Yawning Man were formed in 1986 but had no official releases until 2005. That didn’t stop them from being described by Brant Bjork as “the sickest desert band of all time” in 2002. Yawning Man have been acknowledged as one of the most influential desert rock bands, having most notably influenced John Garcia and Josh Homme. Luckily for those outside of the desert, the band have been touring and recording over the past few years, and for one night in September the band brought the desert into a dank London basement with horrific toilet facilities.
Sons of Alpha Centauri
Sons of Alpha Centauri were the first band to play the Borderline, filling the venue with a swirl of dense instrumental rock. The band has shared members with Yawning Man in a project called Yawning Sons, and their musical connection to the headliners could be immediately heard.
The set started with creamy Yawning Man-esque echoes across a vista of crashing cymbals and chugging, metallic bass. Layers of textured instrumentation blossomed from the improbably small trio of men and their chaos of pedals and crescendoed into a final ten minutes of amplified warp drive heaviness. Mario Lalli of Yawning Man came on stage to recite a poem reminiscent of Ginsberg’s beat rhythmic stream-of-consciousness style as the band wailed and hammered around his hypnotic voice.
Sons of Alpha Centauri had one of the strangest setlists I have ever seen, with each song listed as a number that represented the chronological order of the composition date of each song. This, it seems, is a common practice of the band.
Blaak Heat ran into the room 15 minutes into what should have been their set, threw their camping bags down to the side of the stage and hastily assembled their gear as an angry man waved and swore loudly that they only had 10 minutes of play-time left.
The band apologized and attempted to fit all their remaining energy into two groove-heavy songs tinged with the sound of the middle-east. The crowd forgave the band with applause and screams after their grindcore-length set of Ottoman rock was over.
Yawning Man debuted a new live member, who took to the stage with a uniquely nervous grace and a voluptuous cherry red Gretsch that added to the rhythmic echoes and swirls of the band’s signature style until she swapped places and instruments with Mario Lalli towards the end of the set.
Lalli’s fingers darted expertly over his bass, creating patterns that hinted at their jazz influences. Gary Arce co-ordinated with their new member to produce huge vistas of melodic textures that clung to the masterful drumming of Bill Stinson.
To experience the legacy of Yawning Man you really must see them live. The band would play for hours in the desert, a place where set-lists weren’t needed, and it was there that the vastness of Yawning Man’s original sound was born. Hearing it produced in a small basement room where you were inches from the band was a pretty special thing for the non-desert dwellers of London.