Punch Brothers bring a little bit of fantastic to Atlanta

Live review: Punch Brothers and Jesca Hoop at the Variety Playhouse in Atlanta, 4/21/12

If Wilco can be called the American Radiohead, then surely Punch Brothers can be considered the Bluegrass Radiohead. Not that all bands must be held to the Radiohead standard, but when a band evolves, takes chances and goes all experimental, the comparison is allowed. Even Punch Brothers basic song construction, in some cases, sounds a bit Radioheadish. Leader of the group Chris Thile (Nickel Creek, The Goat Rodeo Sessions) also exhibits a thing for Thom Yorke’s group. “Kid A” is featured prominently on the new Who’s Feeling Young Now? (Nonesuch) and the boys have covered a number of their songs live.

The wonderful “Don’t Get Married Without Me” kicked off the set. Thile (prounounced “THEE-lee”) and the rest of the “newgrass” quintet seem as close to virtuosos a five-piece can get. Rounding out the band are Gabe Witcher (violin), Noam Pikelny (banjo), Chris Eldridge (acoustice guitar) and Paul Kowert (stand-up bass). These guys are all rock stars and not the traditional kind. No drums, no electric guitars, no synth. Just five dudes standing on stage, playing the strings. Total rock stars. If you don’t believe it, check them out. Thile does the solos like Eddie Van Halen, just in a purer form. And with a mandolin.

All five Brothers had established careers playing with other people and got together in 2006. The name was taken from the Mark Twain short story “Punch, Brothers, Punch.” Using a Twain title is perfect: likeable and pervasively honest, just like the band. Various members of the group joked and chatted with audience members throughout the evening, but it was the music that mattered.

World class original music is their specialty, but they are also known for all those covers. This evening was no different, as the band played some great tunes from the likes of Beck, Radiohead (of course), Gillian Welch and The Cars (see set list below). For the finale, a wonderfully emotional cover of The Band’s “The Weight” (it had only been two days since the passing of Levon Helm). This was a tribute by Punch Brothers, but as you see in the video, the entire audience was involved.

Watch “The Weight”

It was a lively evening and Punch Brothers are now known as one of those collectives that create a hybrid sound. This was their fourth trip to the Variety Playhouse in Atlanta and the first to sell out. It appears that their sound – however experimental it may be – is a refreshing change from the status quo that you get on the radio hour after hour. Please, see them live.

Californian Jesca Hoop warmed up the crowd very nicely with a guitar and an exquisite voice that can be compared with no one elses. She has toured with Elbow and Peter Gabriel and exhibits a powerful presence while remaining somewhat grounded in her banter. With a very dry sense of humor, her opening gig was almost a conversation with fans. Very funny and very effective. New fans were made that night.

Touring in support of her upcoming release The House That Jack Built (June 25), Hoop has built a following with her sensual and personal style of performing. Thile joined her onstage for a sweet duet, and she returned the favor by joining the boys for a song. Before she had a chance to begin, though, Punch Brothers sang her a rousing “Happy Birthday.” She was embarassed. And happy.

Punch Brothers Set list
Don’t Get Married Without Me, New York City, Next To The Trash, Flippen, Who’s Feeling Young Now?, Clara, Missy, The Blind Leaving The Blind, Sexx Laws (Beck cover), Train On The Island, Hundred Dollars, Kid A (Radiohead cover), Wayside/Back In Time (Gillian Welch cover), Happy Birthday (w/Jesca Hoop), Just What I Needed (The Cars cover), Watch ‘at Breakdown, Rye Whiskey.

Patchwork Girlfriend, Movement And Location, The Weight (The Band cover).

Kaiser Chiefs predict (and get) a riot in Atlanta

Live review: Kaiser Chiefs with Walk the Moon and Transfer at the Tabernacle in Atlanta, 3/10/12

Ricky Wilson, the bold and brassy lead singer of Leeds natives Kaiser Chiefs, seemed a tad pissed as the show kicked off in Atlanta. Maybe this was because the Tabernacle did not sell out. After all, the band had been hailed as the next Jam when they released their debut Employment in 2005. Maybe it’s because Wilson and the boys really want to exude that punk rock attitude, so pissed is how to do that.

Whatever the reason, they cheered up themselves and warmed up the crowd quickly. The energy level was locked on 11 the entire evening. Touring in support of the new release Start the Revolution Without Me (B-Unique), the band performed songs from all four albums, but relied on the brilliant Employment for much of the evening. The show kicked off with the wicked “Everyday I Love You Less And Less,” and Wilson was all over the stage (and off it, some). With a history of injuries from jumping off the stage, he surely was being careful. Like when he climbed the rope ladder into the balcony and walked through the shocked crowd while singing his song and prodding those jammed on the floor to scream.

Wilson and the band were very chatty between songs and showed off that dry English sense of humor. “Next time we return to Atlanta,” Wilson yelled, “be sure to bring your friends.” Kaiser Chiefs gave it 110% to the adoring fans, who made it sound like a sold out Tabernacle. It was a fantastically supercharged concert and no one left wanting more. Except they could have played more. That’s all. One of their most popular tunes, “I Predict A Riot” brought down the house with its return-to-mod feel and a tip of the hat to the Jam. Paul Weller must be proud.

For the final song, the group played their first single from 2004, “Oh My God.” Wilson jumped off the stage and singled out one young lady, singing, “Oh my God I can’t believe it / I never been this far away from home” as if he was simultaneously living the moment and wanting to flee.

It was a quick one, with a total of 17 rapid fire songs that sounded flawless. Though the band has yet to repeat the success it had with the first album, they’ve still got the hunger and skill to keep going for quite a while.

With Wilson, the band is comprised of Andrew White (guitar), Simon Rix (bass), Nick Baines (keys) and Nick Hodgson (drums). The band was tight and loud and missed not a beat. Hodgson on drums was reminiscent of Keith Moon or Brad Elvis in appearance, clothing and drumming style. Which means he killed it. As the show ended, the very British Hodgson exclaimed, “You make me proud to be an American. All of you.”

San Diego’s Transfer opened the evening with their fresh, progressive rock sounds. This band is clearly ready to move to the next level. All they need is a little more exposure. That will be gained with this tour and a few important stops, including SXSW.

Cincinnati’s Walk the Moon delivered some nice power pop as a segue to Kaiser Chiefs. Their huge hit from last summer, “Anna Sun,” paved the way for the band to get some massive exposure around the world. You may remember the exciteable and overly happy video that went viral in a very short time. Their unsigned career got a jolt of caffeine with that single as well as calls from agents and labels.

The Anna Sun EP is out now and can be downloaded directly from their site. They are scheduled to play SXSW, Sasquatch and NYC’s Governor’s Ball as well as a host of other events and TV shows.

Set List:

Everyday I Love You Less And Less, Never Miss A Beat, Little Shocks, Everything Is Average Nowadays, Good Days Bad Days, Modern Way, Listen To Your Head, Ruby, The Angry Mob, Na Na Na Na Naa, Starts With Nothing, I Predict A Riot, Kinda Girl You Are, Take My Temperature, On The Run.


Love’s Not A Competetion (But I’m Winning), Oh My God.

Grimes makes Monday fun in Atlanta

Live review: Grimes with Born Gold and Dog Bite at the Drunken Unicorn in Atlanta, 3/5/12

The Drunken Unicorn may not be a place one would choose for a relaxing night out on the town. For the typical music connoisseur, this may be a venue of a less-than-favorable comfort level. First of all, the place is nearly impossible to find, GPS or not. Once you actually get there, good luck locating the entrance. It’s a dark descent down concrete steps into the small doorway. The interior is tiny – almost too small for any band. An annex space is taken up by a nice bar.

Once the show began, the smoky and hot room became very crowded. But when an act is good enough, this is all worth it. Grimes (born Claire Boucher) is a Canadian wondergirl who appears to be master of her domain. The cute and down-to-earth musician handles the gig box – complete with Mac and effects machines – with her left hand, while keeping up on the synth with her right. When not singing, the mic is securely stuck between chin and shoulder. All this plus a dreamy voice helped the mostly male fan club forget about the undesireable venue conditions.

Touring in support of her new release Visions (4AD), Grimes is a consumate performer, constantly talking to the crowd and explaining how this didn’t sound right or sorry for that. Things that no one would notice without her self-deprecating style of pointing them out. The new critically acclaimed Visions provided much content for this too-short set. “Oblivion” and the excellent “Genesis” were big hits. For the more complex tunes, Born Gold joined Grimes onstage.

While the set was short, the scene was intense. It was a good night for Grimes, who is continuing on the tour with a stopover at SXSW and then on to several European dates beginning in May.

Listen to Grimes: “Genesis”

Atlanta’s Dog Bite is the brainchild of former Washed Out collaborator Phil Jones. With his self-described folk/surf/trance sound, the boys warmed up the crowd nicely. After coming off a tour, he had the desire to record more of his own songs. With the absence of the required chillwave computer, he used his guitar and went through the process.

With an amalgam of pop, rock, indie and chill, Dog Bite has a unique and intriguing sound. Be on the lookout for the upcoming LP Velvet Changes.

Listen to Dog Bite: “Prettiest Pills”

Up next was the three ring circus of fellow Canadians Born Gold. This was like no other live experience around. Cecil Frena, formerly using the name Gobble Gobble, put on a mindblowing show that ranks right up there with Cirque du Soleil. Seriously. Beginning with his biker jacket covered in lights (which seemed to be controlled by his movements and read through a Mac). Attached gloves also reacted to motion, and looked like something out of the Iron Man movie.

With a fine release last year entitled Bodysongs (Hovercraft), Frena has crafted some wonderful music that is only surpassed by its presentation. On his Facebook page, he has described himself/his music this way: “I’M A CASKET DANCER, TAPPING OUT TOE MORSE TO THE THIRSTY SILENCE.” That explains it perfectly. If you don’t get it, then you get it.

Frena’s two minions have been trained to conform to the insanity. If they’re not standing on the small stage facing the crowd holding two black hand fans (that would light up frequently) while wearing black masks (ala Black Swan) – they’re walking through the sardine-packed crowd on stilts while playing what looked like a shovel (though it did possess much electronic prowess). Needless to say, it was a show. If you EVER get the chance to see Born Gold, you must do it. Your life really may depend on it.

Listen to Born Gold: “Alabaster Bodyworlds”

Watch Born Gold (if you dare): “Alabaster Bodyworlds”

Radiohead: Perfect in Atlanta

Live Review: Radiohead and Other Lives at Philips Arena, 3/1/12

Those who admittedly “don’t get” Radiohead have clearly never experienced a live show. But others, who have been fans of the band since the beginning, have found it easier to appreciate Radiohead’s music as the band has evolved over nearly 20 years on the scene. Despite their electronic/experimental leanings, anyone would be a convert after being witness to one of these astonishing productions.

With the phenomenal musicianship of each member of the band, every song was brilliantly performed – even those unfamiliar to many in the audience sounded like hits. There has been little if any radio play for Radiohead’s songs since the beginning (“Creep,” “High And Dry” and “Karma Police” are exceptions, which had limited success in America – none of which are played live very often). To be honest, The King of Limbs Radiohead is a far cry from the more accessible Pablo Honey Radiohead of 1993.

Lead singer/frantic dancer Thom Yorke (who also skillfully handled guitars, keyboards and piano) commanded a perfect evening for Atlanta fans on the third stop of the King of Limbs tour. Ed O’Brien (guitars, backing vocals, electronics), brothers Colin (bass guitars, keyboards) and Jonny Greenwood (guitars, keyboards, etc.), and Phil Selway (drums, percussion) round out this critically acclaimed British quintet. A majority of tracks off of the new album were played and sounded spectacular live. The 20,000+ rabid fans filled the sold-out Philips Arena and were possibly the only thing louder than the band. Radiohead definitely felt the love that night, crowd surfers and all.

Besides creating music that no one can predict, this group is also known for breathtaking visuals. On the new tour, there are twelve giant screens (each measuring roughly five feet by five feet) hanging high above the stage, showing live images of each member. Several cameras were mounted stage left and right. The huge wall behind the band looked more like bubble wrap, but soon would be host erratic and colorful designs via thousands of LEDs which may or may not have been responsible for seizures throughout the throngs of crazy fans. As the show progressed, those colossal screens began to slowly lower until they were hanging at various angles just above the bandmember’s heads. This mezmerising effect made every seat in the house a front row experience. The screens raised and lowered throughout the show.

Yorke has transcended into Rock God status. At the beginning and end of every song, enamored fans hooted, hollared and screamed their approval. The same thing happened each time he spoke. Even clearing his throat brought applause. Yorke seems the epitome of contentment as he danced and jumped and flailed around the stage, much like Michael Stipe was known to do. Stipe and R.E.M. were one of Radiohead’s inspirations and they opened for the Georgia natives a few times in the nineties.

After an incredible set of 16 wonderful songs, the band gave two encores. In all respects, Yorke was extremely appreciative and thanked the fans repeatedly. Ending the first encore, he sat at the keyboard and sang a few bars of R.E.M.’s “The One I Love” which lead seamlessly into the marvelous “Everything In Its Right Place,” one of the evening’s most well-received tunes. When Yorke sings, “Yesterday I woke up sucking a lemon / Yesterday I woke up sucking a lemon,” it’s hard to imagine that’s his life now. The dude was smiling more and dancing more and living more. At concert’s end, the band had surpassed the two-hour mark.

As Radiohead continue to evolve musically, they also improve upon their live performances. This night in Atlanta should rank up their with their most flawless of evenings. Everything seemed to be in its right place. The only drawback was that many songs were not played due to time constraints and/or the band’s own lack of willingness to play them. Nevertheless, every serious music fan should add Radiohead to their short list of “must see” shows.

Oklahoma’s Other Lives opened the show with a fantastic set. Supporting Radiohead on the first leg of the tour, Other Lives culled most of the songs from last year’s Tamer Animals (TBD) album, including the incredible “For 12.” Just last summer, the band was in Atlanta opening for the Rosebuds in the much smaller EARL venue. They’ve come a long way in a few short months.

Frontman Jesse Tabish lead the six-piece ensemble through a too-brief set of beautiful tunes. Their sound is relatively close to the Radiohead neighborhood of music and the audience recognized that. They will finish out this American tour with Radiohead, then move on and evolve, as all great bands do.

Set List:

Bloom, Little By Little, Airbag, Weird Fishes / Arpeggi, Morning Mr. Magpie, The Gloaming, Kid A, Pyramid Song, Nude, Identikit, Lotus Flower, There There, Feral, Idioteque, The Daily Mail, Bodysnatchers


Separator, You And Whose Army?, Myxomatosis, The One I Love / Everything In Its Right Place

Encore 2:

Staircase, Reckoner, Street Spirit (Fade Out)

Uncle Green resurrected

Live review: Uncle Green / 3 lb. Thrill CD release party with Pink Pompeii and The Head at Smith’s Olde Bar in Atlanta, 2/25/12

For fans of 90s alt-rockers Uncle Green (who became 3 lb. Thrill with a label deal), last night’s reunion show was a godsend. Although that major label thing did not last, the following did. After the successful Kickstarter campaign last year to master and self-release Rycopa, die-hard fans have been chomping at the bit awaiting this reunion show. The foursome did not disappoint.

And it also seems as if the band picked up right where it left off. Some rust is always expected for a reunion show. Seriously, these guys haven’t played a gig together for six years. Despite that, they sounded fresh and tight. And all those Rycopa songs from 1997? Still sounding relevant.

The boys joked and poked fun at each other throughout the night, exhibiting a friendship that is still apparently intact. Drummer Pete McDade, who did all the heavy lifting in finding those tapes, is raising a family in Atlanta. Bassist Bill Decker also resides in Atlanta while Jeff Jensen (vocals, guitar) lives in Washington, D.C. and Matt Brown (vocals, guitar) calls New Jersey home.

While the band revisited the glory days with many classics that the fans really were yearning for, the night was ruled by the highly listenable tracks from Rycopa. The driving “Not In Range,” was a favorite as was the awesome “Geronimo.” The dueling vocals of Jensen and Brown work together seamlessly. All four are seasoned musicians who play together as if that 15-year break was 15 days.

The wonderful “Pretty Good Lie” joins many other songs that could easily have made it on the radio back in ’97 (or even today). But somehow this is sweeter, after the aging process has matured these tunes and allowed them to percolate to perfection. Regarding the audience, it was a full house of old school Uncle Green / 3 lb. Thrill fanatics, who appeared to know all the words to all the songs. Even the new stuff.

Brown was fighting a scratchy throat and informed fans that he’d researched this on the Internet and put all his faith in one website, which instructed him to drink pineapple juice. He commenced to drinking that stuff like shots at the bar. Many are asking about another album, another show. No real answers yet, but if the support for Rycopa and this “one-off” show are any indication, these guys still have an audience. To pick up the new release, go to CD Baby.

Listen: “Not In Range” & “Pretty Good Lie”

Atlanta trio The Head opened the show with an energy that can only be possessed by the youth. Idealistic, catchy power-pop never sounded this good from what has to be Atlanta’s best kept secret. Twin brothers Jack (drums, lead vocals) and Mike Shaw (bass, keys, lead vocals) joined with their best friend Jacob Morrell (guitar, backing vocals) to bring an urgent and excellent sound to the stage. Supporting their latest release, Hang On, this group is poised to hit it big in a very short time.

The stunningly packaged CD was – get this – given away free at the show in exchange for an email. That’s how you do it, people. The live show is intense. Both brothers can sing and all three are exceptional musicians. Hints of the Stone Roses peeked out of a few songs, as did a tad of Arctic Monkeys. Be that as it may, The Head is all original power-pop and very talented. Go to The Head Music for free downloads of all their music. You will not regret it.

Listen & Download: Hang On

Pink Pompeii filled the gap with their unique sound. Rob Gal (production, guitar, synth) is joined by Nan Kemberling (vocals, cello) and Courtney King (vocals, guitar, synth) to create something completely different. Pink Pompeii describe themselves as “computer + guitar + cello + vocals + love + bass + keys = pp.” That about nails it. This electropop outfit from Atlanta has the classical-music-meets-the-dancefloor market all sewn up.

Pink Pompeii songs such as “Trash,” “Dark Cloud” and “Please Help Me Out” are crafted with a precision very few groups achieve, yet it was a let-yourself-go kind of set bowing to no rules. The ultra-perky Kemberling lit up the room with her smile and her voice. It’s good to see someone enjoying their work so much.

Gal, who is credited for production work on Rycopa, seemed to be the ring leader of the trio. He joined Uncle Green/3 lb. Thrill onstage for a few songs, as well.

Listen: “Dark Cloud”

This was a great night of diverse musical styles. Each band complemented the next and prepped the audience for a very enjoyable evening. Let’s hope it can be repeated soon.

Uncle Green / 3 lb. Thrill Set List

I Don’t Wanna Know About It, He’s The Man, Elmira Place, Pretty Good Lie, Not In Range, Karen Dine, Daddy’s Got Money Again, Wake Up Now, Save A Seat For Me, Miracle Of Me, Geronimo, It’s A Red, Red, Red, Red, Redneck World, Diana, Don’t Fix It If It Works, Gunshow, Grrrranimal Party


Dymaxion, House With No Windows, I Always Knew You’d Come To Me

Cloud Nothings fill the EARL

Live Review: Cloud Nothings with Gold-Bears and A Classic Education at the EARL, 2/17/12

Kids these days. Just think they know everything. Well, Cloud Nothings‘ Dylan Baldi decided to give it a shot and put his money where his mouth allegedly was. Dropping out of college at 18 and stocking up on CD-Rs, he had an album. Since then, the Cleveland band has been signed to Carpark Records and last month released the critically acclaimed Attack on Memory. Although the first single, “No Future/No Past,” is a broodingly dark track (accompanied by a wickedly creepy video), it does not have the same uptempo, indie rock sound as pretty much the remainder of the album.

Having said that, Baldi even cranked those tracks up to 11. As with most young people (it was not immediately clear if he was even allowed to attend this 21+ event), he gets excited on stage and the screaming Dylan Baldi took over for several songs. Gotta give it to him though, he gave 110% on every song.

Most of Memory was performed, along with a few earlier selections, including “Hey Cool Kid,” “Forget You All The Time” and “Understand At All.” It’s the new stuff, though, that is garnering attention from fans and critics alike. A departure from the lo-fi beginnings, Memory is reaching out to a bigger audience. Whether channeling Nirvana or The Strokes, Cloud Nothings have that indie edge that keeps your foot a-tapping.

Opening the evening was Atlanta’s Gold-Bears, a “crash pop” band that hit the ground running. The driving indie-pop songs were mostly fueled by the new drummer (“the old drummer sucked”), who burned a million calories that night. Promoting last year’s Are You Falling in Love, the Bears have a clean sound that the crowd clearly appreciated.

The night’s big surprise was Italy’s A Classic Education. With a tight band, great musicians and a lead singer with a great voice and stage presence, there’s no where to go but up for these guys. Playing several catchy tunes from their two full-lengths Call it Blazing and Hey There Stranger (both on Lefse Records), the band did a fine job keeping the energy going, after just flying in the day before from Europe.

They Might Be Giants rock the Variety

Live Review: They Might Be Giants and Jonathan Coulton at the Variety Playhouse in Atlanta, 2/10/12

In the first of a two-night sold out weekend at Atlanta’s Variety Playhouse, They Might Be Giants took a well-deserved break from the “family” shows. Don’t misunderstand, the typical family show takes place at 2:00PM on a Saturday afternoon, and is filled with gems from the TMBG kid-era No! and the Here Comes series (the ABCs, the 123s, Science). These back-to-normal regular shows are all rock and grown-up talk. Originally a duo with John Linnell and John Flansburgh gracing small stages in the mid- to late-eighties with a guitar, an accordian and a drum machine, the Two Johns now have a phenomenol backing band that really know how to rock.

The evening was filled with 25 years of TMBG hits, but especially songs from the latest 18-track release Join Us (Idlewild Records). From that, “Can’t Keep Johnny Down,” “You Probably Get That A Lot,” “Old Pine Box,” “Celebration” and “When Will You Die” were standouts. They have brought back some of that early sound that made them famous in the fist place (catchy, quirky, hooky and fun).

Interspersed between songs were the Avatars of They (John and John’s alter-egos in puppet form). The two sock puppets are able to say inappropriate things and get all political but it’s okay. They’re only puppets. The crowd was also part of the show, as when they were divided down the middle by a spotlight from the stage to the balcony. Stage left was apes, while stage right was people. Each side competed by raising fists in the air and screaming. People won.

From the old stuff, fans heard “Subliminal,” “Birdhouse In Your Soul,” “Snowball In Hell,” “Cowtown,” “James K. Polk,” “Particle Man,” “The Guitar” and “Fingertips.” Two encores included “Doctor Worm” and “Istanbul (Not Constantinople)” among others. The band is rounded out by Dan Miller, Danny Weinkauf and power drummer Marty Beller. These three guys complete TMBG. The Two Johns have come along way since the drum machine days. This is an excellent band.

The opening act was Jonathan Coulton (“and the Coultoneers”), a trio assembled not unlike the Giants (quirky, poppy melodies with smart and witty lyrics). Coulton played much of his recent release Artificial Heart (Jocoserious Records), plus fan favorites “Code Monkey” and “Still Alive.” But it was “Re: Your Brains” that really got the crowd involved. The song is about a poor schlub who becomes a zombie and now wants to return to work. The audience quickly learned the chorus (“All we want to do is eat your brains”) and Coulton filled in the rest of the song with hilarious lyrics (“We’re not unreasonable, I mean no one’s gonna eat your eyes”). It’s an instant classic and possibly the most memorable song of the entire evening.

Look for both on tour and enjoy great music and videos at tmbg.com and/or jonathancoulton.com

Uncle Green or 3 lb. Thrill: Whatever you call them, they’re back

Review: Rycopa by Uncle Green/3 lb. Thrill

It was the late-eighties and for Uncle Green, the dream was coming true. They were a well known college rock band that was successfully touring. Soon came the big label deal, exposure, chance of a lifetime. After a short stint on the label, it was back to the drawing board. Several attempts to regain label support failed and the four members continued on with their lives and the business of raising families.

After years of wondering, drummer Pete McDade decided to hunt down the “lost tapes” that were ready for release back in ’97. Those songs were recorded in that now-famous rented house in Atlanta’s Little 5 Points. After nearly two years of searching, the tapes were discovered buried deep in a Sony warehouse. Many emails, calls and sleepless nights later, he had them in his hands. Now what?

The members of the band, which formed in high school in the early ’80s in New Jersey, were scattered about the country. McDade began the arduous task of reconnecting musically (see The Blues Brothers: “We’re putting the band back together.”). Remaining members of the band, Matt Brown (vocals, guitar), Jeff Jensen (guitar, vocals) and Bill Decker (bass) were all open to the idea of self-releasing the newfound tapes. A Kickstarter campaign ensued to fund the mastering and the fans came through – in a big way.

The massive Rycopa (a 32-song blast) hits you from all fronts. To list all the apparent influences would be tough. From “Standing Out In The Rain” (Ben Folds) to “St. Lazaro” (Squeeze – in fact, if that’s not Difford and Tilbrook, I owe a man some money) to “Sunrise Lullaby” (Beatles) to “Super Kitty Uh Huh” (Monster-era R.E.M.), Rycopa is hitting on all cylinders. But to say that Rycopa is just an amalgam of all these apparent influences would be unfair. Like their previous life, Uncle Green/3 Lb Thrill have definitely created their own personality. From Brown’s vocals to each members contributions, they are easily identifiable with a distinctive sound.

Rycopa kicks off with “Not In Range,” a rolling rocker that is officially dubbed the first single, in this writer’s humble opinion. Throughout several tracks, the boys keep their sense of humor (“Lucy In The Streets With Dimetapp,” “It’s A Red, Red, Red, Red, Redneck World”). But don’t expect to hear that instant hit with addictive hooks. Rycopa takes a few listens – then you’re hooked.

In honor of the foursome’s belated release, a special one-off reunion show will take place Saturday, February 25 at Smith’s Olde Bar in Atlanta. For all those fans of Uncle Green and 3 lb. Thrill, this is a gift from the heavens. It will showcase all the fantastic stuff from Rycopa, as well as a trip down memory lane, performing all those songs the fans know by heart from the nineties. To grab a copy of the new release, go to CD Baby. For ticket information, move quickly to Ticket Alternative. Tickets are only $12.

Openers for the show will be The Head and Pink Pompeii. Also, be sure to catch a very special in-store performance (family friendly!) at 3:30 the day of the show at Decatur CD.

Future Islands freak out a lot of people (in a good way)

Live Review: Future Islands at the EARL in Atlanta, 11/26/11

To call Baltimore’s Future Islands “interesting” would be a gross understatement. Lead singer/growler Samuel T. Herring takes the listener on a journey on par with the most disturbing David Lynch creations. He drifts seamlessly from a guttural grunt to a strong and stunning voice, sometimes flirting with a falsetto. And he’s funny. It’s as if Henry Rollins and Jack Black had a love child. A dark and brooding love child.

Imagine all this with a backdrop of synth-rock epicness and you’ll understand the essence of Future Islands. I can guarantee that this is like nothing you’ve ever seen or heard. And after most songs, Herring spit out a “Fuck right!” to somehow underscore how awesome that last song was. No reminder necessary. His passion and sweaty performance convinced the roomful of listeners at the EARL that this was a very special Thanksgiving weekend treat.

Herring’s scary demeanor aside, this was one hell of a rock show. The trio also includes the talented Gerrit Welmers (keyboards and programming) and William Cashion (guitars). No eye contact among the three was witnessed. Maybe Welmers and Cashion are afraid of Herring, too. They simply did their thing and kept their eyes averted for most of the evening.

Touring in support of their recent release On the Water (Thrill Jockey), the boys grooved into hints of vintage New Order and Cure. Some songs take you down three different roads at once, as if three genres have collided. Songs like “Balance” and “Before The Bridge,” from the new album, along with terrific selections from last year’s In Evening Air including “Vireo’s Eye,” “Walking Through That Door,” “Tin Man” and “An Apology” were a welcome change from the usual riff raff heard in local bars. This is a band to watch and you owe it to yourself to check them out now.

Self-proclaimed “stump rockers” Lonnie Walker opened the show and exceeded the crowd’s expectations being the first band in a three-band evening. The Raleigh natives played like headliners. Drawing comparisons with the dB’s and the Feelies, these 80s-college-rock-sounding dudes are for real. Such righteous songs as “Grape Juice” and “Teenage Poem” gained the audience’s attention immediately. The band is currently touring in support of These Times Old Times (Terpsikhore).

Ed Schrader’s Music Beat stunned and amazed with reckless abandon. Two guys: one banging a single drum while singing, the other one (Devlin Rice) playing the bass and being ginormously intimidating. If these guys require a label for their music, it has not yet been invented.

Ranging from screaming anger (“Gas Station Attendant”) to low-key, funny hooks (“Rats”), Schrader’s songs thrilled and delighted virtually everyone in the room. He repeatedly echoed what one fan apparently stated, that he was reminiscent of Jim Morrison (the truth is, he sounded very much like the late Doors man). These two woke up the room (and everyone else within a ten-mile radius). Three one-of-a-kind acts on the same stage and the same night. The EARL hit a homerun with this one.

Holy Ghost! bring salvation to Hell

Live Review: Holy Ghost! on the Masquerade Hell Stage, 11/21/11

Brooklyn’s Holy Ghost! have been on a steady incline this past year, getting a thrust from their Static on the Wire EP release last year and especially their self-titled release this past spring. The New York duo of Nick Millhiser and Alex Frankel have know each other since first grade, and been making music almost that long.

It all began with some bluesy covers, then the move into hip hop, and now they’ve created a sort of 21st century disco, for those who care to listen. Apparently, there are a lot who care to listen. Promoted on James Murphy’s DFA Records, Holy Ghost! have received rave reviews and have been hitting the pavement hard this past year. Still, the band is not a household name in America. (And yes, it’s that James Murphy, of the wonderful – and missed – LCD Soundsystem)

This was the third trip through Atlanta in 2011 for Holy Ghost! Back in March, they swept through, supporting the terrific Cut/Copy tour. Then in August, they were part of the electronic/DJ Identity Fest. Now, on a headlining tour, Millhiser and Frankel have proven to be ready for the challenge.

Playing nearly the entire album, as well as some tracks from 2010’s Static on the Wire, Holy Ghost! pleased their fans with some excellent late 70s/early 80s sounds that do not seem dated. It’s an update on that era, with a 2011 NYC spin. “Hold On,” “Do It Again,” “Wait & See” and “Hold My Breath” were just a few of the tunes performed.

Hold My Breath – Holy Ghost! from DFA Records on Vimeo.

Holding court on the Hell Stage of Atlanta’s Masquerade is no small task when the metal/hardcore Thrash and Burn tour is pounding away on the Heaven Stage (upstairs). The boys laughed it off and actually seemed to be using the thumping from above as a sort of programmed drum machine. Somehow, it worked.

So, with a little more exposure and a lot more touring, American may just be ready for a little salvation with Holy Ghost!