You Can't Hum When You're Dead: Om and Pinback @ The Marquee Theatre September 19th

By Matt Neff Photos by Luke Holwerda

Om Pinback The Marquee Theater September 19, 2007 Better Than: Heavy petting (?)


He who closeth all the doors of his senses, imprisoneth his mind in his heart, fixeth his vital powers in his head, standing firm in meditation, repeating the monosyllable OM, and thus continues when he is quitting the body, goeth to the supreme goal. --Bhagavad Gita, chapter 8, verse 13 (from the 1890 translation by William Quan Judge)

Although as a reporter I’m obligated to mention that Om is the two-man rhythm section from San Franciscan stoner/droner doom metal band Sleep (Al Cisneros - bass/vox, Chris Hakius – drums), the logistics are not important: these two warm bodies work no better than any others as conduits for the omnipresent brain-erasing throb of the ETERNAL COSMIC HUM. These two set up a riff and examine it, probe its defenses, struggle, claw, bite, and enter it, and finally pound on it good and hard before they toss it limp to the floor. If you stand too close the dense undulating waves of hypnotic monotony may very well pass straight through the backs of your vibrating eyeballs. Cisneros bobbed and hunched in front of an amp as large as a man and deluged the audience with warm fuzzed out sludge, murmuring rhythmic chants into the patient microphone while Hakius generally stuck to the rides, kept his head down and went gradually berserk. A slow burn—repetitious, monotonous, but without being boring—I was quite enthused. As a friend of mine said after the show, “Bass and drums: the purest format to tame The Riff!” And how.


Om’s slow-burning intensity came and went almost inconspicuously, considering the hordes of Pinback fans who sat in back and shamelessly CHIT-CHATTED loudly enough to drown out the softer dynamics. When the bands swapped stages, the small hard core of headbangers there for Om traded places with the loud loiterers in back. “Like oil and water!” I exclaimed to a nearby venue employee, who slapped me a high five and put my name on the guest list indefinitely.

I talked to Om’s roadie and they’re likely coming back in January, and this time they’ll headline. Their new album, Pilgrimage, should be out on October on Southern Lord. Keep an eye or two out for their return at myspace or their home page.


The current (since 1998) indie rock project of San Diego scenesters Zach Smith and Rob Crow, Pinback made me want to cough politely, at most. Ho-hum, ho-hum: they play the kind of inoffensively pleasant indie rock that you’d expect to hear on the O.C. soundtrack, and your expectations would turn out to be correct because they’re on the damn thing, alright. They have a trebly plinky-plunky sound and a decent mid-tempo shimmer, but their vocals struck me as overly sincere and apollonian without much real grit. But even this didn’t provoke me that much: they sound so contentedly regular that I can't work up any energy to put them down. Oh Pinback, why must you do this to me? I need to say something really mean or I won’t sleep for days. Don’t make me troll Pitchfork for some errant racist comment you made while high. Don’t make me resort to attacking your fans who were obviously having a very good time. I know you’ve been involved in a plethora of indie rock projects over the years but I in no way have the patience to search them all out and sit still and listen. Uhhhh….uhmmm….oh, screw it: Pinback were GREAT. I went home a soft pliable ball of jelly because they provoked the most ragingly orgasmic soul-destroyer of an emotional release I’ve ever felt. Stars exploded out of my every orifice and I pissed pure Dasani. Visit their myspace here or their website here. Everyone sez they're better in the studio -- they could be right, you know, but I doubt it.


Personal Bias: “Remember, one man’s ‘cool’ is another man’s ‘lame.’ ” -- jmertz01 at

Random Detail: In the early nineties, certain desperate associates of Om actually beat an uncooperative Frito Lays employee to death with a homemade PVC pipe didgeridoo in what the SFPD later called the greatest corn chip heist in American history.

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Matthew Neff