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  BRITISH SEA POWER w/ Feist and A Fir Ju Well  
  The EARL  
  East Atlanta, GA  
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May 10. It's a great day. On this day in 1954, Dien Bien Phu fell to the Viet Minh. According to The Simpsons, it's the real Snake Whacking Day, which is in fact the high Holy day for Evil Sponge. And it's the night before my birthday. So, with British Sea Power lined up for a good night of music, how could I pass up this show on May 10?

When PostLibyan and I got to The EARL at 10, Atlanta band A Fir Ju Well was already on the stage. A Fir Ju Well is a band who I haven't seen in probably 3 years, and who I have need to go seen again in order to determine whether I like them better. This was a hard decision for me, because A Fir Ju Well have a small, musical issue which, well, annoys me. Historically, whenever they have played out, numerous large and small wooden pallets painted with the band name, venue, and date appear at intersections throughout my neighborhood. I realize I shouldn't hold this type of publicity against the band, but I just can't help it, as I hate those damn ubiquitous signs. Yes, it's petty. Yes, it has nothing to do with A Fir Ju Well as a band. But those signs are quite frankly one of the reasons I have avoided the band in the past. Still, I must admit that I didn't see any signs for this performance, leading me to surmise that perhaps A Fir Ju Well has finally run out of their seemingly endless supply of paint and wood.

Either way, A Fir Ju Well has changed since the last time I saw them live. These days, the songs seem more unified within themselves, and do not show the scattershot musical direction I had heard before. They have become very reminiscent of Neil Young, circa On The Beach, with a slightly psychedelic edge. Yet, on the last couple of songs we heard, A Fir Ju Well became almost a parody of a 70s psychedelic band. It was vaguely like The Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Movie, albeit with live performers and no Dr. Teeth. Still, I have to say that the band has improved dramatically over the last few years, although their music is still not really my thing.

After a short break, Feist took the stage. I wasn't really sure what to expect from this act. All I knew is that the frontwoman, Leslie Feist, was at some point associated with Broken Social Scene. So, imagine my surprise when Ms. Feist took the stage by herself, with guitar in hand. She sang through a set of guitar driven music than seems blues-rock, like a combination of Janis Joplin and Edie Brickell. Even though the crowd was at times inattentive, she performed rather well and included several mostly successful attempts at audience participation in her songs. These moments, more than the others, drew people in, so that they forgot to chat and actually began to listen to her music. However, truth be told, she was an odd opening choice, and was suited more to an acoustic setting than to The EARL.

Finally, at close to midnight, British Sea Power came on stage. I had seen them the last time they played Atlanta, on St Patrick's Day 2004, which is perhaps better known as the night in which PostLibyan almost ran over Kaito, the opening band, as they gathered foliage for British Sea Power's set. Still, the phenomenal set stuck in mind and made me look forward to seeing British Sea Power again, even though I don't own or listen to any of their records.

Taking the stage this night, they seemed like a very guitar-driven pop band. I mean this in a good way. They sort of reminded me a bit of Weezer back in the 90s. I don't mean that British Sea Power plays primarily power chords (although they are present), but rather that they have a playful musical sense that is energetic, fun, and enjoyable. Likewise, at other times during their hour long set, the band reminded me more of early Archers of Loaf, although this may be due to the lead singer's vocal resemblance to Eric Bachmann and his low, almost hoarse voice.

One of the highlights of the set was Apologies to Insect Life, off the band's debut album. On this song, the drumming recalled the work on Larry Mullen, Jr., in the early days of U2, while the rest of the band played the song in full on rock fashion. It was a gloriously fun moment, which epitomizes British Sea Power and the way they differ from so many bands who take themselves way too seriously at times.

As a whole, it was a really good evening. While A Fir Ju Well aren't exactly my taste, I can see where they have improved and why other people in Atlanta really enjoy their music. Feist was a surprise, who deserved more quiet and respect from the crowd than she received. And British Sea Power played an excellent set, which rang through my head as we left The EARL early on the morning of May 11 and provided me with a truly happy birthday present.

Related Links:

The Decline of British Sea Power, the debut album by British Sea Power.


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