In 2007 i moved to Decatur, the old part of Atlanta, just east of the city center. Shortly thereafter, Kavarna opened as a coffee shop in Oakhurst, which is on the other side of the railroad tracks from my home. In fact, i have never actually been to Kavarna, but i do ride my bike past it on a semi-regular basis. I was looking forward to checking the place out.
Kavarna is a coffee shop in historic Oakhurst.
Doors were at 9, which is kind of a misnomer. I mean, the coffee shop was open all day, so technically i could have got there at 9 AM and camped out at the good table right in front… But not this time. EvilSponge showed up around 9 PM, and the first band was sound-checking, so we grabbed a coffee and a table. Kavarna is a coffee shop, but they also serve beer on tap and have lots of wine. I think they also serve food – i know that there were desserts in a display case, and there might have been entrees available as well. I had a cup of coffee, and it was a decent brew.
Physically, Kavarna is about the size of the 529 club, and similar in layout. That is, there are two rooms – one with the bar and various wine racks and refrigerators, and another with tables, etc. Actually, the bar kind of bridges the two rooms in this place…. Anyway, it's not too big, but not tiny either. There is a small stage area raised up about 6 inches or so off towards one end. There are windows behind the stage, meaning that, occasionally, headlights will illuminate the band from behind as they are playing. That kind of makes it challenging to take photos.
At 9:35, the first act took the stage. This is an all-girl three piece named Siberia My Sweet. Apparently they are a local band, consisting of a guitarist, a vocalist/guitarist, and a keyboardist. They had bass and drums on an iPod that they would play along with. The vocalist announced at one point that they had recently lost those two band members, and were playing this one show before hiring a new rhythm section.
That's good news, because the setup i saw tonight had a lot of issues. First off, the iPod was mixed over all the other sounds. So i heard drums, then bass, then vocals, then keyboards, and then, way down in the mix, the lead guitarist. The vocalist also strummed her guitar occasionally, and when she did the lead guitar was buried under one more layer of sound. The mix, to be frank, sucked eggs for this band. I understand that it is challenging to integrate samples in with live instruments; i just think it was handled poorly.
And that is a shame, because Siberia My Sweet had some interesting things going on. Specifically, their vocalist has a set of pipes on her. Her voice went from husky growl to bluesy yowl as appropriate. I liked what she was doing, but it seemed like she didn't have as much control as she might. The woman has a natural instrument, and i would like to see her receive some training in using such a fine voice. Still, what she was doing was interesting, even if not particularly innovative.
The husky-voiced, and tall, vocalist of Siberia My Sweet.
In general the music was a sort of blues-y goth. Imagine Kelly Hogan (in her pre-country music days) playing with eNTERTAINME.nt as her backing band, and you get the idea. The guitarist was playing some trebly post-punk riffage, and i was disappointed i couldn't hear more of what she was doing. The keys were a nice touch as well.
Siberia My Sweet had some nice gear.
(And we are referring to the instruments here! Look at that nice hollow-bodied guitar.
Get your mind out of the gutter...)
So, i am not sure what to think of this band. With a new rhythm section they might be interesting. I honestly cannot tell at this point.
Fortunately, they were the opener, and we still had headliners Venice Is Sinking to come. This Athens band does not play out a lot, but they just released a record, and i got to see them in Austin at SxSW this year, so i am kind of maxxing out my Venice Is Sinking quota for the year.
They started at 10:40, playing to around 20 people. They were down to a four-piece tonight, having misplaced their bassist somewhere. The drummer was also unusually chatty tonight, talking with the crowd and pointing things out. Such as, "Tonight we are playing the first and last songs off of all of our records." This drew a surprised reaction from the rest of the band, none of whom had made that connection. Huh. The lesson here is that coffee makes the drummer both chatty and observant.
Venice Is Sinking in action.
Anyway, the music was glorious. The sound in Kavarna was perfect for this band, with the layers of voice, viola, guitar, keys, trumpet, and drums each having enough space to really stretch out, without crowding the other sounds. Venice Is Sinking make music that is dense, yet sparse. There are lots of sounds that go into their songs, but the tunes are never "busy". Tonight, the room reverberated with echoing layers of melody.
Clapping, as they wait, all alone, for the bars to close ...
Of special note was the song Undecided, an older number from back in their catalog, but one of simple beauty. Tugboat Captain also worked very well, with a strong piano riff that reminded me of The Potomac Accord. At other times Venice Is Sinking reminded me of Knife in the Water, My Latest Novel, and even Red House Painters. It's a slow sound; almost melancholy, but thoughtfully so.
Venice Is Sinking feature a clever use of horns.
And even if they might have reminded me of these other bands who do a similar thing, Venice Is Sinking have a sound all their own thanks to the delightful vocal interplay of Daniel Lawson and Karolyn Troupe. These two work together very well.
Daniel Lawson on the black hollow-bodied guitar.
They played for about an hour, and it was all simply beautiful. Another wonderful performance from a great band. Plus, it was in my neighborhood, so i was home within 5 minutes. All around, a good night.