noggin become a tom-tom.