For over a decade, Diana Ballantyne has been booking bands for the Fernwood Tavern in Big Sur. And the venue is in high demand.
“For the 50 or so Saturday nights we book a year, we probably get somewhere around 300 bands wanting to play here,” Ballantyne says. Some of the appeal, she says, is the Big Sur venue itself, and some is the convenient “pit stop” location for bands touring the state and making their way between Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Lindsay Napoli of promoter (((folkYEAH!)))) adds that part of the fun is the tavern/restaurant/hotel’s ability to transform into a venue for a short spell, then back into a family restaurant and casual neighborhood gathering spot. “Fernwood is a special place for artists to play,” she says. “Those eating breakfast the next morning wouldn’t have any indication that there was a rock show happening the night prior until 1am.”
Performing this Saturday is the acclaimed LA-based psych rock band Wand. Begun in 2013 by lead vocalist and guitarist Cory Hanson, Wand is a complete band. Against garage-style guitars, Hanson’s vocals seem to convey a level of self-control on the verge of a breakdown. Co-founders Evan Burrows and Lee Landey do well to maintain the beats and bass lines, respectively.
But what seems to define the character of Wand, especially from their six-album catalogue, is the band’s insistence on reshaping their own music. The character of Wand’s first three albums – released within 12 months of each other – can perhaps be described as a person racing down the streets tearing their clothes off (2014’s Ganglion Reef), that same person spontaneously combusting (2015’s Golem) and then those itsy-bitsy pieces combusting (2015’s 1,000 Days). That is to say, they were not afraid of loud guitar sounds.
By 2016 a critical change occurred when guitarist Daniel Martens decided to leave. Hanson and Burrows went on tour with prolific garage rock act Ty Segall (also performing at Fernwood Thursday and Friday, Jan. 16-17) before recruiting keyboardist Sofia Arreguin and guitarist Robert Cody and trying a new approach to record-making.
“The distillation process for songs goes through five people,” Hanson said in 2017 for LA Music Blog. “Save for a couple songs of mine that somehow made it, it’s a democratic record.” The result of the “democratization” led to three more well-received albums.
“[Wand] is an undeniablygreat band,” Napoli says, “and we can’t wait to hear them rip it in the tavern.”
Wand at 9pm Saturday, Jan. 18. Fernwood Tavern, 47200 Highway 1, Big Sur. $25. 667-2129, fernwoodbigsur.com