As much fun as the one-night psychedelia revival night at the Knitting Factory was, it could not help being a little sad. It was rock music as museum piece; instead of the hall of fame, it was a museum of natural history, filled with exacting re-creations of endangered species. The show was a triumph of the willfully obscure. When third-billed Davie Allan and the Arrows (something of a trivia question themselves) announced “Shape of Things to Come,” it wasn’t the Yardbirds hit but the Max Frost and the Troopers oddity from the teensploitation classic “Wild in the Streets.”
Headliners the Seeds had a legitimate claim on rock history — their “Pushin’ Too Hard” was a top 10 hit in 1965. The band’s Sky Saxon has remained remarkably loyal to it, as just about every song in the hourlong set contained some variation on “Hard’s” insistent riff. A bit like flipping through “Where’s Waldo?,” the tune could show up anywhere: new song or old, as the chorus, in the verse, played in a minor key during the bridge, given a slightly different accent, voiced by either the guitar or the keyboard. Not that it mattered — it’s a wonderfully sturdy bit of music. And when the audience took the stage for the final tune, they dutifully sang the lyrics to “Hard” as Saxon went off on his own tangent.
The singer (who now wishes to be billed as Sky “Sunlight” Saxon) is a bit of an acid casualty, although a dandified one. Looking hale for a 56-year-old man, between songs he muttered about dogs and Gods and spaceships while doffing a beautifully embroidered brocade coat to reveal a gold lame jacket, which hid a broadly striped shirt.
Youth was served by the Warlocks, a local band that keeps the psychedelic banner high. Sounding like they were being filtered through the smoke machine that worked on overtime during their set, the guitars were fuzzed out and distorted, the singer was echoed and the beat was smudged by two drummers who played in unison. Hulking and dense, the Warlocks ended up with a sound similar to British bands such as the Doves or Super Furry Animals. But Bobby Hecksher’s songs never rise above genre exercises; if they had been part of Los Angeles’ previous psychedelic revival — the early ’80s Paisley Underground — the crowd could have asked, “Are they live or are they Memorex?”