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Antmanbee comes to Oakland's Portlight

For most bands, countless sweaty hours in a tiny practice space yield little in the way of rock stardom. But lady luck is beginning to smile down upon the San Francisco-based trio Antmanbee. These guys may have spent the last two and a half years playing furiously in a dingy and cramped basement -- but now they stand poised to bring the Bay Area music scene a fresh take on the guitar-driven, "big" rock sound.

Bookers on both sides of the Bay have taken note, and the unassuming threesome will soon be seen at a venue near you. This Saturday, in fact, they'll take the stage at the Portlight in Oakland, offering up their swirling melodies, off-the-wall lyrics, and fuzzy bass lines for listeners.

The Antmanbee sound comes from the musical minds and hearts of three old friends: Matt Palmer, singer and bass player; Andrew Shriver, guitarist; Monte Atherton, drummer. They may be only three pieces, but their songs produce lilting walls of sound, recalling everything from Echo and the Bunnymen to Dick Dale or The Butthole Surfers. "I'd call what we're doing some sort of psychedelic rock," says Atherton. "It's a little weird with strange beats and fucked-up lyrics. People might wonder what Matt's going on about. Sometimes I don't know, but it just sounds cool."

This abstract approach creates songs like Colt 45, a slowly climaxing anti-age anthem in which Shriver's blaring guitars offer a counterpoint to Palmer's low-slung baritone. Again and again, he chides, "I don't wanna be 45" in both raucous screams and pained whispers.

Zig-zagging between styles and tempos within songs might make Antmanbee a dizzying listen for some. But perhaps this very quality is their secret weapon against trendy, robotic pop tunes. "Our songs have mixed dynamics: fast and furious or slow and pretty," explains Shriver. "They build and there's always a melody, whether it's a guitar line or a vocal progression. They might start out slow and dreamy and then out of nowhere, there's a cymbal crash. Basically, Antmanbee's music takes you on a ride."

Antmanbee's self-titled, full-length debut album will be out in December.