Everybody socialized with the reserved excitement of a freshman orientation. Fun was to be had, sure, but to what degree was the procession supposed to fall backwards in trust. Nobody had an answer in Rickshaw Stop, San Francisco’s nook of clamoring dynamite, for what to expect from Maps & Atlases and company. Neither the crowd’s collective facade nor the ampersand-heavy line-up insinuated flame for a powder keg; that was a misguided prejudgement.
Instant Rumspringa! Cannons & Clouds blitzed in an anthemic frenzy of spiritual awakening. It was like church for unrequited protagonists, fast and forlorn hymns for a lake of believers. Guttural gloom bloomed towards an arena of groove and gravity, mixing indie popish ambience with proggy malleability. The band’s five members formed an outstretched hand, yanking up the audience with utmost pathos piked with undeniable sincerity. Undeniable! Atmosphere dripped from lush, operatic tapestries, with high-octane organs, smeared bass, tenacious guitars, and mind-blowing, decibel-defying harmonies (see: Queen’s “The Prophet Song”). It never let up. Thematic, albumesque sequences flowed seamlessly, a mauve motion picture montage scored for nonexistent arthouse. Wait, the band did perform a brief respite, soliciting new portmanteaus to rebrand “Cannons & Clouds”. “’Dicks & Balls!’; ‘Tits & Ass!’; ‘Cocks & Gator!’,” cried the classy audience. Cannons & Cloud rolled with the crass levity and continued their motley, chaotic liqueur that warmed the bellies of their buzzing adorers.
After a brief change over, the cavern welcomed Chicago’s Young Man, another quintet diametrically disposed from the first. First, no ampersand. Second, while C&C focused on congealing mood, Young Man punched through with concise, posh pash. Machine-gunning with serious rock credo, their presence marked an ethereal dimensional rift of cyberpunk, moody Merseybeat summoned into contemporary San Francisco. The natural inclination was to laterally sway rather than to rhythmically bob. Vivid technicolor Kubrickian waltzes lapped with a sudsy splash of new wave. While they played with virtuosic fidelity, Young Man displayed the reactivity of a nobel gas. Muted peaks piqued paradox between genteel emotionality and inspired technical boldness. The often unaffected band seemed perfectly comfortable in their unabashed serenity, even if bordering melancholic monotony.
Maps & Atlases were puck rock: effervescent and mischievous. Their music represented an experimental, eclectic confluence of innumerable influences. Additionally, with a penchant for Caribbean undercurrents, Maps & Atlases Bermuda-triangulated onto distinct, divergent time signatures. Odd. An encompassing dichotomy parlayed incredible cohesion: frivol and deft; pristine and incoherent; math and movement; Maps AND Atlases (what!). Tumultuous incantations conjured spinal voodoo, dancing bodies unable to find solace in the sly syncopations. Lyrics spake with erudite cunning, straining ears unable to discern the underlying nuance. Impressive aural girth emitted from the four; sound formed celestial bodies that orbited Dave Davison’s aching rasp and nimble fret-tapping. Luminous stagecraft, a lite-light show, was a nice slice of whimsy as was their rendition of “Everybody Wants to Rule The World”. Alas, after an hour-plus of frisky jams and flares of sepia richness, Maps & Atlas were stifling committed to their idiosyncratic concord, princes of pomp and circumvolve.