The Stooges had just gotten done, says bassist Jim Lingo, and we set up on our friend's front porch down the street. We started playing, and all of a sudden there were people dancing in the middle of the street. These weren't just the music writers, label types and groupies that flock to the city once a year for a week -- it was folks from the local homeless shelter. One guy, says Lingo, introduced himself to me as 'Tony from Houston,' and he told me, 'Y'all work hard.' That was one of the best compliments we've ever gotten.
It's exactly that approach that defines the deliriously heavy psych trio (joined recently by Sam Pace on auxiliary percussion) almost as much as its volume and relentless riffs. But watching the members interact, it's sometimes a wonder they've made it this far together: A decision as simple as where to sit down for an interview can turn contentious.
"I hate it for the most part," says Lingo, of being in the band. An impish grin belies the fact that he's barely exaggerating.
"What?" interjects drummer Paul Quattrone. They can barely even agree to disagree.
Lingo backpedals. "But I mean, when we play, and it's good, it's better than anything." He reaches for an analogy. "It's like É you can't get divorced because the sex is too good."
"Sometimes we'll get to the point where we're about to physically start fighting," says Plotnicov. "Then it's time to go onstage and we'll start playing and we'll play a great set and feel better."
Lingo nods. "It's like conflict resolution with bass, guitar and drums."
The three core members of Midnite Snake have been together for about five years, punctuated by breaks as the members have traveled and pursued other musical projects. Quattrone is best known for drumming in The Modey Lemon; Lingo currently plays guitar in Centipede E'est; Plotnicov plays guitar in the Karl Hendricks Rock Band and performs shows solo to boot.
This week, Midnite Snake releases its second album on Birdman Records, Shaving the Angel. The band's first, self-titled album was released in 2004, over a year after it was recorded at WPTS. Written and crafted in only a few months, when the trio first began playing together, it's loud and harsh but completely accessible -- essentially an extension of late-'60s blues-based rock in the vein of Hendrix or Blue Cheer.
Shaving the Angel brings a contrast: With more time to develop as a band, they've begun to exhibit the kind of variation and general weirdness that characterizes the influences that brought them together in the first place, such as Japanese psych bands like Acid Mothers Temple and High Rise. Lingo's bass covers parts that would normally be satisfied by a rhythm guitar, but the rhythm section doesn't fail to secure the bottom; Plotnicov is free to sail above with his ridiculous-in-a-good-way fretwork.
While the new album has its share of blaring rock parts, they're countered by quieter ideas that develop over time and reflect on their own intricacies. "Sacred Mist," for example, begins with a foregrounded simple guitar riff, played for the first five minutes with minor variations while the rhythm section slowly builds. The entire thing breaks down into a noisy freakout; at about the eight-minute mark of the 10-minute track, the chuggy '70s-metal orgasm takes place.
A July tour on the West Coast is on tap for Midnite Snake, if its members don't beat one another to a bloody pulp first. Meanwhile, the band releases its new album Fri., May 25, with a free outdoor show beneath the Bloomfield Bridge: just a little get-together in the out-of-doors, with some friends, right at the nexus of Bloomfield, North Oakland and Polish Hill. Typical Midnite Snake stuff.
"We don't wanna charge people or anything," Plotnicov explains, "We just wanna have a real party."
Midnite Snake CD release, with Oxford Collapse, Kim Phuc and Tusk Lord. 8 p.m. Fri., May 25. Lorrigan Street beneath the Bloomfield Bridge. Free. www.myspace.com/midnitesnake