Friends, Atlantans, Music Geeks, lend me your
I come to bury The Rock*a*Teens, not to praise them.
Itís hard for me not to turn this review into an elegy; itís
a known fact of my life that The Rock*a*Teens are easily my
favorite Atlanta band (and have been for some years). But all
things must end (despite the apparently contrary examples of
and this was the night. There was no formal announcement, just
the word of mouth that passes from band to friend to acquaintance
to fan; Iíd like to think that had people known, more would
have shown up for this final performance. But thatís sort of
jumping into the middle of the story...
As I said last year, historically, New Yearís Eve has been
a bad night for me. Luckily last
yearís show changed all that. And I have to admit, when
I first heard of this concert, I began to think that perhaps
this 12/31 wouldnít be so bad. Of course, I had my doubts when
the first act, shannonwright, took the stage. As an act, shannonwright
gets the dubious distinction of being better than A Fir-Ju Well.
However, thatís not being fair to Shannon Wright, the singer/songwriter.
I have some of her albums, which I like. And Iíve seen several
of her performances, which have varied widely as to style and
quality. In short, I like her songwriting in general and her
performance in theory. But sometimes the actuality is disappointing
Unfortunately, as you may guess from the above, this was one
of those disconcerting shows. Now maybe it was the mood or the
expectation, but a noisy, angry, wailing performance was not
what I needed. I thought back to the days of the ďkeynote visualizerĒ
and an acoustic guitar with fondness as I watched her writhe
on the stage and yelp. I know many people seemed to enjoy it,
and perhaps I would have too on a different night. But on this
evening, I was ready to move on, and it certainly seemed like
her nearly hour long set lasted nigh-unto-forever.
Afterwards, The 45s were due up. I think the first time I ever
saw The 45s was at the late, lamented Point, headlining after
The Titanics (who at that time had 2 members of The Rock*a*Teens
in it). I didnít like them much at first, but as time went on,
I came to appreciate their straight-up 60s keyboard-driven rock
sound. Itís fun and you can dance to it (take that Dick Clark!).
However, after their debut album, I sort of fell out of touch
with this band, and this was the first time Iíd seen them in
about a year or so.
After seeing this performance, I can say that I still like
them. Their sound seems a bit crunchier and the keyboards seem
a bit more prominent. But itís still fun and danceable and for
New Yearís Eve, they seemed like a great choice. Unfortunately,
because of the long opener, The 45s were still tuning at midnight,
and they didnít play that long. It was a shame, because everyone
I could see seemed to be having fun listening to them.
Then The Rock*a*Teens took the stage to a maybe 2/3 full Echo
Lounge, and it was like old times. In past reviews, Iíve described
them in terms ranging from loose to playing with minimal screw-ups
to awe-inspiring. All of those were true on this last show,
with awe-inspiring perhaps coming closest to hitting the experience.
Furthermore, on this last evening, it seemed as if they were
moving at breakneck speed, barreling through a range of songs
which covered their entire career. And what an amazing group
of songs they played, from their only recorded cover (Iím
your Puppet) to their most driven (Black Ice) to
my personal favorite (Donít Destroy this Night) to the
carnivalesque (Car and Driver) to the almost elegiac
(To Lady Ben and all her Friends). And despite a few
mishaps, it was all like I remembered: loud, fast, echo-y music
played by the only band I know which consistently sends chills
down my spine. Soundwise, it was a mixed bag. Where I was standing,
you pretty much heard the guitars and a few vocals and the drums
(especially the ubiquitous ride cymbal), but the bass seemed
a bit low, and I couldnít hear the keyboards at all. But apparently
that was a flaw down front; others I talked to felt that the
guitars were a little loud, but otherwise it was good.
After they left the stage for the final time, it really hit
me: this was the last time to see this band whose music has
brought so much to me. Like other bands Iíve discussed before,
when I first saw The Rock*a*Teens, I didnít particularly care
for them. Over a few months and with the help of severe personal
trauma, I changed my opinion. Eventually it got to the point
that their concerts (and they were always a live band -- nothing
theyíve ever recorded measures up to the strength of their concerts)
were wonderfully cathartic, as Iíd stand there and let the wall
of vocals, reverb, and drums wash over me. At the end Iíd smile
and laugh, joyous from having seen so much energy and terrible
musical beauty on one stage. In their heyday, The Rock*a*Teens
were glorious, and Iím glad I got a chance to see them as often
as I did. And now theyíre gone.
My heart is in the coffin there with the Rock*a*Teens,
And I must pause till it come back to me.