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  MYSSOURI w/ American Dream and Hubcap City  
  Echo Lounge  
  East Atlanta, GA  
Reviewed by:
  Various Minions  
Performance Rating:
Sound Quality:
Overall Rating:

TRACERS: Around 10:30 we headed over to The Echo Lounge to listen to music. First band: Hubcap City. They're great, as usual.

POSTLIBYAN: "Great"? I would say, "Whacko, but in an entertaining kinda way". I enjoyed it okay, but their 30 minute set was just the right length, any longer and i would have been annoyed.

ZYTHOS: The word that first came to mind for Hubcap City was eclectic, but i really think that is a better description for the percussionist. I was never quite sure what he was going to pull out of the bag next. I did like when he added the extra chain to the hubcap to give it a better sound. What he really needed was a box-wrench set.

TRACERS: Well i think that Bill Taft's quirky singer-songwriter stuff is just hysterical.

POSTLIBYAN: I laugh at the songs because i have no other repsonse. It's not quality humor, like on The Simpsons or anything. It's ... well it's offbeat.

BRILLO: I find Hubcap City humorous in two distinct, but oddly related ways. First, the "My Life is Shit, So I've Got the Nails and Wood for My Woeful Demise" sad-itude has a black, pathetic humor not wholly unlike bad drunken country music. I always find that funny.

TRACERS: Yeah, I like that Bill Taft doesn't write this "epic-universal-love-song" crap that most acoustic musicians write; rather he seems to focus on the odd.

BRILLO: Exactly. Hubcap City's melodies and lyrics were sophisticated and inventive and display serious talent. The whole thing reminded me of a white trash, black humor version of Dylan or Bragg. While I don't think I could listen to this music for any length of time (especially if I want to avoid walking in front of speeding cars), it definitely makes for entertaining live music along the lines of a carnivalesque side show, much like Deacon Lunchbox.

ZYTHOS: Down with epic-acoustic-love-songs! Yeech!

BRILLO: Yes, nothing annoys me faster than lovelorn guitar chicks who moan about love, peace, and the environment, especially when they have the nerve to yell at the audience for talking during their dreadful sets.

TRACERS: Also, Taft's sense of musical timing and guitar melody are amazing. Besides, when you've got someone playing backing percussion on a trash can lid, how can you lose?

BRILLO: That's the second this i find humourous about the band. That trash-can-cover percussion section must be done tongue in cheek with a hint of defeatedness. I kept imagining that poor drummer thinking, "Ah hell, what can it matter now if I add more metal?" Maybe that's my own projection of the band's intent. If so, I was highly amused at my own comical delusion.

TRACERS: Next up: American Dream. The last time I saw them live the mix just sucked. I mean, it wasn't the band's fault, but the sound really distracted from my enjoyment of the show. And with the way things started off in The Echo Lounge, I thought this show was going to be a repeat performance. The bass and drums were miked way too loud and the backing vocals were louder than the lead vocals.

ZYTHOS: When I was asked at the concert what i thought of American Dream, the first thing that came to mind was, they are not a heavy-metal band and I wish the sound guys in East Atlanta could get that through their extra thick cro-magnon skulls. We would like to hear more than just the bass and drums. I would agree that this concert was several orders of magnitude better than the incredibly shitty one at The Earl. Once again, it was the venue/sound guy, not the band (or at least I think it was since the sound was so atrocious at that show I really don't know if the band played well). I think American Dream is a very good band and I would like to see them play a non-rock venue in Atlanta. I'm sure they would sound good at The Variety Playhouse or even at The Star Bar, although i'm not sure if they would all fit on the stage.

TRACERS: Well i thought that for the last 4 or so songs the sound guy seemed to get things worked out and they sounded really really good.

POSTLIBYAN: I dunno if i agree here. I heard no cello whatsoever. Zero. I could see her up there playing away, but there was no sound coming into the audience.

ZYTHOS: I would agree that the cello was undermixed, but i did hear it at times.

TRACERS: I don't know -- i could hear the cello -- it's just that its sound falls directly between the bass and the drums, so it blends in with them.

POSTLIBYAN: So maybe you didn't hear the cello -- you just extrapolated it's sound from the bass / drums? Or maybe you did. My point is that in other performances you could actually hear the beautiful deep sawing of bow on cello. I didn't hear that this night. Maybe some of that bass drone was coming from the cello. Maybe not. The sound was such an unfocused mess that i couldn't differentiate cello. And that is a criticism in and of itself -- a criticism of the sound, not of American Dream.

TRACERS: Um, well, I think the point I was trying to make (badly) was that some of the reason you couldn't hear the cello is because the bass was ungodly loud.

POSTLIBYAN: This was highly true.

TRACERS: However, I think (and I may be wrong) that at other times, the reason you can't hear the cello distinctly is because the band wants the cello to blend into the background. I certainly think this could be true on the more drone oriented pieces.

POSTLIBYAN: If that's the case, then it has failed more often than it has succeeded. Usually, i can hear the cello. These last 2 shows have been different... If this is the effect that they are going for, then i disapprove... Another problem is that the harp was WAY undermiced, especially considering it is the lead instrument on at least one of the tunes.

ZYTHOS: I thought the harp sounded good in at least one of the songs toward the end of the show.

POSTLIBYAN: Also, the sax was LOUD at first. I mean -- they had that thing all the way up...

BRILLO: I think I've decided that most local venues simply can't handle that much sound. If you're going to have a bazillion instruments on stage, you should seriously consider doing an acoustic set.

POSTLIBYAN: So their attempt to push the boundaries of music just a little by involving non-pop instruments in a pop band is, you are saying, necessarily wrong and doomed to failure? I must disagree. the technology at The Echo could handle their "odd" instrumentation, if somebody (ie, the sound guy) would exert the effort to try and make it work.

BRILLO: Maybe. However, even a quiet set would need more mixing expertise than a place like The Echo can afford.

POSTLIBYAN: Again, i disagree. For a good while things sounded fine at The Echo. Maybe The Echo wasn't paying that sound guy enough and he left. I dunno. Their sound system is capable of handing most any sound (Godspeed You Black Emperor! sounded great there, as did The For Carnation, both of which use odd instrumentation / sounds), what is lacking is the knowledge and skill to run the board......

ZYTHOS: I completely agree, it is not the equipment. Bands like Empire State actually sound quite good at The Echo. The key is to match the mixing to the band.

BRILLO: Well, in all honesty, I like the theoretical idea of what American Dream is trying to do -- bringing together this interesting mix of sounds -- but I don't think they've got the balance right. I agree with Kurt (the token non-Minion in attendance) that they really don't need both a bass and a cello. I only heard the cello on the last song. However, the band does have an interesting stage presence because of their personnel, if nothing else. Rarely do you see a band whose members all dress so differently and creatively. I liken this band to a puppy-- very well-meaning with great markings, but possibly a little too enthusiastic and uncoordinated.

POSTLIBYAN: I dunno Brillo. I like what they are doing, and when the sound is good it sounds great. However, the problem is that on this night the sound blew chunks. Typical of The Echo anymore. What happened to their good sound guy?

TRACERS: True, the sound was bad, but it wasn't nearly as bad as I was expecting. I mean it's not like they made American Dream sound like The Donnas or Black Sabbath....

POSTLIBYAN: No it wasn't "Black Sabbath"-bad, but i am not going to lower my expectations to the point where a good show is one in which the band doesn't sound like Black Sabbath. I refuse to concede that sound problems are expected.

TRACERS: That's fair enough. I guess my expectations were so low regarding the sound that I was surprised the bands didn't sound worse. Then again, there was loud death-rattle that confused everyone on the stage.... and they never could get the drums to sound right.

POSTLIBYAN: Well, again the standard seems to be "level-set for the headliner, and then everyone else just copes". For this theory to work, the venue needs to book bands that have the EXACT SAME instrument lineup... What gets me is that this is a new thing. For a good while last year The Echo sounded great all the time. Lately they have sucked all the time. ECHO -- get your shit together people!

TRACERS: Enough about sound. The music was pretty good. This time, I noticed a new consistency in their music -- the older material was played in pretty much the same way as the last times I've seen them. That's a pretty significant advance.

POSTLIBYAN: Are you implying here that they are obviously rehearsing more often and are becoming more professional? I would agree with that.

TRACERS: And the new songs (I think there were two of 'em) really emphasized the droney aspects of their sound, although their drone comes from having all the instruments going really loudly all at once.

POSTLIBYAN: Yeah. The first tune of their set, Lover is new. (I heard them say that on the radio earlier that day.) I liked the song -- the pianowork is really good. On the whole i say that their development as a band is proceeding nicely and i continue to be impressed with their music.

TRACERS: Finally: Myssouri, who normally play goth western, "Satan's honky tonk" kind o' stuff. Now maybe it was my lack of sleep but it seemed like their set really really dragged, especially on the new slower material. Even though they only played for 45 minutes or so, it seemed much longer than that.

ZYTHOS: There was one song in the middle of the set that really dragged on. All I could think of was that this really was "Death among the Tumbleweeds".

POSTLIBYAN: Yeah -- i think they played 10 songs, 9 of which were new. YAWNNNNN!!!!! That much new stuff all at once = boring. And Tracers is right -- all of the new stuff is too slow for the loud guitar-heavy lineup they now have.

ZYTHOS: Evidently most of the audience agreed with you and left early. There might have been a dozen people left at the end and our group was 5 of them.

TRACERS: Furthermore, although I like some of the newer songs, they really have changed their sound with this iteration of the band. They seem much heavier over all.

ZYTHOS: We obviously know who the sound was set-up for! The heavier sound worked on one or two of the songs but seemed out of place on others. I really think Myssouri is a band searching for both a sound and an audience.

BRILLO: Alright, I am the one who wrote that really great review of Myssouri for their April performance at The Echo Lounge, so I had looked forward to this show immensely. Frankly, I'm pretty disappointed. One of Myssouri's strengths has been its ability to mix layers of sound perfectly, and they can generally replicate that mix onstage (their set at WRAS-fest was really tight). However, this show, "introducing" the band's new material, seemed to ignore that strength, choosing to pair down to guitar-heavy melodies. The band seems to be going "electric" a la The Cult, and like The Cult, it ain't workin'.

Furthermore, Michael Bradley's sunglasses and hat reflected the self-involved attitude of the entire set. The band acted as if they wanted to show off their loud guitars more than play their songs -- self-idulgent bland rock much like Yo La Tengo's show last fall. Add this to the achingly slow pace of most new tunes, and "whiny drone" (loud whiny drone) seems the most appropriate description. And, again, I make this criticism as someone who has listened to their CDs innumerable times over the last month. I am not enthused about the musical prospects of Myssouri.

POSTLIBYAN: Well, yes they have changed, but sometimes bands need to grow as musicians, and sometimes that growth will take them away from an existing fan. We will see how far down this path of "hard guitar rock" Myssouri go.

TRACERS: On the other hand, some of the newer, faster songs remind me of the Pogues circa If I Should Fall From Grace With God, which is a good thing.

POSTLIBYAN: Hmmm.... i didn't really hear The Pogues connetion, but i would agree that the new guitarist plays with some more power chords than the old "nosferatu" guitarist.

TRACERS: Overall, I had a good time, although I think things could have wrapped up earlier.

POSTLIBYAN: It was okay. About average i would say -- not really noteworthy for anything.

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