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  RED HOUSE PAINTERS w/ Champale  
  The Variety Playhouse  
  Atlanta, GA  
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It was raining in Atlanta as we walked through Little Five Points on the way to the Red House Painters show. The rain seemed appropriate for a show of slow vaguely melancholy and very beautiful music. To me, rain puts a low glow on life, making it clamer and more introspective. Rain falling has a slow repetitive sound, and trees covered in drops seem extra lovely. Likewise, the Red House Painters make slow songs about the complexities of human interactive complete with repetitive guitar riffs. I find that listening to Red House Painters in the rain goes well together. As well as, say, peanut butter and chocolate. Yum.

Since it was raining, and Brillo, Tracers, and i were somewhat damp by the time we reached The Variety Playhouse. The AC was on in the auditorium, but it wasn't cranked up so high that i got cold. In fact, it was only slightly chilly and slightly humid inside. Pleasant to not be sweating in Atlanta in late June.

We got there around 7:45. At 8:30 opening act Champale took the stage. They were a six piece: vocals/vibraphone, vocals/guitar, bass, drums, trumpet, saxaphone, and pedal steel guitar.

As they walked on stage Tracers muttered, "They're like the unholy fusion of Lambchop and Japancakes." And she was right -- later the guitarist introduced the pedal steel player as being on loan from Japancakes, and their music had that vaguely slow jazz undertone that i associate with Lambchop.

I would describe Champale's music as light pop with different instrumentation. Technical difficulties aside (it took the first song and a half to get the pedal steel plugged in correctly), it was interesting. I liked the juxtaposition of the rocking core of the band with the jazz side elements -- long mournful trumpet solos, harmonica melodies, and the vibraphone which at times was played with mallets and on one song was played with a violin bow (which made a really neat sound!).

There were some clunkers though -- the microphone on the sax sometimes jumped or dropped in volume level. There was a ponderous vibraphone solo that i could have lived without. But on the whole i enjoyed their set. Brillo, however, seemed bored by the slow nature of their songs.

At the very least -- they were an interesting opener who really benefitted from the great sound at The Variety Playhouse. I would see them again, but i am very skeptical of the prosepect of them sounding good in a more "rock n roll bar" type of venue.

After a brief interlude, Red House Painters took the stage. By this time The Variety Playhouse had filled up quite nicely. People applauded and then sat quietly waiting for RHP to play. Something i noticed about this show: (the annoying people behind us aside) the crowd was very quiet.

Over the entire venue there was a slight pall of quiet introspection. When somebody dropped a beer bottle it rattled through the whole club. This seemed to happen a lot. Mostly people sat and listened.

All of this fits in with Tracers' theory about bands -- musicians attract fans who are like them. Red House Painters are quiet reflective types, and their fans seem to mirror that.

Now, at most shows about half of the crowd is there to listen and the other half is there to socialize. Bands play with their amps cranked in order to be heard over the din of 500 people chatting about their oh so cool and interesting lives. This is simply something that one expects going to concerts. The absence of the chatting socialites was, therefore, noticable during the Red House Painters set. It was as if the only people who bothered to show up were the real fans, and each of us waited expectantly for wisdom to be dispensed from the mouth of Mark Kozelek.

And, despite his somewhat mopey persona, Kozelek was funny. His between song banter got the crowd laughing several times. His friendliness combined with the solitary melancholy of his music put me at ease. I was truly and utterly relaxed and totally enjoying myself. It was like hanging out with old friends -- a thousand of them. No bad vibes. No anger. Just enjoyment in the company of fellow human beings. As a shy person, i often feel akward and out of place at social events (like all of the concerts i force myself to go to). This concert was the first time in ages where i did not feel self-conscious at all. I think that this had to do with the general atmosphere created by Kozelek and company.

For that reason alone, this might have been the best concert i have seen this year.

On top of that, the music was great. The Red House Painters played long slower versions of many songs i know and love, including Grace Cathedral Park, Michigan, and New Jersey. Their set wandered through their catalog and also included Leather And Lace, the old Stevie Nicks tune, with Kozelek singing the Don Henley's countermelody in falsetto, much to the delight of the crowd.

Throughout the set, Kozelek's voice was clear and powerful. The guitar work was slow and full of gorgeous arpeggios. The bass and drums anchored the songs quite well. One thing i noticed, and i have noticed this listening to RHP albums as well -- sometimes it just seems as if the slow pace of the band cannot contain the drummer, and suddenly the drums explode out of nowhere, becoming loud and fast. During these interludes the rest of the band just sort of continues on as before, as if they are indulging their drummer. As if they expect that every once in a while he will just have to "rock out". At any rate, it all works within the context of their songs. It was just funny to see the drummer back their going at it like mad while the bassist and two guitarists just kind of strummed along lightly.

Since RHP songs tend to be long, and they get even longer when done live, the band played for an hour and forty-five minutes. The set ended with an abridged version of Have You Forgotten, a personal favorite. "That," Tracers said to me after the last notes drifted off to delighted applause, "sent shivers down my spine. Beautiful."

During the intermission the crowd waited expectantly for the encore. There was some conversation and continued clapping, but it seemed as if most were just waiting. Again, the quiet thing.

The encore was great: Kozelek came out alone with an acoustic guitar and played a version of Rock N Roll Singer that was slower than the excellent version on his EP of the same name. Then he graced the crowd with "a stupid song about my cat" (Wop A Din-Din, the opened of the most recent RHP album Old Ramon) that was funny and sad at the same time (i could not imagine being on tour for three months without my cats!). The rest of the band joined him finally and they played around, covering Skynrd, and eventually going into a slow confused version of Make Like Paper.

Overall, Red House Painters played for a total of 2 and a half hours. They were silly and played long jamming versions of their songs. I can see how some people might have considered the show self-indulgent. They were just playing around having fun. Verses were dropped. Songs ended suddenly. But it was all done in the spirit of fun.

I truly loved this evening. Perfectly relaxed and with great music. I had so much fun. I wonder when they will tour next?

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