I have seen Maps and Atlases play twice in Austin, and have enjoyed their records, so i was really looking forward to seeing them at the comfort of my home club, The EARL. But they were playing on the Friday before a holiday weekend, which meant that i had a long work week, and was tired before i even got to the show. Oh well.
We walked in a little after 10 or so, and the first band was already playing! We saw about two songs of their set, but i was impressed. There were a lot of keyboards, and the music ebbed and flowed darkly under a moody beat. A girl bounced around and yelled. At the end, a male keyboardist picked up a guitar and hammered away in a very Robin Guthrie style under a ton of effects.
To be honest, i was disappointed i had not seen more of their set. The EARL really is starting shows on time now. Will wonders never cease... Nevertheless, i will be looking for more from this band. They are called Sister Crayon, and from what i could tell do an interesting blend of dreampop and electroclash.
The next band was a completely different matter. This was a three-piece act with quite a few effects pedals. They had a male and a female vocalist, who tended to trade off songs.
Some of the tunes were instrumental songs with ebb and flow in a vaguely Mogwai-esque way. With vocals, well, i got the impression that they were trying to be like Sonic Youth. They failed at that kind of hard. I mean, the female vocalist just couldn't pull it off (her voice was weedy in The EARL) plus, you can't really do the Sonic Youth guitar interplay with only one guitarist.
You can't be BOTH Thurston and Lee at the same time!
I found myself thinking that i should like this band more than i do. They had a lot of elements that i like -- some of the guitarwork was cool, some of the drumming was good, there were some nice keyboard bits -- but the band never jelled as a whole at any one point during their set. It was very disappointing. I kept thinking that the next song would be the one where it all came together, but that never happened. I wonder if they were having a really off night or something. At any rate, when they ended i was stuck in a melancholic funk, thinking that something had just gone wrong, but not sure what it was.
At any rate, this all faded when Maps and Atlases took the stage. They walked out and just tore into it. I want to say that they started with Pigeon, but i might be mistaken. They did play that song as well as the excellent Winter off of their new record.
Their music was clear and crisp in The EARL, soundguy Peregrine making each guitar riff, each drum hit, echo freely through the room.
In a way, seeing this show reminded me of seeing The Dismemberment Plan in 1999. Not in the sound, of course, as the two bands are completely different -- Maps and Atlases are a Chicago math-rock act with high-pitched vocals, while The Plan were DC dance punk. But i mean in the spirit. I felt like i was seeing a young band with a lot of natural talent that take all of the music that has come before them and twist it into something new and exciting. This was not a sold out show, but there was still a lot of energy in the air, as if the whole crowd could feel that we were seeing something special.
I wanted to just stand there and let the music wash over me, to follow the odd melodic lines and complex rhythms, instead of wandering around trying to get a good photo through the crowd, so i apologize for the dearth of photographs here. I really loved their set. It might be my favorite performance so far this year.
I continue to expect big things from Maps and Atlases. If you have the chance, go see them.
The lead singer/guitarist had a modest, but well-utilized, pedal setup.