Post-classical cellist Takenobu played at Atlanta's 529 last night, headlining an interesting line-up of Atlanta and Atlanta-related bands. Pictures are posted over at Flickr, and a summary of each band's performance is provided below.
Atlanta's Book of Colors opened and are the project of vocalist/guitarist André Paraguassu, featuring Ryan Gregory on violin, George Wallace on lap steel guitar, and Ryan Donald of Adron and Little Tybee (and probably other bands as well) on bass. Members of Little Tybee, including Brock Scott and Nirvana Kelly, were in the audience for the performance, as well as Lindsey Harbour of Women's Work (I think). Fourth of July weekend - if you're a local musician, weren't out of town, and didn't have a gig that night, you might as well have been at this show.
Even though Book of Colors have been around since 2009, it was my first time hearing them. The band currently has a violin and lap steel to flesh out André's songs, but apparently the band used to also feature flautist Teresa Lemaire and marimba/vibraphonist Eric Balint, before Teresa headed off to Brazil and Eric took some time off to be with his new baby boy. But last night's set hardly sounded "stripped down," at least to this listener, as André and the band played music that fell somewhere in between the orchestral rock of bands like Fanfarlo and the rootsier folk rock of bands like Blind Pilot. Although not as large an ensemble (at least not any more), they reminded me most of Portland's Typhoon, especially in the way that the focus remained on the central singer-songwriter, while the rest of the band provided the textures to support the songs.
NYC-based Weeknight were up next, and their dark electronic pop was a real contrast to Book of Color's organic music. But once the transition was made (which probably occurred for most as soon as they saw the banks of synthesizers and keyboards set up on the stage, and for the rest as soon as the deep electronic beats started resonating in their rib cages), it was quite easy to enjoy and appreciate their fine musicianship. Comparisons to Phantogram are inevitable, due both to the bands sound and their lineup (Andy on guitar, Holly on keyboards). They sang nearly every line of every song in unison, but expressed their individuality through their instruments.
It was Weeknight's first time playing Atlanta, even though guitarist Andy is from here (his mother was in the audience for the gig). If they ever decided to relocate back here, they would fit in well with bands like Featureless Ghost and Mirror Mode.
It was also my first time hearing headliner Takenobu, although I've wanted to hear him for a while now. To summarize his niche in the musical spectrum, frontman Nick Ogawa is to cello what Andrew Bird, Owen Pallett, and Kishi Bashi are to the violin - a classically trained musician expanding his boundaries into rock and pop by means of loop pedals and other techniques. Alternating between plucking and bowing, and between lopping and real-time playing, Mr. Ogawa has a rich and varied arsenal with which to work. He's also accompanied by a violinist to provide further layers of texture - sometimes they played as a duo and other times they were backed by a drums and keyboards. Nowhere was there a guitar on stage.
It was an impressive set. The songs were well written and thoughtful, and the melodies were not lost to the complexities of Ogawa's technique. They occasionally performed intricate pop instrumentals (check out Exposition, below), but most of the compositions were songs, and he's a capable vocalist as well.
For his encore, he performed a solo rendition of Doc Watson's Shady Grove (also memorably covered by Quicksilver Messenger Service back in the 1960s).
It was a mesmerizing and revelatory set for this listener, and a sign of the richness and diversity of Atlanta's indie music scene that it is only now that I've gotten around to hearing a local performer of this caliber. While Atlanta is justifiably considered by many to be a hip-hop town, and some are aware of it's metal scene as well, it also has a formidable roster of indie musicians that sadly are unrecognized beyond the Perimeter. Not only do we have the orchestral folk rock of Little Tybee and the neo-tropicala of Adron, there's the Balkan folk of Christ, Lord (recently energized by an apparent merger with Hello Ocho), the bluesy, Cowboy Junkies-esque rock of Women's Work, and the baroque instrumentation of Lily and the Tigers, not to mention other stand-out bands like Book Club, Mood Rings, Dog Bite, Lucy Dreams, Tikka, and The Coathangers, and young new prospects like Von Grey. If there were even a fraction of the media attention here that exists in cities like New York and LA, most if not all of these bands would be critical favorites, with fawning reviews in NPR and choice spots in the line-ups of major festivals.
But for now, for both better and worse, they're our little secret, and when you can hear three bands as fine as last night's line-up at 529, a reason to be cheerful on a rainy July 4th weekend.