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  HAYRIDE w/ Ceiling Fan  
  Caledonia Lounge  
  Athens, GA  
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Not too long ago, I spent many of my free evenings driving down to Athens to see concerts. I'd arrive at some little dive bar and watch a local band perform with varying ability to an occasionally interested crowd. It was always low stress and lots of fun and I suspect that at times I was at least as familiar with the Athens music scene as I am with the Atlanta one. But eventually work constraints impeded on my free time and gradually my visits to Athens have become fewer and far between.

With this nostalgia in the back of my head, I was pretty psyched when I made plans to go with friends to the Caledonia Lounge (perhaps my favorite dive-y venue in Athens) to see Hayride and Ceiling Fan. Honestly, I hadn't seen either band in well over a year but, back in the day, they were two of my favorite local bands. Ceiling Fan's appeal was obvious: they sounded like one of those North Carolina indie bands to which I'm always partial. But why did I like Hayride? On the surface, their hard rocking heavy metal meets the Minutemen by way of Athens wouldn't seem like my kind of music. But I'm not above listening to a little straight up rock n' roll every now and then, and Hayride always seemed to have so much fun playing (and if a band seems to enjoy themselves, I'm willing to give them a lot of leeway). More importantly, Hayride always does the best covers; the time I saw them perform Hot for Teacher is still etched on my brain to this day. So I guess you could say I like Hayride because they never seemed to take themselves too seriously.

Anyway, when I finally made it over to the Caledonia, Ceiling Fan were already on the stage. From their first notes, it was apparent that time hadn't really distorted my memories of them. As usual, their music has a sort of laid back, jangly Indie pop feel that sounds like a blend of Ashley Stove and the early Beatles. It's the type of music where you can't help but bounce, even if you don't know the song, because the chords and progressions are somehow familiar without being boring. On top of that, Ceiling Fan lead singer Ben Spraker has a nice enough voice that he can pull off the band's oddball songs (like I'm Boring) without seeming merely quirky and weird. In short they're a fun band: not particularly original and not particularly challenging but rather an entertaining diversion to drink beer to. My only complaint (if you can call it that) in their set was simply the fact that I knew most of the songs. I mean I hadn't really seen this band in over a year, so I would have thought that they would be playing significant amounts of new material. But they didn't - and I have to admit I wasn't really bothered.

On the other hand, I was kind of bothered when Hayride took the stage. You see, the last time I saw them, they were a three piece - guitar, bass, and drums. Since then they've added a second guitar player. One wouldn't think that such a change would have a large effect on a band's sound; however, suddenly the blend of punk and metal in Hayride's music seemed completely tilted towards metal. It was like I was expecting to see Social Distortion and instead got Black Sabbath. Furthermore, the band seemed tighter and more together than I remembered. For most bands this would be a good thing; however, in the context of this show, it didn't really work. Instead of playing loud sloppy rock music, they instead played a semblance of precisely noodling progressive hard rock. All they needed was Geddy Lee howling, and I think they could have done a good Rush impression. In short, it was competent and technically quite good, but it wasn't fun.

I don't know what to make of this show. Clearly, both Ceiling Fan and Hayride are better technically than they were long ago. Each band member seemed to know what the others were doing instinctively, and there weren't any of the little song glitches which I've come to expect (and ignore) from small local bands. So I suppose the differing reactions I had to the two bands is based within me: Ceiling Fan's music simply resonated with me more, and I subsequently really enjoyed their performance.

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