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  ARCHERS OF LOAF w/ David Dondero and Cobra Horse  


  Venue:   The EARL  

East Atlanta, GA

Reviewed by:
  Malimus and PostLibyan  
Photographs by:
Performance Rating:
Sound Quality:
Overall Rating:

At long last, the Archers of Loaf reunion weekend was upon us. The band was set to play three shows at The EARL, and after making us review all of their releases, Brendan assigned me to review the first night's performance.

We decided to make this weekend a whole event, a sort of long reminiscence of times past. I mean, Mr. and Mrs. Malimus at The EARL? How weird is that... We started off with a lovely dinner at Holy Taco, a restaurant i highly recommend. The beef tongue taco is exquisite, and they also make a mean butter bean.

  Mmmmmm, butter beans in bacon fat.  

Fortified with food, we moved on to Joe's for a serviceable cup of iced coffee. Actually, it was a pretty strong brew, but this being a work day, i welcomed the dose of caffeine.

With plenty of time, we sipped our coffee and then wandered up to The EARL to wait for the doors to open. At 9:30 they started letting people into the back room, and EvilSponge were among the first people there. It was mercifully cool in the back. I knew it wouldn't last -- the AC just cannot handle a sold out show in July -- but it felt nice at the start of the evening.

The first band took the stage at 9:40, a four-piece act They were Cobra Horse, a band from Asheville.

Alright, Cobra Horse, group huddle before we ROCK THIS ARENA!

I had never heard of them before, but they sounded like they usually play arenas. Their music was anthemic, a blast of power chords and sing-along choruses. The music resounded, and i felt like i was at a huge venue. It was like they were already an arena rock act, but just hadn't made it to the arena yet. That is, the music had the bombast of U2, without any of the edginess of that band's early work.


Iím not sure Iíd call Cobra Horse an arena band. I think theyíre more of a college town pub rock band. They sort of weaved their way through elements of British pub wrong and American bar band rock, with some hyperkinetic, third-wave pop punk thrown in for good measure.

Guitarist, neither cobra nor horse.

The first few songs were pretty much straight up bar rock. Tightly executed, if completely predictable and a little trite lyrically. The final song was by far their best offering, sounding a bit like early era Superchunk, only with a cleaner lead line and a bassist who got the gig by playing bass rather than dating the lead singer.


I didn't care for them. I thought, "Oh well, one bad opener isn't so awful..." I would soon regret those words.

The next act set up with an upright bass. I love the sound of an upright bass -- there is no smoother, prettier sound to my ears. An upright bass can improve an mediocre performance.

Then i noticed that the other non-singer person on stage had a mandolin. As i sang the opening lines to 100,000 Fireflies by The Magnetic Fields ("I have a mandolin/I play it all night long/it makes me want to kill myself"), Tracers turned to me and said, "Ooh, look -- Bluegrass."

Even Dondero's mandolinist was skeptical as to the wisdom of playing bluegrass
to a packed out crowd of aging punks and indie rockers...

And, sadly, she was right. I might consider the South my home, but i was born in Ohio and i did not grow up with bluegrass or country or any of that sort of thing. I heard it for the first time when i was in my teens and living in Georgia. It bored me then, but now it annoys me. The only people who seem to like it are people who have some sort of connection to the genre; that is, people to whom bluegrass music helps connect them with their ancestors.

Lacking such a connection, bluegrass irritates me, and David Dondero's performance was something i endured. It did, however, give me time to work on other activities, like watching the steadily growing crowd and feeling the palpable sense of excitement in the room; like going over my grocery list for the next day (and yet i still managed to forget to buy garbage bags -- go figure); and, of course, drinking beer.

To sum up, David Dondero and his two friends played bluegrass music. His last song, played alone by him with an acoustic guitar, was more of a folk song, and i was okay with that until the lyrics took a turn for the Rand-ian towards the end. Well, no matter. It was over, and that is all i cared about.

  The first couple of songs were entertaining in a "Who the hell decided to throw these guys into the middle of the opening set, as a direct lead-in for one of the most aggressive punk rock bands of the 90s?" kind of way. But that charm faded quickly and near completely, long before Dondero left the stage. The sooner I forget these guysí existence, the better.  

I grabbed my camera and squeezed my way into the front, next to the stage, and waited. Promptly at 11:30, Archers of Loaf took the stage. The four band members look healthy -- Eric Bachmann in particular looked tanned and like he has been hitting the gym. With a quick nod to the crowd, they tore into it, a flurry of guitars flying as Bachmann yelled "You got it all wrong!" They followed Wrong, with early classic Plumbline, the crowd chanting "She's an indie rocker, and nothing's going to stop her" along with band.

The whole show was like this: kind of face-melting.


Ė It was shocking how much Eric B. commanded the stage. When he performs as Crooked Fingers, he is typically hunched over, bent inward on himself, his towering frame sort of doubling up into a ball around his instrument as he plucks out the more delicate, bluegrass-cum-flamenco fretwork of the ballads he favors in that persona. Itís a stage presence that mimics the delicacy and introversion of those songs. Of course, AOL were never about delicacy or introversion. The Archers catalogue is about aggression, anger, self-loathing and thinly veiled contempt for all that surrounds you. It was stunning to watch a guy Iíd internalized as "Eric Bachmann" put back on the "Big E" skin and dominate the stage like that. He was a physical presence, overbearing and unleashing himself onto the crowd. It was a thing to behold.

Big E, not Eric "Crooked Fingers" Bachmann.

I feel the need to remind everyone that Iím heterosexual now.


And then they hit Fabricoh, and i turned the camera off and screamed and pogoed with the rest of the people crammed next to the stage. It was sweltering up there, so i forced my way back to the clear space near the merch desk where Mr. and Mrs. Malimus and Tracers were standing. It was relatively cool there, and i stood and sweated.

And it just kept going from there, the Archers playing song after song that i knew from the 1990s and from my recent re-listening to their records. The crowd crooned along with The Greatest of All Time, thrashed and screamed to Nostalgia, and danced like mad fools to Harnessed in Slums. The Archers sounded better than any band that had been off for thirteen years had any right to sound. Then again, this was towards the end of the reunion tour, so i guess they had time to work out any kinks. All i know is, they played a glorious set, and i bounced and sang along like a fool. Malimus, who is a huge Archers fanboy, really got into it, and in fact everyone there seemed to have a blast.


After the show PostLibyan asked, via email, if I could help remember the set list. I was useless there, because I donít really have any specific, individual memory of this set. Itís a blur of adrenaline, feedback, distortion, and flashbulb images of Big E dominating center stage while Matt Gentling bounced around like Twitchy the Squirrel stage right. (Actually, now that I think about it, the relationship between The Wolf and Twitchy is a pretty good approximation of the interplay between Bachmann and Gentling, with Eric Johnson hanging out stage left just trying not to get hurt.)

Gentling on vocals.

I remember singing/shouting at the top of my lungs the second they launched into Wrong. I remember not stopping for a breath, because they did not stop for a breath, through Plumbline and Fabricoh. I remember bouncing into a couple of girls in the crowd as they launched into that third tune full bore. I think I terrified them a little. I know my vocal chords were shredded before Fabricoh ended.

But thatís it. I donít have any distinct "this song was good" or "this wasnít the best" thoughts. Because for 45 minutes, or however long they played, I was completely, utterly lost in the madness and the sound. This is why the Archers are the Archers, I suppose.


For the encore the Archers came back and played the Vs. The Greatest of All Time EP in its entirety, starting with a blistering Audiowhore, through Bachmann doing the strange distorted intro to Revenge while the rest of the band stood and watched him play, and finishing it all up with All Hail the Black Market.

  The only song I was desperate to hear, but that did not get played, was Step Into The Light. I was really hoping theyíd open either a show or an encore with that one, but it was not to be. (Rumor has it they opened with that song Sunday nightÖ)  

They lived up to my expectations, and sure there are some songs i would have liked to have heard, but i have no complaints. A wonderful show.

Since drummers hide in the shadows at the back of the stage, it is hard to get shots of them.
I am please with this photo of Mark Price.

  I donít go to lot of show any more. We all know that. But this was probably the best show Iíve seen in 10 years. The last time I saw a band and a lead singer command the audience like that was back when The Rock*a*Teens were still touring.  
Dead Red Eyes
Worst Defense
Greatest of All Time
Smokin' Pot in the Hot City
You and Me
What Did You Expect?
Web in Front
Harnessed in Slums

Lowest Part is Free!
Freezing Point
All Hail the Black Market
Related Links:

Cobra Horse:
David Dondero:
Archers of Loaf: (fan site)


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