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  FLASH TO BANG TIME w/ American Dream and Martyr And Pistol  
  The Star Bar  
  Little Five Points, Atlanta, GA  
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I guess every few years a hot new "in" instrument has to appear in any given music scene. For instance, a while back you couldn't attend any show without running into a horn section or two; before that it was the cheap synthesizer, and so on. These days, the new instrument du jour (at least around here) is the cello. It seems like well over half the bands I see have a cello, which may in and of itself speak loads about my musical tastes. Anyway, as a trend, I approve of the cello, except for one thing: the damn thing is apparently a bitch to mic well. Of the cello-including concerts I've seen over the past year, most have managed to lose the subtleties in the musical mix. However, a few weeks back, PostLibyan and I attended an Alejandro Escovedo show at The Star Bar, and the sound mix (especially with regards to the cello) was perfect.

So what does this have to do with this particular show?

Well, all of the bands feature the cello; in fact the show was advertised as a "CellOrgy." And since this was the location that seemed to have a handle on how to mix odd instrumentation, I was happy to wander down to The Star Bar, even if I wasn't sure of what to expect from the first band, Athens' Martyr and Pistol.

However, from the first notes, I really liked the ethereal mood music (with a slight 80s retro feel) this three piece band produced. The lyrics seemed rather dark, and the cello provided a mournful undertone. However the light drumming and chorused guitar kept things moving along, and provided a counterpoint, so that you couldn't just dismiss this band as a "sort of Goth" concoction. Instead they reminded me more of Chicago's Handsome Family, albeit without any of the twang and with a female primary vocalist. Still, I really enjoyed their set, and look forward to seeing them again, if only so I can come up with a more apt comparison.

The next band, American Dream, has the distinction of being most reviewed band on EvilSponge in 2001; in short, I've seen them numerous times over the past twelve months. I've found their shows consistently enjoyable. Even when they have sound issues (which isn't too surprising, considering they have both cello and harp as integral parts of their music), their music is compelling. In particularly, I always like way that David Railey's slightly off key distinctive vocals echo over a wall of sound.

And without a doubt, from where I was standing, this show was easily the best mixed concert I've ever heard American Dream perform. This was one of the few times you could clearly hear the difference between the cello and bass. Furthermore, the keyboards and harp weren't overpowering; instead everything seemed well balanced, which just showed off the solid and focused performance of the entire band. The high point of their set was their last song: a jangly pop version of The Beatles' Rain which got the audience dancing and bopping along.

After that explosion of energy, I knew it would be difficult for the headliner, Flash To Bang Time, to add anything to the evening. From what I remember, this band is normally larger, but on this evening, they came out as a three piece: drums, bass and cello. This downsizing really affected their overall sound. Normally, they have two cellos and violin, which gives a slightly classical feel to their more rocking drums and bass. However, with only the single cello, the rhythm section really dominated, and seemed to throw off the balance of their music.

Still in the end it was a very enjoyable evening: Martyr And Pistol provided a very pleasant surprise while American Dream gave their usual outstanding performance. For the next-to-last concert of 2001, this all provided a reaffirmation of why I like live shows in the first place.

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