Concert Review

Concert Review: Atlas Sound and Broadcast at Rhythm Room

It was a rollercoaster of emotions at the Rhythm Room last night for the Atlas Sound/ Broadcast show, which was fitting considering the State Fair is on its way out this weekend. While this show, priced at $15, was probably cheaper than the sketchy-ride, deep-fried gorge fest, I couldn't help but head home at nearly 2a.m. a little disappointed, as the high points of the evening were entirely provided by the wonderful Bradford Cox of Atlas Sound, whose latest album Logos has been topping indie music charts since it's release only a few weeks ago.

First off for the night was the band Seminaries. Based out of Athens, GA, the quartet (who later accompanied Cox in Atlas Sound), started off with a seemingly promising composition of dreamy synth lines and three-part harmonies. However, this novelty quickly waned as their songs were repetitive and anti-climactic. Their droning synth-percussion-bass-guitar songs sounded pretty upon first contact, but when you probe deeper into it, Seminaries, although entirely competent in their skill, just did not deliver to an already impatient Rhythm Room crowd. Halfway through their set, I had a moment of "why am I not slamming myself against people at the Lawrence Arms show tonight?" Had I know the show would start so late (the bands needed to sound check, so Seminaries didn't go on until 9:45), I probably would have been able to pull off both.

With a short intermission, Atlas Sound took the stage. Logos is definitely one of the best albums to come out this year, and so I was curious as to how the record's textures and samples would be replicated live. The beautiful thing about the show was that it wasn't. Cox had stripped down most of the instrumentation on the record to transform solid songs into a more mellow and approachable full-band set. Cox took the stage with an acoustic guitar and harmonica on hand and started off the song "My Halo," which immediately grabbed the entire room's attention (with the exception of the bar, of course). The song, which was full of nature and imagery, was an intimate beginning to what followed as a strong and captivating performance. Picking up an electric guitar for the second song, Cox started up with Seminaries' Jason Harris into the track with a clunky, disjointed synth as the percussion built up into big, booming drums. For the most part, this was Atlas Sounds' theme of the night; warm and inviting songs fluctuating from what felt like a quiet conversation to an all-out eruption of exuberance. All the while, their songs were sweet, airy, and non-intrusive; beautifully escalating without overbearing a single person in the crowd.

The slight reverb on Cox's vocals had a vintage charm, as though Phil Spector himself had chosen the settings. Even the Seminaries boys didn't disappoint this time around. Who knew that that that bland opening band could transform into a group that sounded so grand? I think it is safe to say that with Cox's direction, the group obtained the fine-tuning they needed to enhance their live performance. Other highlights in the set include the guest appearance of Broadcast's Trish Keenan on the song "Walkabout," manning vocal duties originally recorded by Noah Lennox of Animal Collective/Panda Bear, as well as an amazing rendition of the song "Sheila."

Now, while I don't like to gossip about band drama, especially dealing with confrontations between a band and it's audience, I do have to tell you about the on-stage tiff that occurred towards the end of Atlas Sounds' set. A man by the name of "Karl," heckled Cox in between songs with what, to most people in the room, was one of the most insulting things you can say to someone with Marfan's Syndrome. But first, let me set the scene for you...

All was quiet at the venue as Atlas Sound was wrapping up their last couple of songs. While tuning his guitar, someone yelled out John Mayer. The exchange went as follows:

            Bradford Cox: What did you say? Did you just say John Mayer?

            Anonymous fan: John Mayer!

            BC: Oh, John's still chilling backstage...drinking a Coors Light...he's still getting over the World Series. Has that happened yet?

The room laughed. Our frontman was charming us and had shown us that he wasn't the Ice King. He had the entire room on his side. Enter Karl.

            Karl: Quit being such a character!

            BC: Excuse me?

            Karl: Go eat a fucking hamburger!

This is where the scene gets messy. This Karl character had struck a very personal nerve, which caused a shocked Cox to ask his tour manager to pull this man up on stage. Karl, willingly abiding to the request, had nothing to say into the microphone as the entire venue turned on him. It was a fatal blowout, complete with Karl being escorted out of the venue. Was this justice? I would assume so. Later on, I discovered that this Karl character did not know about Cox's condition, which totally sucks because now he's been dubbed "that asshole."

Cox picked up the guitar once more, attempting to play his last song but was flustered and distracted. The nerve was still throbbing and he stopped mid-sentence and apologized to the crowd for not being able to continue. He thanked people like Karl because as he said: "If it wasn't for ignorance and disrespect, we'd have nothing to fight for in this world."

The crowd went wild. 

Somehow, I am supposed to continue and tell you about Broadcast. However, we are back to square one. I could go on and on about how repetitive and boring their attempt at an improvisational noise jam was, because as a noise fan myself, I found it to be lazy considering what I know they are capable of, but instead I will sum up the core of their entire set. Keenan is the strongest element of this band. Sure, Broadcast has great records, however, over the years extra band members have fallen out of the picture and the duo did not have enough to stimulate me. Their projection screen was neat for a few minutes before I realized that its purpose seems to be to keep my attention because the music wasn't. When they finally finished their 20 minutes of noise (can you even call quiet tinkering and drone, noise still?), they began playing skeletons of what their songs used to be. Appalled by how they played hits like "Black Cat," I couldn't keep my eyes open and contemplated leaving. I gave them another couple of songs, but it became clear that the almost soul-less performance was not going to be getting much better at all. It's a shame, too. Keenan seriously has a great 60s voice. She is versatile and had great control. However, when you're starting to sound like Grace Slick mid-Airplane to Starship transition before they knocked her off of primary vocal duties, then it's safe to say that it was probably nothing short of boring. Sorry Broadcast, maybe next time.

Critic's Notebook: 

Last night: Seminaries, Atlas Sound, and Broadcast at Rhythm Room. 

Note: Next time you heckle someone who's on stage in front of dozens of adoring fans, you should probably make sure they don't have some sort of illness or anything. It's like unknowingly heckling a cancer patient for being bald...not cool. 

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Frances Michelle Lopez