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  AMERICAN DREAM w/ Tijuana Hercules  
  Atlanta, GA  
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The musical malaise I've been in is overwhelming. Nothing seems to please me these days: the music sucks, the sound is atrocious, and let's not even begin to discuss my issue with the audiences. I keep thinking I need to take a break and stay at home for a while. And maybe then, and only then, the simple joy I derive from live music will return. But before I implementing this decision, I decided to go to one more concert before going into seclusion. After all, I've always loved American Dream, and I truly enjoyed Tijuana Hercules the one time I saw them. If this didn't work for me, I wasn't sure anything would.

When we got to Lenny's, the crowd was fairly non-existent. I didn't really mind; it meant we could get a table and settle in for the music. However, almost as soon as Tijuana Hercules began, I more or less regretted this decision. Why? Simply because the music was far too good for me to just sit. Instead I wanted to stand up and dance and cheer because the sheer dynamic energy of this performance was infectious. I couldn't decide who to watch: the incredibly talented drummer who hit his kit with a ferocity that might make the drummer from Jucifer cringe, the singer/guitarist who alternated blistering riffs with half-screamed vocals, or the guy who played a string of coffee cans/pots strung along the bottom of a metal stand.

From this description, it's probable difficult to imagine what Tijuana Hercules sounds like. In fact, we Minions couldn't quite come to a conclusion, either. Two Minions think the band plays a fairly straight-forward version of Chicago blues. Another hears a strong punk influence. And me? I still stand by my original opinion that it all sounds like a particularly fuzzed out, raunchy rockabilly, like Bobby Fuller filtered through one too many distortion pedals. Perhaps we're all right: if you take all of these above and mix them up (say, Chicago blues guitars over a punk drum beat and add a touch of rockabilly) and then throw in the extra can percussion, you might have some idea of what this band sounds like. Either way, Tijuana Hercules is incredibly energetic, powerful and, most importantly, fun, and it was easily one of the best sets I've seen performed thus far this year.

After this strong opener, it would take a fairly wonderful performance by American Dream to impress me. I wasn't particularly hopeful: on this evening, the band was handicapped to some degree by a couple of things. First off, since they performed at their album release, the cellist has left the band, leaving something of a gap in their orchestral sound. Furthermore, bassist Kat Gass was playing with a broken leg, and I'm certain the pain had to effect her concentration. Finally, since this concert was at Lennys, experience has taught me that the sound is often dodgy and invariably muddy.

However, as might expected, I was in for a number of surprises. First off, the sound was actually quite good; the only things micced separately appeared to be the vocals and kick drum. Otherwise the sound came directly off the amps. Therefore although everything was loud, the balance wasn't off. Next, despite Kat Gass's injury, she played quite well and seemed rather focused (and I found this most impressive, having dealt with the pain of a broken ankle during the last year). Finally, American Dream has added a violinist. She didn't play during all of the songs. But during the ones in which she performed she added a really nice touch: the relative tone of the violin accented the other instruments while not overwhelming them (as would occasionally happen with the cello).

And it was clear that the band as a whole was having fun, which really came through in their music. And certainly they seemed really together on this evening, even on the new songs which perhaps haven't seen as much rehearsal.

In short, American Dream were quite wonderful, and could have single handedly restored my faith in live music. When you combine it with the extraordinary Tijuana Hercules, it was truly a wondrous evening. And I'm left to conclude: the problems I've had recently aren't rooted in me -- I've just been going to see the wrong bands.

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