Comrades of Rock tour at College Station, TX featuring: The Linus Pauling Quartet, Funeral Horse and The Ex- Optimists

By Gia de los Muertos

A cool, crisp night in early December leaves me and a friend on a near 3 hour drive heading north to College Station, TX for the Comrades of Rock tour featuring The Linus Pauling Quartet, Funeral Horse and The Ex-Optimists. Sure we could have caught them inner Houston the following evening at Rudyard’s but we had 2 prior engagements and a free Friday to take a shortened road trip.

Right: The Linus Pauling Quartet

After ingesting several imperial stouts and cheap beers from the bar, it was time for The Linus Pauling Quartet to take the stage. There were too many combined band members and/or band equipment to fit on the stage, so some members were in the audience playing like it ain’t nothin with one guy wearing a blood stained apron. I didn’t ask questions, I just continued to drink cheap beers. Upon playing they had a distinct sound. I rightly couldn’t place it at first as it at times swarmed about a musical chairs myriad of sounds with dual vocalists. With the help of my Bobby Fischer esque music snob friend, we were able to piece together what could only be described as “Mudhoney and Soundgarden fucked in a bathroom stall and got skeeted on by Black Sabbath.” At least that’s what I texted to myself that night. Live, this worked out pretty well and I’d like to see them again. I give props to anyone that can play a set in the middle of a crowd like they supposed to be there and come off with the sound they did.

Right: Funeral Horse

By the time Funeral Horse was to come on, I was already double fisting said cheap beers and trying to remember which one I was supposed to be drinking. This in no way affects my credibility to reviewing a band, because I am a professional. Funeral Horse proved to be a force to be reckoned with. The band held their own when a group of drunk girls decided to form a pit in a 4x4 ft space of a coffee house and repeatedly fall into the playing band members whilst screaming how punk rock they were. That’s because these guys are fucking pros. The drummer it is apparent, has a history in thrash metal and made that shit look entirely too easy. The bassist weaved a clunky, heavy solid bassline throughout the epic power shreds flowing from the beelzebub enchanted guitar work and late 70’s hard rock vocalizations of the singer. Labeled merely as “Stoner Metal”, Funeral Horse is far more than just the genre they’ve been smooshed into. In one fail swoop they are a mish mash of a much needed musical throwback hearkening to when rock and metal were their truest of forms and a whole new sound of something far better and exciting was upon the horizon. Funeral Horse is descended atop a thrown on that horizon.

Wow. With that you’d think, “Okay, done. We don’t need to see anything else.” You’d be wrong because the final band of the night was The Ex-Optimists.

Although I had seen them on a few other occasions, I was finally seeing the entire band together and at a home game. Being in the comfort of a hometown where there’s no need to worry about long drives home or if the motel room will appear to be the set of the latest installment of a Texas chainsaw remake always works out for bands.

Right: The Ex-Optimists

The Ex-Optimists are currently working on a new album and lead singer Kelly Minnis somehow magically balances being a family man with running a record company, playing drums in another band, djing nightclubs and publishing a College Station area zine. He wouldn’t possibly have the energy to produce a decent show with the energy of a college student at a frat party throwing fireworks while doing keg stands and screaming fuck the system right? Wrong.

To look upon the Ex-Optimists pre show one may wonder what a Gen X’er is doing hanging around 3 kids a generation or two down. Well, you’re a fucking judgemental bastard and need to watch their damn set. The raw energy Kelly exposes the crowd to tonight during this set is enough to set off a wave of Godzillas and Mothras.

The drummer was reminiscent of a wind up toy that didn’t stop until the show was over. This kid was a god damned machine. The guitarist couldn’t have any better portrayed being turnt up to 11 and I can imagine will one day own a guitar that can’t be touched ever or even looked at. The bassist does a good job of holding the bottom without detracting from the songs. As a super team they come together in a finite balance of what a real live indie rock band is.

The Ex-Optimists are on point and the sound is an eclectic array of fine tuned college rock and grunge era throwback with a hard alternative edge pre-nu metal era. One could also say they are shoegaze indie rock psychedelia without falling prey to a set faction of standards.

It also helps that Kelly throws himself on the ground and finishes the set playing early 90’s grunge college rock style with the ease of a teen playing guitar hero.

The show is everything one must experience when venturing out to hear local bands play live. An array of tastes and styles converging together to create an experience and an ethos unique to the experience, we leave the show reenergized with the vitality of fresh sounds and a renewed vigor for a 3 hour drive home.