Mahootie percussionist Fred Gonzales is 57 years old. His brother Oscar, the band’s drummer (yes, they have both a drummer and a percussionist), is 55. Even at a relatively youthful 37, lead singer/guitarist Phillip Baxter is still older than most members of your typical Orange County band.
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On their self-titled debut record, Mahootie both act and belie their age. There’s definite maturity and depth on display (topics include the environment, addiction and the plight of struggling veterans), but it’s also musically progressive, doing a commendable job of not falling into any “middle-age dudes who started a band to stave off a midlife crisis” clichés. The band’s biography tells of the Gonzales brothers’ background in “The Latin Blues Project,” but Mahootie are far removed from either of those genres (though Spanish lyrics creep into some tracks, such as “Todo Suss Horas”). It’s much closer to the atmospheric dream-pop of such groups as Dead Can Dance, with songs such as “Volad” filling the listener with a spaced-out sense of contemplation, buoyed by elliptical lyrics (“All of these new faces don’t look the same”). Electronic instrumentation figures largely on the tracks, but the Gonzales brothers’ percussion adds an organic, immediate feel to a type of music that can come off a bit impersonal.
Despite the often-heavy subject matter (“Invisible” was inspired by Fred’s experiences while stationed in Munich during the Vietnam War), the album does have its upbeat moments. “Unknown Love” is a fairly standard rock tune, and “Elegance” hints at the brothers’ Latin-music past. The band are at their best, though, during their more experimental, atmospheric moments—they’re not like everybody else, so why not embrace that?
Mahootie play Elks Lodge, 11551 Trask Ave., Garden Grove, (714) 534-0227. Sat., 7 p.m. Visit Mahootie online at www.myspace.com/mahootie.