‘What Is’ This Crazy Little Garage Rock Phenom Called King Khan & The Shrines?


Party sounds and throwback good times that go great with PBR and BBQ - what better way to explain the recent garage rock revival and the musical magic wrought by King Khan & the Shrines? King Khan, he of the King Khan and BBQ Show, is one of the prime movers - along with the Black Lips and upstart locals like the Oh Sees - behind the freshly resuscitated rock-out sound. How did he manage to climb to the top of the greasy garage heap? It helps to wipe the stage of all comers with your spazz-tastic and semi-clothed, no-holds-barred, no-hands-ma live show.

The latest wave of garage rockers rarely get as soulful as King Khan & the Shrines do on What Is?!, released domestically by Vice Records in April after languishing for two years on Germany’s Hazlewood label. Less infatuated with doo-wop and punk than the King Khan and BBQ Show (Mark Sultan, a.k.a., BBQ, opens at Great American Music Hall May 28) and more wired and fired on Dixie-gritty deep-fried rock ‘n’ soul, the Shrines go big with sassy brass section, add in an encyclopedic knowledge of archetypal ‘60s garage-rock hooks, and bring just a dab of free-jazz caterwaul ala Rahsaan Roland Kirk to such Mitch Ryder-esque booty-shakers as “Land of the Freak” and Amboy Dukes-y proto-psych workouts like “Take a Little Bit.”

Count to five and freak to the opening Doppler chords of “I See Lights,” while “Let Me Holler” follows KK and the Shrines down to the star-crossed, shimmying crossroads of Memphis soul and Chicago blues. Whoever claimed garage rock was an essential conservative (psychotic) reaction to contemporary pop might want to check in first with the Berlin party-starters – for these sensations, the past is a reminder of rock’s earned license to thrill.

King Khan & the Shrines perform with Mark Sultan and Apache. Thursday, May 28, 9 p.m., $15. Great American Music Hall, 859 O’Farrell, S.F. (415) 885-0750.

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