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.