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  The Earl  
  East Atlanta, GA  
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Sound Quality:
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If you read many of our concert reviews, it probably seems like we minions are obsessed by sound quality. From the way we're always going on and on about how well the concert is mixed, you'd think that the music itself doesn't matter. That perception isn't exactly true: an excellent mix can't hide the limitations of a mediocre band. However, a bad mix can really ruin one's appreciation of the live concert experience and make it nigh impossible to evaluate the music.

Anyway, this particular concert is one I've been anticipating for a quite a while: I've been eager to get my hands on the new American Dream album. And since this was their album release show, I was expecting the band to play a good, long set to a eager, expectant crowd. I was also looking forward to the two opening acts: Victory Girls and 3D5SPD. However, when we got to the EARL, we discovered that the first band had cancelled, so we had only one opener to enjoy.

The first thing I thought when 3D5SPD took the stage was, "I knew a hippie boy once; I didn't like jam rock then, and I don't like it now." From where I stood, the very loud, long, and noodling keyboard bits really reminded me of a King Crimson wannabe which overwhelmed the vocals and distracted from the nice guitar work being performed. However, when I moved over to comment to the other Minions about this issue, they immediately pointed out that all they could hear from where they were standing was the bass (and not the keyboards), so they weren't sure what I was talking about.

And that's when it hit me: the sound mix at this show was terrible. It wasn't that 3D5SPD had decided to emphasize one instrument to the detriment of others; rather they had no control over the soundboard and its limitations. I honestly began to feel sorry for this band. Watching them play, they certainly seemed like good musicians. Unfortunately, because I couldn't hear the band as a whole, I couldn't grasp exactly what they were trying to sound like. I'd like to hear them in another location so I could give them a fair evaluation, instead of writing them off as I was first inclined.

The problems with the opening set's sound did not bode well for the headliner. With their odd instrumentation and numerous members, American Dream is not an easy band to mix well. And unfortunately, on this evening, my fears were realized. Instead of hearing the distinct sound of every instrument, it all blended together like a bunch of sonic mud: the cello blended with the bass, the keyboards crackled with occasional static, and David Railey's voice was apparently phoned in via tin can. About the only thing to resonate properly was the drums; however solid percussion does not a good show make.

Still, despite the sound problems, the band tried gamely, playing songs from the new album. And I found myself enjoying the show, singing along with the material and dancing to the beat. It wasn't as good of a concert as I've seen American Dream perform, but it was solid and shows a consistency which comes from playing out a lot. However, whether it was the sound issues or illness or whatever, they left after a rather short set, and didn't come back for an encore. This was a little bit of a letdown, but I suppose it was understandable.

Over the past few months, I've praised The Earl for its atmosphere and its booking. However, it takes a show like this to remind me that occasionally its concert sound is hit or miss. Unfortunately, this Curse of East Atlanta rebounded on two local bands who deserved much better; I'm convinced that underneath the muddy mix, there was a good concert just waiting to get out.

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