At the Aggie Theater Saturday, The Gasoline Lollipops offered a sonic rendering of the contrast their name suggests. The six-piece band, consisting of a drummer, a standup bassist, an electric guitarist, a female vocalist and a male vocalist who plays an acoustic guitar, vacillated between melancholy soundscapes anchored by the bass-fiddle combination and floor-stomping, dance-inducing passages that might be classified as bluegrass if not for the distorted guitar and the pained yet comforting distance of the vocals.
Then again, there were points at which the music sounded more like Son House era blues. At the outset of one piece, the vocalists traded gritty a cappella phrases, between which the instrumentalists added minimalistic fills. Then, the acoustic guitar accelerated the tempo, the bassist settled into a classic bluegrass pocket and the distorted pulses of the electric guitar joined a manic fiddle to create a diabolical potion that induced plenty of head-banging amongst the crowd.
At other points, the pair of vocalists evoked a soulful jazz sound. The distinctive growl of the male vocalist carried the first half of a cover of “I Put a Spell on You.” Then, the female vocalist entered with a mellifluous howl somewhere between Janis Joplin and Amy Winehouse. The guitarist filled the space with clean blues licks that somehow married Chuck Berry and B.B. King.
The band honored the recently deceased Tom Petty with a rendition of “Running Down a Dream” that gained angst and urgency from the density of the soundscape and the appreciation of the crowd.
In a cover of The Pretenders’ “Boots of Chinese Plastic,” the female vocalist adopted a raucous attitude of which Chrissie Hynde would have been proud, if not jealous.
After the obligatory “goodbye” that is never really a goodbye, the band returned with a couplet that encapsulated the paradox that characterized the whole show. A rockabilly lick began a brisk rendition of “Going Home to Georgia” that indeed would have fit well at a barbecue in the American south. Then, the Lollipops bade farewell with “Santa Maria,” which the male vocalist explained as a nod to Mexico. A Latin influence is evident in the song, which begins as a melancholy dirge anchored by the fiddle and the acoustic guitar but becomes an uptempo, menacing affair in which the band channels the likes of Gogol Bordello.