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Listings are in the opposite order of appearance: headliner is listed at the top, next is the support band(s), and the last band listed is the opener.

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Monday February 13 2023
 8:00PM doors -- music at 8:30PM
  indie rock punk
 alt pop punk
  bedroom pop low-fi psychedelic

-from San Francisco, CA
-pardoner is a force to be reckoned with; melding slacker rock attitude with pummeling hardcore for a visceral sound not unlike a trip to the dentist’s office and a novacaine high.

Every release since their 2015 inception has seen the group dial up their songcraft, culminating in a pair of exceptional LP’s - 2017’s Uncontrollable Salvation, and last years Playin’ On A Cloud. Their album Came Down Different, and first for Bar-None Records, was recorded in a whirlwind two days with veteran producer Jack Shirley.

Pulling from demos recorded with the help of like minded Vancouver punks Dumb, and new ideas birthed from a month of incessant rehearsal at their old SF lockout, the decision to double down on the band has yielded their best album to date. It features some of their most pop moments yet, even occasionally ditching the foreman shouting for genuine hooks.

-from Oakland, CA
-Since 2015, Toner has been crafting a shade of shoegaze that could only come out of a hotboxed East Bay garage. Their sound honors the traditions of NorCal DIY (taking some root in skate punk and slacker rock), but what’s most commendable is their understanding of what makes a great record in their preeminent genre. No, shoegaze is not about being the loudest or the most distorted, nor is it about conjuring wafts of euphoric haze that sound nice but leave no trace. It’s about finding the timbres that scorch the eardrums while injecting the listener with serotonin. It’s about keeping the song structures simple, but executing them splendidly. It’s about finding a way to produce, mix and master guitar tones so that they’re always recognized, never disguised amidst the cacophony of sound.

White Buffalo Roam, the latest record from the group, is another pristine addition to their discography. Bandleader Samuelito Cruz has expanded on his musical touchstones, incorporating the neon sheen of new wave, acoustic arrangements, and a sprinkling of 70s power pop into their sound. Some melodies and guitar leads, such as on album opener “Ox ‘45” and the searing “Bleeder,” feel influenced by Yellow Magic Orchestra, recalling how acts like Phoenix with Bankrupt! or Grapetooth on their self-titled channeled this era to great effect. Doubling down on short songs and structures, Cruz doesn’t waste any time in supplying you with his treasure trove of riffs and solos. Among the best are the Ty Segall-esque “Sugarbeat,” the glistening “Nobody’s Fool,” and the jangling “Concentrator II.”

Beyond this new sonic breakthrough, Cruz has perfected his stoned, monotone vocal style, carrying his melodies with a nonchalant attitude and supplying exactly what’s needed so as to not distract from what he wants the focus on. What’s even more wonderful is how his voice is paired with the ornate overtones of Ellie James, whose dreamy vocals throughout the record add a necessary depth and blissful counterbalance, the yin to Cruz’s yang. Even when at their most subtle, like on the shining “Silver Lining,” her voice adds such a beautiful counterpoint, it’s as if fluorescent flecks fall from the stalactites of a cavern onto what lies beneath.

It’d be most remiss to not acknowledge the mixing and mastering of Jack Shirley. Not only are his mixes dynamic, incorporating panning shifts and layers of grit and grime, they are of the utmost sonic quality for a punk record; and yet, it’s not saccharine, maintaining the vibe of what has thus far made Toner distinct. His work here allows for the final product to be multifaceted, creating a Russian doll effect where the best parts of the songs are found the deeper you dig. It’s another ideal partnership for Cruz, whose keen sense of collaboration is perhaps what’s most impressive about this entry into his catalogue.

Ending with the title track, White Buffalo Roam offers the listener a balanced entree of the highest quality ingredients. I’m inclined to say this album is like a bison burger - lean, profound in flavor, off the beaten path but enthralling you with its mystery. I’m also inclined to believe it contains some of Cruz’s most excellent work to date, thanks in large part to a continued expansion of his vision and the help of talented partners. With one the West Coast’s best shoegaze records of the year, Toner continues to set the tone for what they’re capable of and what they will accomplish.

-from Oakland, CA
-Hook-Ups is the solo endeavor by Maxwell Carver who also plays in Toner & Mentor.