There are some shows you don’t want to end, and then there are some shows the artist never wants to end. This show was a definite love/hate relationship somewhere in between. Everyone was more than excited to see Atlas Sound, maybe for the second Noise Pop year in a row, but for all of the reasons they loved and wanted more of him, I can’t say I could have taken another minute.
A full force of four band invaded the Great American Music Hall. Nice Nice started it off, who, as two-man bands go, had a fuller and bigger sound than some five pieces I’ve heard before. With their electro drum pads and the lot, they definitely filled the “noise” portion of the Noise Pop requirement.
Second up was the curiously named The Magic Wands. Lining the stage with giant furry tiger heads, a lead guitarist with a very shiny blazer and top hat, and a drummer wearing a zebra mask, they sounded nothing like I expected. A bit of a hazy feel, with smoky guitars and low will vocals that probably would have stayed at the same level on the sound board the entire song. It was nice, but I was pretty tired, so this didn’t exactly provide me with a caffeine spark.
Then came Geographer, who was my favorite of the night. I wasn’t supposed to cover this show originally–it was a last minute fill in–so with no preparation and only having heard a few Atlas Sound songs, everything was basically new to me. Of the four that played, this is the one I’d buy music of. On stage was a guitarist/synth/noises lead singer all in one, an electronic cellist, and a trusty drummer. Geographer charted out a great understated dreamy set that on the surface might have sounded like something you may have heard before, but as you continue to listen, the songs seem to go in a totally different direction off the map. I don’t want to do them a disservice, but I’d maybe put them somewhere in between Postal Service and that one awesome Temper Trap song that is everywhere, “Sweet Disposition.” There’s a definite addition of strong dancy tempo to most of the music, but Mike Deni’s soft and thoughtful vocals add a dimension that maybe is missing from some of that bands of that electro-synth rock genre.
There was a big reception for Atlas Sound, as he came out by himself with a guitar, harmonica, and his delay pedals. Looking like a traveler with his snow hat on, Brandford Cox, the main force behind Deerhunter, jumped right into a number of wistful and lushly layered songs that he builds into a marriage of ethereal and acoustic singer/songwriter troubadour. But once the ethereal part of the music left, I almost felt like something was missing. The songs, sounding plainer than before, had nothing overtly original to them that made them stand out. But maybe it was just me, because the audience was loving every minute of it.
As a live artist, he does like to talk to the talk, as well as interacting with the audience, even to his detriment. Near the beginning of the show he asked the crowd what Oakland was, unsure of the difference between SF and Oakland, resulting in many boos, but by the end of the show he was able to bring it full circle, when someone yelled out “I saw you at Nine Inch Nails!” He replied, “Oh! That’s Oakland!” (Deerhunter had opened up for NIN previously at the Oakland Coliseum.)
But once he got into the the encore, all bets were off, and he might have actually spoken more than sang as he eased into five more songs, one a Deerhunter song, which he wasn’t expected to play. After four hours of live music people were tired, and just wanted to go home, including me! But he was having too much of a good time to let the night end.
Most of Atlas Sound songs are pretty long and written in a stream of consciousness style, so in some ways, the show was a bit random, and exactly that.