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 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 ), 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
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:
Support the independent voice of Phoenix and
help keep the future of New Times free.
Cox: What did you say? Did you just say John Mayer?
fan: John Mayer!
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.
being such a character!
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.
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.