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  THE ALBUM LEAF w/ Helms  
  Atlanta, GA  
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MJQ is a strange club not located near any of the other concert venues i frequent. In fact, it looks tiny -- like it is a very small garage sitting on a parking deck near City Hall East.

It also is open at ridicuous hours. For example, a few months ago i went to see Skywave perform there on a Wednesday. I got there at 11 PM, and there were no cars in the lot. I went to the door, and there was a girl struggling to get keys out of her purse while not dropping her coffee. She looked at me and said, "Can i help you?"

"Um," i said, "i'm just waiting to get in to the show."

She looked taken aback by that. "We're not open yet," she said as she pulled the keys out and began unlocking the door.

Not open at 11 ? "So what time do you open?"

"We should be open by midnight."

Midnight? "Isn't there a band tonight?"

She looked at a the wall just inside the door, presumably at some type of schedule that hung there. "Yeah," she decided, "They should go on around 1." And with that she closed the door and went inside.

I was left standing there flabbergasted -- a concert starting at 1 AM on a Work Night??? I had a meeting at 9:30 the next morning at my office. I couldn't stay out until 2 (or 3) seeing a show and then go to work the next day. Not if i wanted to be functional, that is.

Which is one of my big complaints about Atlanta -- there is a certain attitude in the Atlanta Music Scene that spurns sunlight, daytime, and people who condescend to have "day jobs". Is our local music scene run by surly marxist vampires? Maybe....

At any rate, it really pisses me off, and i stormed away from the MJQ that night just fuming. The ironic thing is that i was so damn mad that i slept poorly anyway....

So when i heard that The Album Leaf were coming to town to play the MJQ, i scheduled the next day off at work knowing that i would be out way too late. This proved to be good planning on my part.

Again, i got to MJQ shortly after 11 PM. This time, the little garage-like building was open, and i walked in and saw that it was, in fact, a parking deck. I walked down a ramp to the next level, and there a building had been created. A lone guy manned the door, and i could hear music coming from a sound system off to my left.

I walked up to the doorman and asked, "What time does the show start tonight?"

"Noon," he said, then immediately exclaimed, "Wait, i mean midnight. Yeah, you know, twelve."

"Okay." That one slip of the tounge seemed indicative of much of the Altanta Music Scene, but i was prepared for such things, so i paid my fiver and wandered inside.

This being the first ever venture by any Minion into MJQ, let me describe the place. It is, as i have already stated, a parking deck. It's underground, and i am fairly certain that my car was parked directly over the soundboard. That's wierd.

The place itself, well, let's just say that i felt that i was on board the Battlestar Galactica, in one of the bars there, and that any minute Starbuck, Apollo, and Boomer would saunter in to smoke cigars and play cards. Except that Black Sabbath was blaring from the sound system, and i was drinking a Newcastle.

The whole place had a wierd '70's futuristing decor going on. Strange geometric patterns in soft pastel colors adroned the walls. Lighting came from behind frosted white half circles, and from under the bar which was made of the same frosted white plastic. The underlit bar made for really strange lighting as i sat and drank my beer.

There were also booths around, and in the corner was a TV (showing Dark Crystal when i got there) and a few video games.

On the whole it was a neat place i guess. It did look like the Battlestar Galactica, but it was underground so it stayed cool on this hot July evening.

The Album Leaf had brought an opener with them on tour, a three piece from Boston called Helms. They took the stage at "noon" and proceeded to play a good forty-five minutes of angular discordant rock. Their songs had the familiar soft-minimal-vocal to loud-hard-instrumental pattern that was popularized by bands like Slint and Mogwai. In fact, their music seemed very Slint-damaged.

There were a few moments of real brilliance during the loud parts -- minutes where the drumming, guitar, and bass all came together. It was rarely sustained for too long, and quite honestly i thought that their minimal moments kind of dragged. They were decent enough for an opening band, but i wouldn't seek them out.

After they left the stage, The Album Leaf began setting up. On record The Album Leaf are one guy, Jimmy LaValle. In concert, The Album Leaf are a four piece including drums, keyboards, guitars, vocals, and bass. I think that LaValle played one of the sets of keyboards, although i wasn't too sure who was who in the band.

They started playing at around 1:20 AM (and i was grateful i had the next day off, mind you). Their set lasted about an hour, and consisted of long slow songs with complicated keyboard parts. Basically, it was very true to the sound of that one Album Leaf album that i own. It was really nice and relaxing, with beautiful sonic textures that swirled and soared.

I was very impressed that they were able to re-create the recorded sound so faithfully. It also helped that the sound system in MJQ was great, enabling the band to play their relatively fragile music to the receptive crowd.

I was very impressed with The Album Leaf's set, and recommend seeing them in concert if you get the chance.

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