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  SPECTRALUX w/ Potomac Accord and Twittering Machine  
  The Star Bar  
  Little Five Points, Atlanta, GA  
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There are always bands who are more impressive live than they are on a recording. A few months back, some of the minions and I went to The Earl to see the Plastic Plan's last show. One of the opening bands that night was a group called The Potomac Accord who hail from St. Louis and played this amazingly intense set of long, droney, almost melancholy songs. I was so impressed at the time that I bought their self-titled album. On the recording, however, the music seemed darker and almost claustrophobic, and I was forced to wonder if perhaps we'd just caught them on a good night. Anyway, when we heard they were coming back, I had to check them out -- I had to know if they could compare with the memory I had of that night.

As a side effect of this outing, I was also lucky enough to have the opportunity to work on my continuing saga of trying to see as many new and different Atlanta bands as possible -- to branch out from the usual musical routine. Tonight, the first of these bands was Twittering Machine. As usual, I wasn't sure what to expect from them. The little I'd read indicated that they were a three piece with cello and accordion. Other than that, I knew nothing about this band.

Suffice to say, I was surprised when it turned out that Twittering Machine is actually a 6 piece band: drums, guitar, bass, vocals/accordion, cello, and trumpet (or was that a coronet? I can never tell). And I have to confess I was a little scared when the female vocalist started off singing acapella in an almost Sarah McLachlan-esque style. But the rest of the band quickly kicked in after this first verse with music that had a Latin jazz feel was most reminiscent of the late, lamented Jody Grind.

Clearly, there were problems. First and foremost, the sound was mixed horribly: the cello was up way too loud and, coming from the PA, the vocals seemed to overwhelm much of the music. Furthermore, the structure of the songs had a sameness that became a little monotonous after a while: begin with a slow ethereal vocal verse, then kick in with the jazz thing. But this didn't detract from the obvious talent of the band, and when I could hear the component parts, I really liked what they were doing, especially during the long instrumental interludes when I would focus on the angular rhythm and chorused guitar and become completely entranced. Twittering Machine are definitely a local band with a lot of potential and I'd like to see them again soon, although preferably in a venue where I could actually hear all of the band.

After a short set up, the three piece Potomac Accord took the stage. On the surface, their sound seems like it should be relatively straight-forward: drums, bass, and a vocalist who alternates between piano and guitar, all playing very energetic yet somehow slightly minor-keyed melodies. But in concert there's so much more to it than that. The band alternates their tone and volume in a manner that recalls Low or, perhaps, The Dirty Three, yet still maintains an intensity which is both quicker and louder than either of the other bands. More importantly, their song structures ebb and flow in a way that compliments their sound. By this, I mean that the songs are, as a whole, long (probably average 8-10 minutes a pop), but contain discrete movements within them where the melody might change, or the rhythm might become faster, or the bass might become more prominent. However, it all flows together without any of the discontinuity that one sees in a lesser band.

And for once, The Earl had the sound right. Yeah, on the whole it was a little loud, but for once you could hear all of the instruments as well as the vocals. And it all seemed balanced. Even the slides that The Potomac Accord projected on the back of the stage worked, coming across as an interesting visual commentary instead of just a pretentious air. As a whole, their set was fairly phenomenal and I was exceedingly disappointed when they left the stage after only 35 minutes. The only thing I could do was turn to PostLibyan (who had ventured out with me) and say, "Wow."

Clearly, The Potomac Accord was going to be a hard act to follow; I did not envy the headliners their task. Spectralux are another one of those local bands who I've never encountered before. Based yet again on what little I've heard about them, it seemed that they would fall into that massive genre generally termed "post punk." From the first, however, it was clear that this band was better than I might have expected. The drums were appropriately driving, the bass thumped right along, and the guitar and keyboard added interesting flourishes. Yeah, the vocalist's outfit deserved a fashion citation for his too-tight Elvis Costello suit, but his vocals in and of themselves had a nice Brit-Pop meets indie rock flair. It was good, clean fun that left me thinking, "Hey, why haven't I gone out to see this band before?"

But the band I came to see had already played, and their set was so impressive that nothing else could really follow it. So, high on the sound of The Potomac Accord, we finished our drinks and left The Earl, driving out into the cool night.

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The first time The Minions experienced The Potomac Accord.


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