It seems like forever since i have been in The Drunken Unicorn. Granted, i haven't been going to as many shows lately, but the lineups at this venue has sucked eggs lately. Oh well...
I was very pleased that on this night the first act actually started playing before 10 PM. Okay, i was about 9:55, but that is still a little early for an Atlanta concert. This early first act was a trio from Washington DC called The Caribbean. Each member of the band was older -- not in their 50s, but not early 20s rockers either. So, a band of older, more mature musicians. Okay, i can deal with that.
They had a guy with unfortunate facial hair on guitar and pedals (seriously -- WTF was up with that neck-beard?), a vocalist/guitarist, and a guy who played drums or bass and electronics at various points in the show. I don't know what kind of music i was expecting...
The Caribbean -- the lost sea of guitar pedals.
Each of their songs would start out with a little bit of noodling -- perhaps some electro burbling, or some effected guitar. Then the song would settle down and the vocalist would warble away while strumming his guitar. Then the other instruments would swell up during an instrumental section, and the song would fade out. Lather, rinse, repeat: a simple formula that seemed to work for them.
For most of their performance (which went on for 50 minutes), it was tolerable. Not too innovative, but mostly harmless. Well, the voice did get a little whiney at times. but that's okay. But then, at the end, the band decided to turn the audience against them by performing a 10 minute avant-garde noisefest. Nothing else the band had done led up to this -- it came out of nowhere. This song began with weird electro bleeps and bloops reminiscent of Labradford's "droid torture" period. The vocalist/guitarist riffed away, and then suddenly and inexplicable, the lead guitarist started doing death metal power chords. If you have ever wondered what Labradford jamming with Mastodon and Tom Petty would sound like ... well, you don't really want to know.
The only redeeming thing about their "noise fest" was that i got this relaly cool phot of the
guitarist using his eBow, and a wierd trick of the lighting makes it looks like lightning.
How cool is that?
The main problem was that this horrible song just kept going on and on .... At one point i thought, "Maybe i should walk over there and start unplugging things in order to end this atrocity". Later i mentioned this to Tracers, who had a similar notion. Even non-Minion affiliate Kerry, normally a mild-mannered girl, stated, "I was looking at the ceiling to see if I could figure out how to cut off the power." Now, if you have annoyed Kerry that much, you are doing something wrong.
My advice to you, gentle reader, is to avoid this act if at all possible. If you must see them, fill a spare pocket with small vegetables (cherry tomatoes, baby carrots, etc.) and hurl them at the band during the early part of the unfocused noise-fest closing number. Hopefully you will be able to nip that in the bud, before it gets too awful.
Ugh. It has been a while since i have stood at a show for something like that. This is one of the reasons i do not go to a lot of shows any more... There were a thousand better uses of my time (laundry needs to get done, after all), than standing there watching that.
Fortunately after that, the show took a decided turn for the better. Venice Is Sinking set up, somehow cramming their large band onto the smallish stage at The Drunken Unicorn. Now, they are only a five-piece act, but they do feature a very large Korg electronic piano.
Notice the giant keyboard.
That thing takes up a lot of space, so much that the bassist had to stand at the far stage left, in the part of the stage that The Drunken Unicorn does not see fit to illuminate.
Venice Is Sinking fill the stage at The Drunken Unicorn.
But the music ... oh it was glorious. They started with a slow instrumental bit, and then they just tore into it. A song off of 2005's Sorry About the Flowers (i think it was Undecided, but i am not too familiar with that record) got the pace moving a bit, and then the band flowed right into Okay (from 2009's Azar). This was a stunning piece of orchestration, as the two songs intertwined. When the trumpet and the drums kicked in during Okay, i looked around and saw the entire audience bopping along quietly. It's a great song, not a disco dance type of song, but a great pop tune that really gets you moving.
Venice Is Sinking reassure the audience that it is okay to dance along.
They played a lot off of Sands & Lines, which had just come out. In fact, this was the Atlanta album release show, in a sense, as the band had played the official album release in Athens the night before. The songs really worked well live, which i suppose makes sense as the band recorded the songs live for the record.
The trumpet adds a really nice accent to many of their tunes.
Other highlight's include a heartfelt version of Tugboat Captain, where the loneliness of the song really came through in the performance, and of course the group sing along of Bardstown Road that ended the entire show on a highlight. With all of the band chanting, "You're not alone, waiting at home, for all the bars to close" over and over, as the audience sways in place, it struck me how talented the band must be. That type of harmony looks difficult to pull off (at least from my position as an audience member that could not carry a tune in a bucket), and yet it seemed so lovely.
They are not, in fact, alone in waiting for the bars to close.
A great performance, in and out in only 50 minutes. I was struck by how the Venice Is Sinking set seemed to fly by, one enjoyable song after the other. On the other hand The Caribbean's 50 minutes seemed to last days... Time really is relative.
Vocalist/guitarist Daniel Lawson.