Thursday, April 25, 2013

Born Ruffians and Moon King at The Earl, Atlanta, April 24, 2013

Last night's sky featured one of the most gorgeous full moons I can recall seeing in a while, and while I thought that I had already learned everything I needed to know about "Moon" bands back in Rocktober (Moon Duo, Soft Moon, Poor Moon, etc.), last evening taught me that I didn't know nearly as much as I had thought.  Not only did I discover what may be the best "Moon" band of all, but I also learned that a band I would have classified as "obscure" are in fact wildly popular, at least among an obscure audience.  I'll explain shortly.

But first, Atlanta's Christ, Lord kicked off the evening performing under the name Christ Lord Ochostra (I think that's how they spelled it), which means that the usual sextet is expanded to include members of Hello Ocho to make the band a nonet (I think that's the term for a nine-piece band).  Setting up, it looked like they were in a contest to get more people onto the stage than were in the audience.

Not that Christ, Lord doesn't have its own portable fan base to fill a club.  As usual when I've seen them, there was a crowd of young women in attendance, dancing to the Balkan-influenced gypsy-folk pop songs.  The Hello Ocho boys even stepped off stage for a few bars of one song to dance with a few of them, giving the young ladies a twirl or two before rejoining the band on stage.

These guys really are quite good and there's a lot to be said for them, and a lot more would probably be said if they were based in Brooklyn or Portland or Austin.  But here in the ATL, they remain one of our little secrets: the band that's even more Balkan than Gulag Orkestar-era Beirut, and the sole remaining bearers of the swing-dance movement of the 90s.

The evening was stolen, though, by Toronto's Moon King, currently touring with Born Ruffians.  Although they've apparently played The Earl many times before, they were the one band on the lineup about whom I didn't know anything, but after last night, I'm a big fan - this is how you do it, folks.

The band is led by Daniel Benjamin and Maddy Wilde, along with a drummer and a keyboardist/sampler.  Daniel has a surprisingly sweet, pop  voice - sounding almost like a male Grimes at times - but is still capable of unleashing a great post-punk howl.  On the fist song alone, he roamed the stage, stood on the bass drum, threw down the mic stand, and fell backwards while on his knees - and he was just warming up.  Maddy, meanwhile, egged him on with her guitar and supporting vocals.

There was something about the primal energy of their music that made me feel so very alive.  It was a great set by an exciting band.  I hope to see them again soon.

The headliners, fellow Torontonians Born Ruffians, kept up the level of energy.

Since I'm old and out of touch with much of pop culture, I can never tell what bands are popular or what audience is attracted to any particular band.  I knew Born Ruffians from one song and one song only, Sole Brother, which they didn't even play last night and I didn't see listed on any of the albums at their merch table (I did hear one person call a request for the song during their set, though, so I knew I wasn't thinking of some other band).  In any event, during all of their songs, they sounded like the band that performed Sole Brother, so there's that but what I hadn't expected was the level of audience enthusiasm - The Earl was only about half full, but those in attendance were singing along to almost every song - including those introduced as "new ones."

Who were these people, and where did they hear these songs? During the stage banter, it was revealed that some people had driven from over three hours away to attend this show.  There's obviously whole channels and outlets of music of which I'm unaware, and in retrospect, the surprising thing may be that Sole Brother managed to make it through whatever filters I've constructed around myself.  In any event, the band was good - energetic party music with funky beats, scruffy vocals, and earnest playing.  The audience clearly loved them, dancing, pumping their fists, and singing along throughout the set.  Although they sound very different, I was reminded of the energy and party atmosphere present at a Givers concert.

After about the midway point of their set, several of their songs starting sounding vaguely familiar to me, but I honestly couldn't tell if I'd heard them before on the radio or t.v. (American Express reportedly used a song  of theirs for a commercial), or if I was just channeling into their groove.

The call for an encore was thunderous, and the band obliged the enraptured crowd with two more songs before calling it a night.

On a night with such a glorious full moon, it seems fitting that Moon King stole the show, but Born Ruffians taught me not to be complacent - there's always more music out there to be discovered.  

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