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  UNDERWATER w/ Azure Ray  
  The Echo Lounge  
  East Atlanta, GA  
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What really is the purpose behind writing a concert review? On the one hand, it sounds like bragging -- here i am telling you about some cool event that i witnessed that you missed out on. Ha ha reader. On the other hand, sometimes it can serve to warn you away from a band, or guide you to see a band.

So why should i bother to review this, the final concert from Atlanta-based Underwater? If the band is breaking up, you won't have any chance to see them, so why bother?

I have been wresting with this for a few months now, and i have finally decided this: if someone is interested in knowing more about a band, these concert reviews provide valuable information. They are snapshots of the band at a given point in time, and show how they played and what they were like. Underwater might not exist anymore, but there are some spinoff bands (such as stillife;gaijin), and their albums still exist, so having information about them is still valuable.

At least, that's what i'm telling myself, and if it isn't true just let me live with my delusion, okay?

So on a Saturday back in July, after being subjected to Corndog-a-rama at The Earl, i hiked up Flat Shoals Road to The Echo Lounge to take in Underwater's final show. The announcement that this was the last show made me kick myself for failing to check out a few shows that they have played recently, and i really didn't want to miss this one.

Underwater, whose music i have greatly enjoyed, were breaking up. After several years, they are moving on to ohter projects, parenting being one of them. I can respect that.

The opening act was Azure Ray, whom Tracers told me i would like, but whom i had never heard. I sat at the bar listening to them. Their music was almost, but not quite, drowned out by the buzz of Underwater fans chatting socially. For the most part, it seemed as if i was the only person playing attention to them, but they gathered polite applause between songs.

At any rate, i think that Tracers has described their dream-like live sound quite nicely, but i would like to add one more comment. There is a light country element to the strumming style that reminds me of Mazzy Star. Personally i think that the girls in Azure Ray have nicer voices than Ms. Sandoval, but i also know that a few people read that last comment and gasped in shock at my blasphemy. Sandoval's voice is slightly husky. The Azure Ray girls all have light voices and remarkable control. I thought that the singing, even though painfully quiet, hit a wide dynamic range and really complemented the light guitar work.

They played a seemingly short set of quiet songs to an anxious crowd. After they were done, it was relatively soon that Underwater took the stage.

They were something to behold, and it saddens me that i will never see them again. They played significant portions of their wonderful album This Is Not A Film as well as several tunes off of their first album.

The general attitude of the show was celebratory -- as if Underwater wanted to go out with a bang. For this performance they were Jeremy Wilkins on guitars and synthesizers, Alec Irvin on drums, Matt Jeanes on electronics, and Melissa Meleski on voice. This is the third time i have seen them since the release of This Is Not A Film, and this is the third lineup i have seen. The players remain generally the same, they just recombine in different ways at different times.

This lineup is heavier on the electronics than some of their other ones. Indeed, at several times Irvin, Wilkins, and Jeanes were all going creating loud noise from their devices while vocalist Meleski waited patiently.

It was a fine performance -- really energetic and moving. The music was a swirl of noise and distortion and feedback and deep driving beats, all held in check by Mileski's melancholy but beautiful voice.

And that is what really stuck out to me: Irvin, Wilkins, and Jeanes were really enjoying themselves and having a great time making their electronic music, while Mileski seemed bored at the proceedings, as if she were simply indulging "the boys". Given that the band was splitting up, this seemed really telling.

The show ended with a long slow song of just guitar and voice. Mileski's singing was mournful and sad. It was an appropriate way to end the last Underwater show.

I will miss the band. But i will look forward to hearing more from Jeanes (in Larvae), Wilkins and Irvin (in stillife;gaijin), and perhaps even Mileski, given time.

Related Links:

A review of This Is Not A Film.
A review of Azure Ray's self-titled debut.
A review of the debut EP by splinter group stillife;gaijin.
A review of another Underwater show.


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