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  The Masquerade  
  Atlanta, GA  
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Ah, Atlantis Music Conference: the chance to see a bazillion bands play short sets. In a way, it's the album sampler of the concert world. For Atlantis '04 i went to The Masquerade, which promised goth bands in Hell (how appropriate), Rap fusion bands in Heaven (not appropriate), and some other people playing in Purgatory (actually, now that i think about it, most bands should play in Purgatory. or Limbo.). A strange mix of goths, hip-hoppers, the regular metalheads who run/live at the club, scenesters, and music label people (i am guessing here -- maybe just "normals" who wandered into the wrong club at the wrong time) all intermigled freely. Apparently everyone got along, but that might be because beer is so damned expenisve at The Masquerade that everyone was sober and complacent. Who knows?

Past experience with The Masquerade has taught me that its heavy metal loving employees run things on time, so Sparklehonkey and i arrived just before 8 PM. Doors were open, and we wandered through checking things out. True to form, at 8:03 PM (according to Cingular Wireless time) i began to hear massive bass coming from Heaven. So things did start on time tonight. Very unusual for Atlanta in general, but apparently not so for The Masquerade.

About 8:15, we wandered over to Purgatory to see Almost Heroes. I know this is the name of the band because they started their set with a group huddle that culminated in a band name yell. They were a four-piece of bass/vocals, drums, guitar, and DJ. However, i couldn't hear what the DJ was doing over the plucking of the bass and the power chords of the guitar. The vocals reminded me of Faith No More in that there was rapping interspersed with more melodic singing. Overall their sound was pretty typical of what one hears on 99X these days. Not bad, but not too creative either.

So we wandered back to Hell to see eNTERTAINME.nt, a local band i have been wanting to see for quite some time. First off, let me just state that i am irritated by the wierd capitalization in their name. It's a hassle to type, and everytime i read it i pause to ponder how it is pronounced. Sparklehonkey thinks it's just "Entertainment" but i am enough of a computer geek to want to pronounce it "e entertain me dot NT", and that annoys me. Anyway, a few months back this band did a very enjoyable set of Joy Division covers when they opened for Bigmouth Strikes Again (the local Smiths tribute act). This made me want to see them do their own thing, and they were actually one of the main reasons i came to The Masquerade tonight.

The band is a five-piece of drums, guitar, bass, keyboards, and lead singer. (You just don't see a lot of bands with a guy who just sings anymore. Why is that?) Image-wise i think they were going for a sot of "glam" thing, but, whatever. The keyboardist had some difficulties early in the set, but, when they got those problems fixed, he still didn't sound good to me. He seemed to be using really cheesey, too trebly patches that just didn't fit with the prominent bass riffage, the sparse almost post-rock drumming, and the punkish guitars. Maybe the mix was off.... Anyway, the overall conglomeration of their sound reminded me of early Modern English, specifically Mesh and Lace. That is to say, the voice was kind of Bauhaus, the guitars were kind of The Clash, and the rhythm was kind of The Cure. Even though a few of the songs really seemed to drag in the middle, their set was over in what barely seemed like 30 minutes. They left me wanting more, which is a good sign.

The great thing about these multi-stage events is that you never have to sit around waiting on the set change. With that in mind, we headed upstairs to Heaven, aka "Rap-metal Land", to see a band called E.X. Vortex. I know that was the name of the band because the rapper had a stack of cardboard signs with slogans on them, and he kept coming back to the one that read "E.X. Vortex kicks ass!" This was a fun, energetic band, with various band members really working up a sweat as they bounced around on stage. Not bad, but not really my thing, so after about 20 minutes we headed back downstairs to catch Hell's second band, Egostatic.

Egostatic are from Chicago, and they played to a keyboard/synthesizer loop. There were 4 of them, the standard lineup (drums, bass, guitar, guitar/vocals) and they cranked out a kind of punk/metal fusion. It was loud and featured some decent melodies and an awful lot of power-chording. Sparklehonkey said that they reminded her of Orgy, a band with which i am completely unfamiliar. All i know is, Egostatic got kind of boring after about 15 minutes.

So: off to Purgatory to see what's shaking over there. We stumble into the opening of a band from Orlando called Gargamel. Unfortunately, the Smurfs reference was the best thing about this act. The vocalist was a largish bald man in black and red robes, and he did a lot of screaming while the rest of the band played stoner white-boy funk a la Primus. I hate Primus, so we headed upstairs, into the realm of shirtless white-guy rap. The band was apparently called Crazy Anglos, and Sparklehonkey and i laughed at the notion of one band with dueling Eminems in it. They seemed to have a good crowd, but i found them tedious. Perhaps i had reached my saturation point for rap/metal?

Better to wait it out in Hell, we decided. And after a moderately long wait Empire Hideous took the stage. This band was billed as containing a former member of The Misfits, but i can find no such information on their website. Maybe it was a typo. Anyway, they were a five piece, again with the lead singer. Wierdly enough, the vocals were buried in the mix rather than dominating the entire sound, as tends to happen with bands featuring a lead singer. At first i thought the sound mix was just sonic mud for their set, but as i listened more i decided that it was on purpose. Rather than thrusting the voice out in front, the band prefers a more equitable mix that lets the guitarwork shine as much as the vocals. And this was a good thing, because the guitarwork was a harder shoegazer sound, a la Ride or The Chameleons or Mission UK. On the whole they put on a very competent, darkly moody but still rocking set. Really nice. In fact, this was one of my favorite sets of the night.

After they were done i headed upstairs to see El Pus, who the Atlanta Journal-Constitution touts as the next big thing to come out of Atlanta. (Why i am trusting their word on this i have no idea!) This is a sort of rap/rock fusion act. They had two rappers, a guitarist, a bassist, and a drummer. The bassist was playing supple, yet complex, things that were simply amazing to hear. He might, in all honesty, be one of the best bassists i have ever seen live. No joke -- the man knew what he was doing with that instrument, and it sounded great. The rapping was okay, and the drumming was pretty good, but the guitarwork is what most struck my attention (after the bass). When i got to Heaven they were already playing some sort of mellow rock tune with rapping. Then they did another very similar tune that really shined for its nice bass line. Then they covered Billie Jean for a bit, ended it suddenly, and went into a hard rocking tune wherein it sounded like the guitarist was playing the riff from Iron Man. Then it got even more interesting when one of the rappers grabbed a guitar and the band tore into a loud and fast song that sounded, by god, like a long lost Dead Kennedys' tune. With rapid-fire rapping! YEAH! Very awesome.

After that i needed to sit down for a minute, so i headed back to Hell to catch The Last Dance. This was a sort of stereotypical goth band -- sinister guitarwork, thudding bass, and a general mopiness to the vocals. I was not that impressed, but then again i'm not the gothiest person around. I guess that they were not bad, but that they don't do anything to advance the genre either.

Then there came a whopping great intermission while Bella Morte, the headliner, set up. This act has a sightly flexible lineup, but tonight they were a 5 piece. They had a lead vocalist (again!), a guitarist, a bassist, a keyboardist (but he played one of those 80's keyboards that you hold like a guitar), and a drummer. On disc they are kind of gothy in a mopey way. But live ... well, let's just say that three members of the band have mohawks, and they play loud and fast, and they all bounce around on the stage. So, despite the general gothiness of their recorded output, live they put on a great punk rock show. Sparklehonkey is more familiar with them than i am, and she claims that they played only the faster stuff off of their last few releases, skipping the ballads and slower tunes. Good call on their part! This was one of the best punk shows i have seen in a while. In all honesty, live they reminded me of T.S.O.L., or, rather, the live T.S.O.L. bits in Suburbia (which i just got on DVD, so that might be why the comparison sprang to mind....) Their set, and the evening, ended great, with Bella Morte doing a tounge-in-cheek version of Earth Angel and then tearing right into an early song called The Fallen which was so fast is sounded like Suicidal Tendencies. Tremendous fun.

So, despite a few sketchy moments, the night ended well, and i got to see several interesting bands. Here is how the breakdown of bands i saw shakes out, best to worst:

  1. Bella Morte
  3. El Pus
  4. Empire Hideous
  5. E.X. Vortex
  6. The Last Dance
  7. Egostatic
  8. tie between Almost Heroes, Gargamel, and Crazy Anglos

Overall, this was a fun night. An odd mix of music, but fun overall.

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  On this same evening, Tracers' took in the Atlantis Conference at The Star Bar.  

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