ozric tentacles

[Part one of the New Music from the Past 30 Years series]

When I first moved to San Francisco (for the third time) back in 1993, I did a bit of temping. One of the places I worked was at the Oakland newspaper group. My job was to help them catch up on their tearsheets.

If you’re unfamiliar with tearsheets, basically, when someone runs an ad, the newspaper pulls a copy of that edition with the ad and sends them the page their ad appeared on. Advertisers like this so they can see how their ad looked and have confirmation their ad ran. This job is a necessary evil for newspapers and if you are lucky enough to do it, you’ll never see the natural color of your fingertips again.

It’s also about as boring as a job can be. So, to pass the time, I read the pages. In one of the pages was a review of what was then the latest album from a band called Ozric Tentacles.

The album, released on the now-defunct I.R.S. records (label for acts such as Wishbone Ash, English Beat, Nuclear Assault, R.E.M., Human Switchboard, The Cramps, Go-Go’s, The Fleshtones, Oingo Boingo, Squeeze, Suburban Lawns, Over the Rhine, The Buzzcocks, The Alarm, Gary Numan, Wall of Voodoo, General Public, Belinda Carlisle, Camper Van Beethoven, Dread Zeppelin, Lords of the New Church, Fine Young Cannibals, Black Sabbath and Concrete Blonde, to name a few (thanks Wiki)), was Jurassic Shift, and it completely changed my view on music.

Think about a time when you heard a band that sounded nothing like any sound you had ever heard before. That was Ozric Tentacles.

Sure, the Grateful Dead had already established the “jam band” genre, and Phish was just arriving on the amphitheater scene, but Ozric Tentacles had a psychedelic “space rock” sound all to themselves. Their sound is all instrumental explorations of grooves, tempos and rhythms. They’re one of those bands who will shift tempos, melodies and rhythms multiple times within the same song.

Shortly after purchasing Jurassic Shift, I was lucky enough to notice that the band was coming to a small, and since gone, club on Divisidero St – just a few blocks from my apartment. Like their music, the show was unlike any concert experience I had ever had.

It is interesting that Phish and Ozric Tentacles formed and arrived on the scene at roughly the same time. The Ozric Tentacles show was a drug-of-choice psychedelic carnival that I would never experience again until seeing Phish years later. The crowd was completely involved in, if not part of, the show, and everyone was enjoying the show on a level rarely seen at a concert.

Here’s a clip of the band performing “Chewier” at the Roadburn Festival. If you’re currently listening to Umphrey’s McGee or Medeski, Martin & Wood, then check this out…


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