This concert had a lot of subtext. First, it was the official album release party for This Is Not A Film, the newest release by local band Underwater. Secondly, it was a benefit for The Bridge, a home for abused children. (Apparently Underwater donated their share of the door reciepts to the Bridge.) And thirdly this concert showcased three (or four) acts on new Atlanta label Sub:marine Records.
I got there around 10:15, to find really nice deep bass beats permeating The Echo and two DJ's huddled over a table in the back of the stage. The two DJ's, one male and one female, switched back and forth -- one hovering over the table mixing the records, the other crouching to the side. They seemed to have several heated debates about what to play -- apparently their set was not fully planned out in advance.
At any rate, they were pretty cool -- like i said, there was some really really nice bass beats coming from the sound system. It seemed very dub to me. In fact i am pretty certain that one piece mixed the bass and snare riff from Towers Of Dub by The Orb with the rhythym from Musst Musst by Nusrat Fateh ali Khan as remixed by Massive Attack. Not only could i recognize what they were mixing (i think), but it went together really really well.
Anyway, this might have been the fourth Sub:marine band that i mentioned above. You see, those two DJs might have been Sub:marine recording artists Larvae. It would make sense, but i never thought to ask anyone at the label merchandise table. Oh well. They were quite good though. The music was very suited to just hanging out at the club and chatting with friends.
After listening to the DJ's for half an hour, Tourmalin took the stage. They are a local band whose members i see at all kinds of shows. And, it is interesting to note, they are all really short. I think the bassist was the tallest, and she is a full head shorter than me! And i am not really tall! Not that this affects the quality of their performance, but it is interesting to note.
Otherwise, Tourmalin were pretty good for a young opening band. They feature really simple bass riffs (i think the bassist really only used the top string on her instrument), guitar with incredible amounts of echo, a laptop used for simple beats, and richly melancholy vocals from the very short vocalist.
I found the use of the laptop extraneous -- none of the drumming was odd. They could easily have hired a drummer to do that in concert, which would have given them a fuller sound, i think. I take issue with using sequenced beats when they are not complex. Heck, i know two or three drummers with nothing to do -- come talk to me and i'll find one for ya!
Otherwise, the guitar was quite nice, although not as loud in the mix as i would have liked. The guitarist used lots of pedals, and most of them he never changed during the performance, seeing as they were set up on top of his amp where he could not really stomp on them.
I liked the guitar sound, but it was slightly buried by the voice. That's okay, because the voice is the real highlight of this band. The vocalist has a rich full voice that drips of sadness. I think it is the "tone" that she sings in -- "alto" maybe. I dunno, i can't tell those sort of things from just listening. She was not a "soprano" though, i can tell you that.
Anyway, i found Tourmalin pleasant -- nice mellow music to get the show started. By the end of their set i was ready for them to be done though -- there just was not enough variety in the music to hold my interest for the whole 45 minutes that they played.
So after Torumalin left the DJ's started playing once again. A full 45 minutes after that, and Tourmalin are broken down and wandering in the crowd and Audomobil? are all on stage. At this time the sound guy thinks "Hey -- i should do a sound check!" Another frustrating 15 minutes later (i hate waiting an HOUR between acts), and Audomobil? start to play.
And they were worth the wait. The lineup includes dueling synth/keyboards, fuzzed out guitar, great bass riffs, and (live) drumming. In fact, it was watching this band (who oddly enough all sat for the duration of their set) play that i realized exactly how much better live drumming sounds. I do not think that this drummer was doing anything too complicated, but the live drums added so much to the liveliness of the sound that it really stood out against the previous act.
I liked the instrumentation of Audomobil?, but i also really liked their compostions. The closest comparison i have is to Godspeed You Black Emperor!. Which is to say that Automobil? songs seem to have movements -- they will go along nicely at one tempo with a particular rhythm for a while, and then suddenly everything shifts. It was a really nice effect. I think that they played about five songs like this in the 40 minutes of the abbreviated set. Really nice.
This band is supposedly from Birmingham, AL. Also, they have supposedly joined the Sub:marine roster, so i look forward to seeing them again when they can play a longer set.
So Audomobil? left the stage, and the DJ's came back. Only for about 20 minutes or so this time, then the lady who runs The Bridge (the place this show is benefitting, remember?) came out and read an essay by some child. It was akward, seeing as it was already about 1:15 when she started and the crowd was restless, but i guess that is the price i pay for going to a benefit.
After The Bridge lady was done, Underwater quickly took the stage and started playing. They were aware of the late hour, and wanted to get things going. The funny thing about this is that they took the stage so fast that the DJs did not have time to get off stage! They spent the show huddled near their DJ table at the back of the stage. In about the middle of the set, Underwater vocalist Melissa Mileski apparently noticed them for the first itme, since she rushed over to talk to the DJs during an instrumental break in a song. Those poor DJ's! Oh well, i found it funny....
Another thing that led me to believe that Underwater were annoyed that the show was running so late is that Mileski made several comments to the crowd "We'll move this along so that everyone can go to bed!" Apparently it was past her bedtime! If only all Atlanta musicians were like that....
Anyway, Underwater put on what i thought was great set. They played most (if not all) of This Is Not A Film and it sounded really good on stage. Mileski was belting out the tunes in her powerful voice, which seemed even more impassioned on stage than she does on the album! Guitarist/keyboardist/sledding victim Jeremy Wilkins was great too -- he was surprisingly active for someone who broke their back a few months ago! Underwater rounded out their sound with sequenced bass, a keyboardist/backing vocalist (who quite nicely filled in around the sound of Mileski's voice), and a drummer who played a combination of real drums and electornic drums.
The new songs sounded good live -- a wonderful mix of electronica and analogica style music. Live guitars and kick drum with sequenced bass and distorted beats. And over it all Mileski's voice, which was not mixed too high but clearly dominated the preceedings.
Underwater played until almost 2:30 (way past this Minion's bedtime), and i thoroughly enjoyed their set. I recommend going to see them if they play near you on their brief southeastern tour. And they will be doing an instore performance at Criminal Records on 18.March for all you Atlantans.
A good night. If only it had not had so many long pauses between bands....