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  The Star Barl  
  Little Five Points, Atlanta, GA  
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I like live music. I like to go to concerts. And sometimes, when there's nothing on my "must see" concert list for a weekend, I like to go out to one of my regular venues and see whoever's playing, even if I have no idea what the bands will sound like. Yeah, it's sort of like a lottery: you're not sure what you're going to get. But it's fun and in my experience, you oftentimes come across good bands that you may not have heard of previously. In fact, that's how I came across the band that ended up releasing my favorite album of 2001.

Anyway, on this evening, I didn't have any other plans, and I wanted to go out. And since it seems like I've been at The Star Bar an awfully lot recently, it somehow made sense to wander over there and check out the two bands. The first band, The Blue Jays, is apparently from Atlanta, although I have to say their name isn't familiar to me. My first impression upon hearing them is that they have a very 50-esque honky-tonk sound. I guess you could say they reminded me of that time in music when some elements of country music started to rock - not quite rockabilly, but pretty close. Also, all of the musicians are talented enough to pay together smoothly, even though at one point they indicated that some of the band was newish. It was enjoyable, and I was very annoyed at the crowd standing near me, who continued to socialize and more or less ignored this band. However, The Blue Jays garnered their attention with the highlight of the evening, a twangy version of The Rolling Stones' 19th Nervous Breakdown. It was good and somehow appropriate, and acknowledged the roots that lay underneath their sound.

After The Blue Jays set, I was somewhat surprised at the 6 men who took the stage as The Countdown Quartet. While they had the usual guitar/drum/bass contingent, the other three comprised a horn section. Based on this and their very retro-Bing Crosby clothes, I wasn't too surprised when their music started off sounding like something like a Dixieland Sock Hop. You know the sound -- The Squirrel Nut Zippers popularized it a while back and brought about those ubiquitous swing dance lessons. It's a sound which is hard to mix in a small club -- the timbres and volumes of the instruments are inherently different, so it's hard to level it all out. But, not surprisingly, the sound guy at The Star Bar has it all figured out. The guitar, bass, and drums seemed to echo through the club while the horns stood out, blasting in the front like one of those crackly 30s jazz records.

Unfortunately, the music didn't entirely stay in the same vein. After a couple of songs, they moved into a style of hip bebop jazz, the type that sings constantly of "lighting up" and 'smoking tea.' It's pleasant enough, filled with long horn interludes alternating with call and response vocals. But its that type of "have a martini and a smoke" music that can be best characterized as "stoner lounge jazz."

I can't say why this didn't appeal to me; the musicians were uniformly excellent and the songs were pleasant. But after a while, the music had a certain sameness that lulled me; I found myself standing there, not really listening, lost in my own thoughts. So I decided to leave before The Countdown Quartet finished their set. This wasn't a reflection on their music; rather it's more a reflection on my mood. On a different evening, in a different mindset, I think I could have liked this band. But instead I left The Star Bar and went home, content with the events (and music) of the evening.

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