Menu | Rating System | Guest Book | Archived Reviews:
A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

  THE WEAKERTHANS w/ Denali and Greg McPherson  
  The Echo Lounge  
  East Atlanta, GA  
Reviewed by:
Performance Rating:
Sound Quality:
Overall Rating:

An interesting fact about me is that I will inevitably find one band and fall in love with them in any given year. Five years ago it was The Rock*A*Teens. Two years later I found God in the back of Eric Bachmann’s crooked guitar. Last year I purged my soul of all sin through the fire of Thee Michelle Gun Elephant. This year, it’s The Weakerthans.

Now, before you go getting the idea that this is some sort of one-year wonder thing for me, let me disabuse of that notion immediately. I still crack my skull against TMGE with glee, I still think Eric Bachmann’s a fucking genius, and I still <heart> The Rock*A*Teens (despite their apparent refusal to play music any more.) Ten years from now I’ll still listen to Cry in a state of near-religious wonder, and when I’m done I’ll just as likely put Left and Leaving into the rotation for the millionth time in a decade, too. Because like The Rock*A*Teens, but in a completely different way, The Weakerthans are just too fucking great for words.

Another interesting peak into my psyche reveals an ever-growing tendency to stay the fuck home at night. To be honest, it virtually takes an act of Congress to get me out of the house these days. I mean I just don’t go out anymore. There’s no great mystery or meaning to it, no web of intrigue, no neat little anecdote to explain it, nothing at all. I’m just getting old and cranky and sedentary, I guess. I still love music and I still support independent musicians as best I can. I buy CDs and listen to them. I even review them every now and then, still. But when it comes to live entertainment, honestly, you’re more likely to find me lounging next to the wife, reading a book in my quiet suburban apartment as you are to see me chatting up The Minions at live shows.

All of this serves as setup for Sunday night, of course. Imagine my surprise when, a month or so back, PostLibyan mentions in passing that The Weakerthans were scheduled to play The Echo. It was quite the shock. This is a band that has never played Atlanta before. Not once. Ever. Yet here they are at the end of the month? Well I’ll be damned. It took me an hour to remember how to get to East Atlanta, but this was something I would not be missing.

At La Fonda.
God, I miss La Fonda on a daily basis. Of all the things I miss about working in L5P every day, the office dogs and La Fonda top the list. I had almost forgotten this place, buried as I have become in the haze of The Exurbs of Banality™. It’s good to be back here. P-Lib and I chat over quesadillas and sweet tea, mixing Cuba and Georgia in a way that has to be experienced to be understood.

Criminal Records is closed, so we are off to The Echo. Doors were at 7:45, which means the show should start around 9PM, right? Into the car for the jaunt up Moreland to E. Atlanta. Um, what the fuck? When did they stick Front Page News there? Goddamnit, the Highlands are slowly eating this place.

At the Echo.
Sparse crowd. I expected more kiddies for an all-ages show, but it is a Sunday, I guess. PostLibyan and I make for the bar, getting much personalized service from the bartender, who seems genuinely glad to see people of drinking age. We speak to Club Manager Alex for bit, and then wait.

Circa 9PM
Greg McPherson takes the stage.
McPherson is the end-result of some weird-assed Canadian military experiment, I think. You know, like Wolverine, only without the ‘snikt’ or the adamantium skeletal graft. (Shut up.)

What they did with McPherson is this: they took some random Canuck, and they stuck him in a centrifuge. Then they took Bruce Springsteen and threw him in there too. Then they somehow managed to get Hank Rollins into the thing. Finally, they told Billy Bragg that there was a union benefit there, and he wandered in as well.

Then they turned it on, and it spun really fast. From men, to goo, to Greg McPherson in one easy step. Maybe they had a Jell-O mold in the shape of a Marxist to pour the goo into. Who knows, really? The Canadian military is a terribly mysterious outfit, after all.

McPherson plays like Bragg, writes like Springsteen and has the biceps of Rollins. His solo work is best described as Modern Canadian Pissed-off Populist. It all comes out surprisingly well tonight. Edgy, passionate, and sweating. Like folk rock, if folk rock didn’t suck ass and rocked instead. I'll make a point to pick up the debut of The Greg McPherson Band, just as soon as I find a job.

After McPherson there’s this chick-rock emo band called Denali. They are apparently popular with the kids. The crowd gets bigger and stuffier and starts reeking of that “far too into it” vibe that indie-rock crowds get when an attractive girl is on stage. They start to play and I lean over to PostLibayn and say “Portishead.” He says, “Yeah.” Song two comes and goes and I lean down as song three ramps up and say “Portishead,” and he says “Yeah.”

I go take a piss and spend most of the Denali set ruffling through the anarcho-syndicalist literature that G7/8 have set up in the back. G7/8 is the label that McPherson and the other members of Propaghandi started a few years back. They have the punk rock. They have the Situationist Internationale readers. They have the Noam Chomsky pamphlets.

Denali is a pretty good band. They sound like Portishead. The chick is pretty hot. I’m not into emo much, but I once gave a dog to a guy we all call Emo Boy. I’d give that guy a copy of this Denali record too. He’d probably like it a lot, though not as much as he liked the dog.

Anyway, so now The Weakerthans take the stage. The crowd is pretty big again; some late arrivals, some carry-overs from Denali’s popularity. The Weakerthans, though they may not admit it in public, are a professional band. They’re tight. They know what show they’re going to put on from the moment they step on stage. When they crunch on the opening aural gravel of Watermark, they crunch perfectly together. They know each other’s cues. They cover each other’s mistakes.

All of this is to say, listening to a Weakerthans live show is a lot like listening to a Weakerthans mix tape, only with the songs played a little faster, as live songs always tend to be, and with the tenable energy of a live performance graphed on top of things. This is a great band.

The Weakerthans put on a near-perfect show. They play all of the songs that they should play, all of the songs that should be hits off of their first two albums, if the world were sane or fair or both. They play three or four new songs, one of which involves something about having a dinner party with Michele Foucault and leaving with this gnawing gut sensation that someone said something very profound, but you were chewing too loudly or something. Only The Weakerthans could have written that song and have it work. I’m just saying. All of the new songs make me wish a new album were forthcoming.

PostLibyan and I wonder back out of The Echo. We split at the street and head for our respective automobiles. I’m still singing along in my head. When I get into the car, I pop a Weakerthans tape into the cassette deck. I am very happy. This was good reason to leave the house.

If the Weakerthans come to your town in the future, go see them. They’re nice guys. They’re witty and amusing in between songs. (But leave your cell phones at home. They tend to not understand the cell phone thing. ) They’re far too over-educated for their own good. They’re like you, only with guitars and a knack for poignant lyricism. They deserve your support.

Go see Greg McPherson too, if for no other reason than to figure out what the hell that whole Canadian-military reference was all about up there.

Hell, go see Denali. She’s hot, and the band is good if you’re into that sort of thing.

The couch will be there when you get back.

Related Links:

Malimus review of The Weakerthans album Left and Leaving.


Return to the top of this page. | Return to the Concert Review menu.