Thomas Peake was a local Atlanta music scenester and artist. I guess – i did not know the guy nor was i familiar with his work. However, he did die tragically over the summer, and that is sad enough. Being a local scenester, his death was the cause of a reflective gathering of old friends. And thus, on a chilly Sunday in late December, did i come to be at Eyedrum waiting for Atlanta math-rock history to be made.
I got there a little after 3:30, in time to see the first act gearing in. I wandered around Eyedrum, and ended up sitting outside in the chill reading the news on my iPhone and waiting for friends to show up. They did, and we wandered inside to consider art. Today's art was collage-based – meaning that people with scissors and glue destroyed old magazines in an attempt to say something. Some of the collages looked really interesting, with nicely juxtaposed images. However, i think that paying $200 for something that is, basically, a sixth grade art project is a little outrageous. Then again, i am not an art person.
Just after 4 PM people were allowed to go into the music area of Eyedrum instead of being confined to the gallery space. Eyedrum has added a "bar" area, that is right inside the doorway, which means that there is approximately 2 feet of space between the table that the door person is taking money at and the bar, and if someone is trying to get a drink no one can move into the music space. Logistically this is annoying, but oh well. It's a volunteer art space, and you get what you pay for.
The band we were here to see was set up in the room behind the bar. People on the main stage were getting ready for some sort of jazz performance. There were strings tuned and horns blowing odd wonky notes. But in the back room, there was a rock power trio.
At about 4:10 PM the new band Lumens began to play. This band involves Gary Flom and Ben Davis, who observant EvilSponge readers will know from Moreland Audio and Home of the Wildcats. This time, Ben is on guitar and Gary is on drums, which is new and different for them. Joining them is Benjamin Lukens on bass and vocals. He used to be in The Hal Al Shedad and was also in The Forever War, so all three musicians were familiar faces.
Davis on guitar and Flom on drums, for a change.
And they tore into it, starting with a song that reminded me of The Shipping News. It involved sparse but loud drumming, Davis riffing away on his guitar, and Lukens keeping a simple bass rhythm while chanting vocals that could barely be heard above the din. It sounded awesome! During that song Mr. Davis broke a string, and in the brief intermission while the band decided that he just use Mr. Flom's guitar while someone re-strung his, a 10 year old red headed boy in the audience exclaimed loudly, "I think that wore out my earplugs!" Yeah kid, it gets loud.
Lumens next song featured some interesting basswork and vocals that sounded clearer. I think that during the intermission the vocals were raised in the mix just slightly. In fact, the vocals were the only thing in the "mix" really. The band was playing on a concrete floor with the crowd just feet away. What we heard come straight from the amplifiers. Anyway, raised up in the mix slightly, Mr. Lukens voice reminds me of that of Mark E. Smith. It is the rhythmic spoken word style that makes that connection i think. The third song was a similar tune, except the playing seemed angrier somehow.
It's-a Benjamin-a Lukens-a!
The fourth and final song they played was different. It started very slowly, Lukens ranting away over tapped drums, an insistent bass riff, and some sparse guitarwork from Davis. Then in the middle, it unexpectedly veered off into some heavy riffing. All three musicians were pounding away at their instruments while Lukens yelled to be heard over the sheer noise of it all. It was a rather glorious song, and a great way to end the set. Always leave the crowd wanting more.
Lumens, at their first live show.
And they did have a crowd. There were about 30 or so people crammed into the back music room, including long term scenesters (all three Rizzudo brothers were present, as was the vocalist from Lay Down Mains, and many others), assorted wives/girlfriends, and of course, children. It was strange to me to see small kids (some really young ones – 2 or so – toddling around the art work, as well as pre-teens watching the music) at a show. Sign of the times i guess.
And then, next, Flom took up his guitar, Davis retrieved his re-stringed guitar, and long absent drummer Scott Robbins took his place behind the kit. They weren't wearing suits, but Purkinje Shift looked much like they did back in the day.
Scott Robbins back from retirement.
I was always a huge fan of this band. In fact, you can hear me yelling something on the recording of their last show that is circulating the internet! To me, The Purkinje Shift were the best live band Atlanta had to offer.
Davis played towards Robbins, not the crowd.
The three of them would take the stage and play for a half hour or so, just straight through, like they were doing one long song. One long song that veered all over the place, with odd rhythms and strange time changes and guitars that dueled and ebbed and flowed… Their live sets always fascinated me. I loved watching the riffing, the dynamic interplay between the performers, and was always entertained by what i heard. Seeing The Purkinje Shift led me to the math-rock genre.
Flom on guitar.
The Purkinje Shift played for about 20 minutes this afternoon. A reunion show for a departed friend, nine years after they had last shared a stage. To be honest, it sounded great. The three of them just fell into the old rhythms easily, like it was the 1990s all over again.
Music is a serious thing for Mr. Davis.
I stood there and let the music wash over me, bopping my head and tapping my feet in a futile attempt to follow the rhythms. There were parts i knew, and parts that i had forgotten i knew. What songs did they play? I have always been terrible at song titles.
Flom rocks out.
I realized that i had missed this band and missed this sound. Why did math-rock fade from popularity? Why does no one do this type of thing anymore?
Well, those of us who still keep the faith gathered at Eyedrum, this chilly late December afternoon, and i cannot, in all honesty, think of a better afternoon.