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Cosmic Iowa quintet Mondo Drag faces little resistance with its retro inspiration and enormous wall of sound



Mondo Drag with The Boom Bang and The Dull Drums
9 p.m. Thursday
Blue Note Lounge
2408 N. Robinson

"Mondo" " falling somewhere in between "gnarly" and "tubular" in the surfer lexicon " is a term used to describe all things big and awesome, not unlike the huge, layered, cosmic psychedelic anthems of Mondo Drag.

But while the mondo certainly works for the Davenport, Iowa-based group, the drag is deceiving, because for the five members the last year has been anything but.

The musicians started out 2010 as relative unknowns, but have pushed hard ever since, playing gigs at South by Southwest and Austin Psych Fest, supporting acts like The Black Keys and Andrew W.K., and recording their very own Daytrotter session.

The rise of psychedelia has only helped accelerate things. Fellow groups like Black Mountain and Dead Meadow helped prompt the resurrection, and Mondo Drag keyboardist John Gamino said there's a bigger picture to why this type of music has re-emerged.

"I kind of think of it as people making a return to a more natural sound, a more natural style of music," he said. "There's more appreciation for real, vintage musicianship."

Even so, there's a limit to the acceptance, mostly due to losing the perspectives and outlooks so abundant in the '60s and '70s.

"A lot of it has to do with the mind-set of people of that time, which allowed for bands to blow up," Gamino said. "I can't imagine hearing some of the stuff on the radio then now and people liking it at all."

So Mondo Drag has taken to crafting something more contemporary.Although collectively inspired by Pink Floyd, Pentagram and Jimi Hendrix, Gamino said the band brings in a modern edge to set itself apart, borrowing from contemporaries like The Black Angels and fellow Iowans Radio Moscow.

"We have our influences, a certain era of stuff we dig from, but I think we have a more contemporary take on things," he said. "It's a little heavier, a little faster pace. It seems like for the attention span of people today, it needs to be moving on a little bit quicker."

The group hopes to continue refining its sound on its first true West Coast tour, and while a lot of bands lose some of the flourishes that make psychedelic music especially trippy, in translating recording to performing, Gamino said Mondo Drag manages to keep them intact, if destroying your eardrums in the process.

"It's definitely loud," he said with a laugh. "Like ... really loud. It's a wall of sound, but actually pretty close to what you hear on the album. There's a lot of layering and a lot of stuff going on in the background just tucked in there for texturing, and the live stuff breeds true to the album, if a bit more raw."

The guys will keep preaching word of older influences and vintage musicianship in a listener-friendly way with the tour and a new disc currently in the works, all while spreading their wooly, ambiguous name.

"It can mean whatever it means to you. It can mean 'work was a mondo drag today,' or it could be a big dude in women's clothing," Gamino said with a laugh. "That's just up to you." "Joshua Boydston

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