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  MASERATI w/ The Mercury Program and Fin Fang Foom  
  The Earl  
  East Atlanta, GA  
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I have been wanting to see Maserati ever since February of this year. I went out on another Friday that they headlined The Earl, and was frustrated by the insanely late hour. See, i had to get up at 6:30 that morning for a big presentation at work and when it hit 1 AM and they were still setting up .... Well, i have already ranted about that issue once here, so i won't go into it again. Let's just say that i have been hoping to catch a full Maserati show for 9 months now.

And tonight was to be the night. I got to bed early on Thursday to get a full nights sleep, but unfortunately was awakened at 6:30 once again, this time not by my alarm, but by fighting cats. Sigh. So it was another long night, but i fortified myself well with coffee, and headed off to The Earl.

The first act, Fin Fang Foom, went on just after 10:30, which is pretty much on schedule. The vocalist sniffled a lot, and in general acted like he had a cold. But he did mention that they are a North Carolina band, which makes sense, seeing as their brand of rock seemed heavily influenced by Polvo. They were a three piece: a drummer, a guitarist who also had one of those "DJ style keyboard and mixers in one" sort of things, and the singer/bassist who also had a full keyboard. There music was harder rock, with strange time signatures and odd beats and keyboardy bits thrown in. The fusion of punk and math rock.

I was pleasantly impressed with their set: they started playing to about 15 people, but they still threw themselves into it with abandon. Of course, they might not have known how empty the club was: at one point the vocalist squinted past the stage lights and said, "I can hear you out there, but i can't see you." It had never occurred to me that those lights might serve to protect bands from knowing how empty their shows are.... At any rate, people were slowly filing in, and Fin Fang Foom seemed to get a good reception.

I enjoyed their set. But i think one thing is noteworthy: the bassist seemed to be playing some amazingly complicated stuff. I spent most of the show watching his fingers fly over the fretboard. It was more like what a guitarist would do than your standard "pluck pluck thump" bass playing. He is obviously very talented, as were the other two members.

After their set was over, The Mercury Program started setting up. I had heard the name of this band before, and for some reason thought that they were a shoegazer act. Instead the obvious reference point is Tortoise. Their set up included a vibraphone, a xylophone, an organ, drums, guitar and bass. But there were only five bnad members, which meant that the drummer and the other percussionist/keyboardist kept moving around between songs. So the vibraphone was not featured in every song, but it was featured prominently. And it sounded great: i just love the rich sound of those things.

It is probably their use of vibraphone and xylophone that made them seem Tortoise-y. However, where Tortoise have a jazz feel i would say that The Mercury Prgram have a rock feel. It's a subtle difference (especially given the lack of vocals), but there seemed to be more grooving less insanely complicated rhythms.

Anyway -- they were amazing. They sounded really good in The Earl (props to the New Sound Guy! YOU RULE!), and their long songs flowed and ebbed with walls of melody and chiming chords. It was a really beautiful set that i thoroughly enjoyed. Not every seemed to agree with me, as the crowd slowly ebbed out to the front bar. Oh well, i suppose that they are not for everybody, but i really enjoyed it. If you are a fan of Tortoise or Do Make Say Think, check this band out. I bet you'll like them.

So, around 12:30, Maserati began to set up. I was sleepy, but not too far gone. Thank goodness for the magic of coffee!

Maserati are a four peice: two guitars, bass, and drums. They set up a little differently though: the drummer plays at stage center, the guitarists on either side, and the bassist wanders around at the back of the stage. Not a typical set up, but i guess it works for them.

Musically, Maserati are an instrumental post-rock band in the vein of Mogwai. Heavily effected guitars dominate their sound. However, they use less of the "soft to loud" dynamic than do Mogwai. That is, their songs are a little more consistent, and do not vary greatly in volume. It seemed like they played a very short set. It was very enjoyable though: nice guitar driven post-rock. If you like that sort of stuff, go check them out.

One last thing that i simply MUST mention: the sound at The Earl tonight was exquisite. Everything sounded great, even the vibraphone! Unusual for The Earl, which is normally the home of "muddy" sound. There was someone i had not seen before manning the mixing deck, and he did a great job. Let's hope he sticks around....

The overall verdict for tonight: a very enjoyable low-key show. All of the musicians were good at what they do, and it came across very well. However, it was not the most original of shows. You will notice that i kept comparing the bands to others that you have heard of: yes, many of their influences are fairly obvious. And if you don't like the comparisons, then these acts won't impress you. If, however, you are into those "mainstream" post-rock bans, then these three acts will please you.

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