Friday Night: Linus Pauling Quartet at Fitzgerald's

Linus Pauling Quartet, Modfag, From Beyond, Hearts of Animals Fitzgerald's June 22, 2012

Local long-running psych-rockers Linus Pauling Quartet have got a new album for us to inhale, and on Friday night, the city took its first rip. The performance was the first of three pre-release shows across the state LP4 had scheduled for the weekend, and they brought a solid bill of fellow astral travelers with them to Fitzgerald's to help unleash their new disc in full.

Local girl-and-her-guitar act Hearts of Animals was the first up Friday night. Songwriter Mlee Marie Suprean's sweet and delicate voice floated along on top of the gentle grunge-pop leaking from her small guitar amp. The crowd was polite and appreciative, but clearly craved more power.

The next group up, From Beyond, was more than happy to provide it. As soon as they took the stage, a huge fog of smoke blasted forth from a machine onstage, providing the proper atmospherics for a band that's probably kicked over a dozen or more bongs thus far into its young lifespan.

From Beyond's riffs are built to crush. The power trio makes no secret of their Sabbath infatuation, and their heavy, stoned rumble combined with the pulsing bass from the Beat Connection show downstairs to rattle the audience thoroughly. It felt a tad like being one of the little metal players in a game of electric football.

After a nice drum solo from Dick Beeman (smoke break!), the band went into a long jam that I think must have been the title track to its recent EP release, One Year. It was pure bar-chord annihilation that I think spontaneously caused a few audience members' hair to grow out.

It was cool, heavy stuff. From Beyond should be a fun band to watch as they continue to gel and explore -- assuming you can catch a glimpse through the smoke.

In a nod, I guess, to the leafy allegiance of the night's crowd, the sound guy played Bob Marley tunes between bands. Nobody seemed to mind.

Next came Modfag. It was tough to miss Modfag on the bill, because their name has "fag" in it. They also have an oddball drummer who dresses like a nerdy peckerwood and beats the shit out of his kit. He creeped me out a little, to be honest. The band seemed to start out sloppily, but tightened up as they played.

Modfag appeared to bring a nice contingent of fans with them on Friday night, including a trio of ballsy young rocker chicks who planted themselves front and center. Perhaps they were drawn in by the sexual magnetism of the Joe Perry lookalike on guitar, but I think they were just getting off on the high-energy rock and roll of songs like "Levitation."

Modfag won me over, too, as their set progressed. Their sound rolls a little Sex Pistols, a little AC/DC and a little Iggy into a pretty potent musical spliff, and the crowd seemed to enjoy watching it burn.

Butts weren't quite shaking to their punky garage rock, but they were definitely quivering a bit.

Did you know that the Linus Pauling Quartet is a quintet, usually? I didn't. This was my first time seeing the long-established local psych rockers in the flesh, and I think I really could have done worse for my first LP4 experience. The band hit Dallas and Austin, too, this weekend to drum up awareness for its brand-new album, Bag of Hammers. Lucky for us, friends and family got the first taste.

Put simply, Bag of Hammers sounds pretty shit-hot. These guys have evidently been doing a lot of writing and smoking, and the resin-caked riffs they've come up with threatened to clog the pipes in our heads.

"Crom," LP4's bronze-age tribute to Conan the Barbarian's merciless god, opened the album set with a thunderous, Sabbathy dropkick. The band performed while bathed in a digital version of the electric Kool-Aid lights typically associated with the psychedelic San Francisco bands of the '60s, and let's just say it was evocative.

The set's highlight was "Rust," a sublime piece of acid grunge featuring Hearts of Animals' Mlee Marie guesting on vocals. This song fucking ruled. The band's volume veered from soft to loud and back again like a sine wave, resulting in some of the spaciest heavy rock that I've ever had the pleasure of hearing live.

The song sounded sort of like Siamese Dream-era Smashing Pumpkins, if Billy Corgan had been a young woman tripping balls. It lifted everyone in the building onto the same fuzzy wavelength.

The smoke machine, by this time, was in full effect. If the old nightclub didn't already feel a bit like a darkened basement, LP4 made the similarities clear with their next tune, "Saving Throw," an epic tribute to Dungeons & Dragons.

"Don't pretend you were too cool to ever play D&D," singer/guitarist Charlie Naked told the audience. "You can still hang out with us."

The dice kept rolling, and after the long, jammy "Stonebringer" brought the album to a close, guitarist Ramon Medina took the mike for the metal onslaught of "La Tapatia."

"This song is about Satan," he said. "And tacos."

Medina paired a death-metal growl with a Dio-esque wail as he splashed the band and crowd alike with hops-and-barley "holy water" before collapsing into a writhing heap in the middle of the floor. It was tough to make out some of the growling, but I believe he was screaming, "Satan! Satan! Satan!" Righteous.

Stoned or not, there was a lot to like about Friday night's bill. LP4's new disc is a legit face-melter, and they've got to figure out a way to keep "Rust" in the setlist. That one made a few hairs stand on end. I liked what I heard from all the performers onstage, though.

I would have loved to have seen the venue crammed full instead of kinda full, but it was impossible to walk away from the show without feeling good about local live music. Twist one up and grab Bag of Hammers as soon as you can.

Personal Bias: Bongs of power.

The Crowd: A weird mix of rock fans. Definitely not a "scene," exactly.

Overheard In the Crowd: "Fuck yeah, I brought the weed!"

Random Notebook Dump: I have to say I wished La Tapatia was still open when the show let out. Satan.

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