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  The Echo Lounge  
  East Atlanta, GA  
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Contrary to popular belief, I donít just listen to the various forms of garage rock. I actually have a fondness for many other genres of music. In fact, when it comes to live shows, Iím up for just about anything musically. Yeah, sometimes Iíll hate what I see, but most of the time, if the music is well played, I can get into it.

With that in mind, itís probably a little less surprising that I decided to go see The Octopus Project in concert. Sometimes described as a band that tries to bridge rock and electronica, the Austin Texas ensemble recently released its latest album on Peekaboo records. Iíve heard the album, kinda liked it, and thought theyíd be interesting live. So, with nothing else to do on Friday night, I called up PostLibyan (who is really into that sort of music) and headed over to The Echo Lounge.

When we got there, The Echo already had a decent sized crowd waiting to see the sole opening band, Telegram. I hadnít heard of them prior to this show (and I have to confess, I kept mistakenly thinking their name was ďTeragramĒ), so I didnít know exactly what type of music they played. However, I looked at their set up -- drums, stand up bass, and hollow-body guitar -- and thought, "This seems like it ought to be right down my alley.Ē

For the first two or so songs, that notion seemed accurate. They werenít exactly playing rockabilly, but rather a somewhat bluesy rock that highlighted the singerís smooth voice. It was pleasant, albeit not wildly unique or different. However, after these first few songs, I begin to notice other little things about the band. First off, the guitarist/singer had a strong Keith Richards influence going. While thatís not a bad thing in and of itself, the influence was notable enough that I could tell which Rolling Stonesí songs most guitar riffs were modifications of. Furthermore, once Telegram moved into playing slower material, I could really hear the lyrics for the first time, and they didnít grab me in any meaningful way. Finally, despite the talent of the musicians themselves, their set had a certain sameness to it, and it was hard for me to keep completely focused. Nevertheless, the crowd around me enjoyed the set, and I suspect that many of the issues are merely byproducts of Telegram being a relatively new band.

Afterwards, The Octopus Project set up their equipment -- a mass of guitars, keyboards, and drums. From the first, I liked their music: it seemed louder and more raucous on stage than on their album. Mentally, I found myself comparing them musically to Mogwai, albeit with less overt structure and no lyrics. And in some ways, the ways the 4 members traded off instruments recalled Tortoise. Still, if Iím being honest, I canít really think of anyone or anything whom they sound exactly like, but it basically goes this way: The Octopus Project combined a strong rhythmic beat (held together by the drums and the bass) with a whole lot of underlying guitar noise and loud melodic keyboard bits. On the surface it sounds strange, but in practice, the music was quite enjoyable.

In particular, I liked the songs where the one band member played live drums (instead of having the entire band playing along to a more synthesized beat). On those, the music seemed more driven, and there was less overt noise to wrap my brain around. Furthermore, during one song, the female keyboardist played the theremin. Iíve heard the theremin before, but the way The Octopus Project managed to integrate it to their overall sound was impressive. And, oddly enough, the way she actually physically played the instrument looked like a combination of dance and tai chi. Itís not often that you see a compelling performance on odd instrumentation, but she certainly pulled it off.

Unfortunately, it seemed like the crowd at large wasnít nearly as impressed by the The Octopus Project as PostLibyan and I were. Throughout their set, people kept filing out, until at one point, we turned around and there were perhaps 12 people in the room, including bar staff. I suppose on some levels it makes sense: after the smoothness of Telegram, Iím sure The Octopus Project came off as particularly loud and noisy and chaotic. Still, it didnít seem fair to this band that is trying something a little different and, more impressively, pulling it off. I hope they come back this way soon, and manage to pull in a crowd. They deserve it.

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