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  CRYBABY w/ Sharks and Minnows, 3D5SPD, and Faith Kleppinger  
  The Echo Lounge  
  East Atlanta, GA  
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Towards the end of 2001, many local critics declared the Atlanta rock scene dead or dying. Reading our concert reviews, that might seem like a logical conclusion. Certainly it seems that I always end up at the same shows: Rock*a*Teens, American Dream, Sharks & Minnows. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. And although one of my resolutions at the beginning of 2002 (others available upon request) was to go see bands I hadn't encountered before, that doesn't mean I'm willing to neglect the old stalwarts. In any event, after several semi-disastrous outings to see other local bands, I was really happy to come upon the Crybaby album release party. For the first time in a while, I had already seen 3 of the 4 bands, so I knew what I was letting myself in for.

But before we could get into the familiar music, I got to see one new musician: Faith Kleppinger, formerly of Atlanta's Little Bobby Taylors, who is due to release a new album on Two Sheds Music sometime this spring. Several friends of mine have told me that she's an excellent singer-songwriter; others haven't been particularly impressed with her live performances. I wasn't sure how to reconcile the two reports, but I was definitely willing to give Ms. Kleppinger a chance.

Looking back, I can suggest that both viewpoints are perhaps correct. Faith Kleppinger is a good songwriter; her music is catchy and I liked what I could understand of the lyrics. Her delivery reminds me of a semi-acoustic Hope Sandoval -- slightly airy, yet evocative nevertheless. Still the quietness of the music in a somewhat noisy venue reminded me of watching Azure Ray in concert. Although I can tell there is some complexity to the music, I felt that there was a certain sameness to it as well, despite the vocals and 2 guitars a keyboards -- and this might be off-putting to someone who doesn't really get into this type of music. Still, based on what I heard, I'd like to listen to the upcoming album; that way I could really focus on the songs at hand, instead of being distracted by the environmental variables inherent in the live performance.

The next band, 3D5SPD, is one I have encountered a few times over the last few years. On the surface, I can tell you that they're a very competent band: each musician seems quite talented, and it's clear that they interplay with each other in a way that comes only with a great deal of experience. On the other hand, I must confess that 3D5SPD's music is not normally something I like; I honestly can't appreciate jam rock in any form, even if it is well performed, and even if it has new wave overtones. Therefore, I'm not really in a good place to evaluate this band; however I suspect that the music they do perform is done quite well.

After 3D5SPD left the stage, the Minions and I moved closer to the front of the stage in anticipation of the next band: Sharks and Minnows. As I stated above, over the course of last year or so, Sharks and Minnows has become one of the stalwarts of the Atlanta music scene. Invariably, their concerts are energetic and fun affairs, and their brand of post punk is both catchy and clever in turn. On this evening, Sharks and Minnows did not disappoint. The band was tight, and seemed to have gotten over those small glitches I had witness in their more recent performances. The new songs blended in seamlessly with the older material; and we bounced along to a most welcome Def Leppard cover. Finally, the sound at The Echo Lounge brought out one new emphasis: the interplay between Christopher Simony's lead vocals and the backing voice of bassist Chadwick Spangler. This added a slight harshness that reminded me of the blend of voices in bands like the Archers Of Loaf (or maybe even The Poster Children). In any event, it was a welcome highlight, and suggests that Sharks and Minnows are continuing to mature as a performing band, and one who I continue to anticipate seeing in the future.

Finally, it was then time for the headlining event of the evening: Crybaby. Over the course of the past year, their sound has gradually evolved and congealed into a more coherent vision. While this means that their music has become more together and unified, it also means that it's lost a little of the edginess and roughness which I remember from their earliest shows.

Certainly, this show was a great display of both the positive and negatives I mentioned above. From the first, the new, more rocking sound of Crybaby was much in evidence. I rather like this evolution: the guitars and drums propel their music forward without the occasional meandering passage I've noticed in the past. Furthermore, the soaring vocals were reined in, and seemed like just another instrument instead of a potential focal point for the entire band. In other words, Crybaby has become a real band, instead of seeming like a group of musicians who just happen to play with one another.

And yet . . .despite this growth, I have to confess that I was genuinely charmed by the dual impulses of their older material. I liked the inherent battle between the punk sensibilities of the rhythm section, the shoegazer aspects of the guitar, and the classically trained vocalist. It made their music more dynamic, as if every song was a battle for control. These days, it seems like that battle is over. This makes Crybaby a stronger band, but perhaps detracts from the energy and fire. However, I suspect that this may only be a transient flaw, born of working through songs again and again.

Either way, Crybaby did put on a solid, strong performance to end the evening. I left the Echo Lounge happy to have seen all of the bands (even 3D5SPD). It was an enjoyable, fun evening, filled with some of the better rock music you'll find in Atlanta today.

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