It’s a common occurrence: Regional band with respectful amount of success just misses hitting it big. Disappears only to resurface several years later. Is it an act of desperation or a legitimate run? For the Athens, Georgia band Five Eight, it appeared to be legitimate at Smith’s Olde Bar in Atlanta Saturday night. Twenty years after their formation, the band sounds as relevant and fresh as ever. Singer/guitar shredder Mike Mantione seemed to channel Joe Cocker, Angus Young, and Frank Black simultaneously. Longtime bassist Dan Horowitz and drummer Patrick “Tigger” Ferguson round out the band. Both exceptional musicians in their own right.
The scene at Smith’s Olde Bar was not what a band wants to see, though. At its peak, the show entertained around 50 people. This may be attributed to a lack of PR for the show. If not for catching it in the local entertainment guide Creative Loafing, Most would not have heard. But word of mouth is a powerful thing. For those in attendance, we witnessed an impassioned plea for rock and roll by the band. They were on fire. Mantione, at times, seemed genuinely pissed that there weren’t more lucky listeners. As he began the first notes of one song, he said, “This is from our first one. You might as well come close, there are only twelve of you.” Nonetheless, the trio was undeterred, playing like a band possessed in front of a sold-out arena.
About halfway through the show, in an apparent attempt to show his frustration for Five Eight’s lack of a present fan base, Mantione livened it up. Just after starting a nice version of the Doors’ “The End,” Mantione stepped off the stage and smashed straight through a table where a sleeping blonde sat. Along with the table, a few chairs, and beer bottles galore, Mantione crashed to the floor. Not missing a chord, he returned to the mic, asking “Is everyone okay?” This was one of the funniest and most shocking things I’ve ever seen at a live show. And the blonde was now awake to enjoy the show. It was a win-win.
The band pulled from their six studio albums dating back to 1992, including I Learned Shut Up, Weirdo, and Gasolina! Check out Five Eight’s terrific songs on their My Space page, including “I’m Still Around,” “God Damn It Paul,” “Square Peg,” and “Weirdo.”
Throughout the evening, Mantione seemed to be creating the set list from his head. He began several songs while Horowitz and Ferguson looked at each other perplexed as to what this song was. And song after song, they figured it out and joined in seamlessly. With comparisons having been made to the Pixies, Dinosaur Jr., and the Replacements, Five Eight will pull you into their own style and sound and leave you wanting more. With a new album in the works and a scheduled New Year’s Eve gig with the Modern Skirts back at Smith’s Olde Bar, these guys will get another chance to show everyone they’re still around.
Opening the show was Atlanta’s own Club Awesome. This was a performance unto itself, as these guys brought catchy alt-rock to the sparse room. Club Awesome originated in 2004 as a self-proclaimed “Country-music Smiths cover band.” While I can actually hear them playing that way, their current thing is much better. With last year’s release Dynamos and an impressive live show, Club Awesome is forming a solid fan base with their post-punk musings and energetic sets. With tight, excellent musicianship, these guys should be around for quite some time. Definitely worth checking out.
On deck was Author’s Apology. While showing off their rock and roll chops with originals and nice covers of Billy Bragg and Elvis Costello, they lost something in the sound. It was simply too loud. The vocals were frequently lost in near distortion. Maybe it was the half-empty room (more warm bodies = more sound absorption). Either way, listeners deserve another chance to hear these guys.