Hypnotic Effect

Alexandria's Mesmers cast a spell with hazy, psychedelic rock and dub

Hitting the Capital Pride main stage last year in 2006 was a big deal for the Mesmers.

”It was the biggest audience we had ever played for,” says Michael ”Fitz” Fitzgerald, lead singer for the local rock band based out of Alexandria.It was also the first Pride event for Fitzgerald’s counterpart, Jay Ridgeway, as well as all but one of the duo’s support players.”I’ve been going to Pride for a long time,” says the 39-year-old Fitzgerald. But for his straight cohorts, ”it was kind of exotic. They had heard all these wild stories.”

It wasn’t as wild as advertised, of course — but the Mesmers put a spell on the crowd just the same with its brand of hazy, psychedelic rock with modern touches from electronica and dub. It’s what you might call modern mood music, influenced by Fitzgerald’s love of films like Dark City and The Matrix. Technically, the band calls its sound ”a cross between The Doors and Beck,” with some Thievery Corporation thrown into the mix. And they’re thrilled to get the chance to do it all again this year.

The Mesmers

Fitzgerald, the duo’s principal songwriter, has only recently written or recorded songs that are gay- and gender-specific. For example, an EP the band intends to release later this summer will include a cover of Kraftwerk’s ”The Model,” about a fashion model the singer covets. ”I changed all the lyrics from she to he,” Fitzgerald says.

Fitzgerald, who grew up in the area, and Ridgeway have performed together in various bands since their college days at Old Dominion University. They formed the Mesmers about two years ago because they were looking to create a new sound.

”All the bands we were involved in really wanted to go for grunge-punk or they wanted to do classic rock,” Fitzgerald says. ”We wanted to do something that’s different, a little more modern and not the same thing that you would hear from all the other bands in the area.”

A private investigator by day as well as a web designer, Fitzgerald, who started out as a keyboard player, took up singing and songwriting out of frustration. ”None of the bands I was in were writing what I thought were good-enough tunes, and they’d have singers that couldn’t really sing.”

Fitzgerald says he gets a kick out of performing at Pride, and experiencing the crowd from the vantage point of the stage: ”It’s a really great time.”

The Mesmers are scheduled to perform Sunday, June 10, at approximately 3:20 p.m. on the Capital Pride Festival Mainstage.

Doug Rule is a theater critic and contributing editor for Metro Weekly.

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