With the final hours of APF ticking away on Sunday night, San Diego stoner rock instrumentalists Earthless stretched three songs into an entire set and left little question as to who was the most exciting guitarist at this year’s festival.
Plugging into a Hendrix-like setup of Stratocaster into a Marshall amp stack, guitar virtuoso Isaiah Mitchell teased out the slow, crying intro of “Uluru Rock,” sophomore track from last fall’s long-awaited third studio LP, From the Ages. Initial restraint then exploded into 13 minutes of hair-raising solo that rounds out the song.
Projecting deafening audio antimatter from 12-inch speakers, the guitarist milked each note with his whammy bar, adding a warped quality to remarkably fluid shredding. With a gap-less set list barely leaving time for applause, the three heavies dropped into From the Ages opener “Violence of the Red Sea.” Less of a soloing free-for-all than the previous offering, the riff-driven headbanger with intricate timing details demonstrated that these are compositions, not jams.
While bassist Mike Eginton, with his Rickenbacker's headstock tilted high above his own head, laid deep groves, drummer Mario Rubalcaba carried the song with double-stuffed fills that eventually opened up into an unrelenting hardcore tempo that must have become exhausting around the 15-minute mark. The threesome are masters of carrying the crescendo to infinity and still making every second count.
While the band closed with “Sonic Prayer,” beefed up with a thundering floor tom beat under Mitchell’s snake-charming guitar work, the liquid light show projected behind the stage. By design or coincidence, it turned dark and began resembling outer space. For a moment, it felt like we’d all left Earth.
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