Review: Ecstatic Vision ‘Live At DunaJam’

Of all the heavy, stoner, desert, psych bands I’ve been exposed to in the last decade, Philadelphia’s Ecstatic Vision have become one of my favorites. Their blistering, unhinged, mindfuck, amalgam of heavy psych, ‘70s kraut, mixed with ample doses of Hawkwind mania, and Detroit proto-punk grime is completely unmatched. Their May 2022 release, Elusive Mojo, has been in heavy rotation since I had the opportunity to review it and it found itself in my year-end, Top Ten list.

Ecstatic Vision 'Live At DunaJam'

Singer, guitarist, mastermind Doug Sabolick, bassist Michael Field Connor, drummer Ricky Culp, and since 2015, their secret weapon; saxophonist, multi-instrumentalist and portal opener Kevin Nickles excel at an almost-improv-style of rock and roll heavy psych, that allows all four musicians to rock the fuck out, and freak the fuck out, leaving audiences around the world with their minds blown.

Sabolick himself comes across like the bastard son of Iggy Pop and Dave Wyndorf as  he completely embraces his role as front man that usually finds him rolling around on the floor, or climbing the cabinets. Field Connor and Culp are an absolutely smoking rhythm section, one of the best in the business. They are so locked in holding that groove down for untold amounts of time, it allows both Sabolick and Nickles to blast off into rock and roll space to their hearts content. Speaking of Nickles, his sax playing effortlessly conjures Steve Mackay’s work on The Stooges immortal album Funhouse, to say nothing of his ability to use his effects and pedals to summon any number of tripped-out noises, whilst opening rock and roll portals. 

All of this and more is on display with Live At DunaJam. Ecstatic Vision toured hard for Elusive Mojo and found themselves invited to the 2022 version of DunaJam which has reached almost mythical proportions, as it’s more of an invite-gathering, than a proper European festival. As well, the setting, an island off the coast of Sardinia, Italy, is among the best any music fan can ask for. Held on various spots on the island, the immaculate views of The Mediterranean Sea make it truly one of the most unique music gatherings in the world, and Ecstatic Vision pour every ounce of rock and roll energy into their performance.

Opening with You Got It (Or You Don’t) off 2017’s Raw Rock Fury, Ecstatic Vision boldly proclaim there will be no fucking around during this set, as they lay waste to the invitees. Sabolick‘s wah pedal and Nickles sax threaten to steal the show, but the driving charge provided by Field Connor and Culp propel the song along as the warm, fuzzy bass tone, that’s high in the mix, is a complete rhythm monster, and Culp pilots the groove without missing a beat for the entire duration of the song, as both Sabolick and Nickles take the opportunity to freak out on their instruments and urging the crowd to ’wake the fuck up!’.

Unhinged, manic, heavy, psychedelic rock and roll, dripping with urgency and attitude that feels like it’s going to go off the rails at any moment…

However, You Got It (Or You Don’t) is just an appetizer as Ecstatic Vision, amidst swirls of effects and noise from Nickles, blast off into one of my favorite songs of 2022, Time’s Up off Elusive Mojo. It absolutely drips with rock and roll attitude and urgency, and to me is the epitome of Ecstatic Vision’s ability to channel ‘70s Detroit proto-punk, but delivered with a healthy dose of psych freak-outs. Again, Field Connor and Culp completely own the rumbling, driving rhythm, which, again, allows Sabolick to enter uber-front man mode, and Nickles to blow open time and space with his sax. In fact, the clip I’ve seen of Times Up finds both Sabolick and Nickles on the ground during the improv sax-freakout in the middle.

Barely catching their breath, Field Connor’s bass announces The Electric Step, also off Raw Rock Fury, and Ecstatic Vision lock in, and ride The Electric Step for over seven minutes, Sabolick‘s energy and vocals oozing through my headphones. Deathwish 1970 off Elusive Mojo showcases the band’s Stooges fetish, both in song title, and riffs, but this serves as a segue into a ripping cover of The Stooges TV Eye off Funhouse. Nickles deploys his sax to devastating effect, to say nothing of Field Connor’s fuzzed-out bass. Sticking with the Detroit ’70-mojo, Ecstatic Vision close out their frenetic set with a cover of the MC5’s Come Together off Kick Out The Jams in which they proceed to lay waste to DunaJam’s invitees, with their high energy, distorted, psychedelic take on the MC5 classic.

The cover of Live At DunaJam features Sabolick in rock-lord form, preaching his rock and roll gospel to the invited congregation whilst standing on top of speaker cabinets as the sun sets on The Mediterranean. I’m not sure at what point in their set he climbed up there, but the shot perfectly captures the sonics within these grooves. Unhinged, manic, heavy, psychedelic rock and roll, dripping with urgency and attitude that feels like it’s going to go off the rails at any moment.

Live At DunaJam feels like one of those live records that perfectly captures a band on fire in a very specific time and place. I missed Ecstatic Vision last fall when they played Monolith On The Mesa, but Live At DunaJam, while not a replacement to seeing the band live, is a more than killer alternative. Absolutely smokin’ rock and roll urgency.

Label: Heavy Psych Sounds
Band Links: Facebook | Bandcamp | Instagram

Scribed by: Martin Williams