July 2 2013 07:49 PM

San Diego quintet shows off its psychedelic chops

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Tiger Milk Imports
Photo by Candice Eley

Without knowing in advance that Tiger Milk Imports' June 28 live show at Tin Can Ale House was their first-ever onstage performance, it's unlikely anyone would've considered that a possibility.

Not that the band didn't have a few kinks to work out. The local quintet—which features members of The Treaties, The Lovebirds and Blasphemous Guitars—had an unusually complicated assemblage of instruments, and equipment took a long time to set up. Likewise, Tin Can's tiny stage was barely large enough to accommodate both the band's members and their gear, and guitarist Alexander Dausch broke his high E string while he was tuning before the band's first song.

Once the music began, however, the glitches were purged, the scene got weird and the show quickly turned into a heavy, swirling mixture of psychedelic rock and synth-pop that left a big first impression. It helps that Tiger Milk Imports had their visual theatrics down, Dausch taking the stage in a top hat and tails, percussionist Veronica May dressed in a security guard's uniform and aviator sunglasses and bassist R.D. Marvel wearing a rubber unicorn mask.

Throughout the band's 30-minute set, the five musicians threw numerous stylistic curveballs, starting off with an '80s-style synth sound, adding a layer of ass-kicking guitar shred, vocal harmonies by Dausch and keyboardist Shannon O'Brien, polyrhythmic percussion and even some dreamy accompaniment on vibraphone. Easy comparisons to the band's sound are hard to come by, though at various points during the show, I filed away a handful of notable reference points—Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Frank Zappa, Funkadelic and Nine Inch Nails, just to name a few. And yet, that doesn't really come close to giving an accurate picture of what kind of heavily layered sonic stew Tiger Milk Imports cook up.

For a debut, the band showed a lot of promise. Their eclectic showcase of songs can probably be reined in a little and made more cohesive, though that's a minor quibble. Performance-wise, Tiger Milk Imports is rock-solid.

Email jefft@sdcitybeat.com or follow him at @1000TimesJeff

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