Saturday, August 24, 2013

Alex Bleeker & The Freaks, 529, Atlanta, August 23, 2013

New Jersey indie-rock jam-band Alex Bleeker & The Freaks played 529 last night, with Atlanta's Metroscene opening.

I didn't know Metroscene, but according to Atlanta Magazine, "Between 1999 and 2004, Atlanta rock quartet Metroscene played non-stop at the city's best rock venues, including Music Midtown and notably, opening for Interpol at the Cotton Club. At the band's last gig, bassist B.J. Alden proposed on stage to his girlfriend.  And then, after five years, one successful EP Weekenders and one full-length album First Light at Last Orders, the quartet . . . simply vanished from the city's music scene."

The band, now a trio, opened their set at around 10:30 pm by admitting they hadn't played in front of an audience in a while, but you wouldn't have known it for their performance.  They played tight, gritty, alt-rock that wouldn't have sounded out of place during their early '00s heyday, but still sounds good today.  Not quite punk, not quite garage, and not quite polished either, they managed to hit that Goldilocks zone right in between.  Singer/guitarist John Phillips was all over the stage, also playing bass and keyboards as the set progressed.  I don't know if Metroscene are back together as a band for keeps now or if this summer was just an occasion for a few nostalgic sets, but they would be a welcome addition to the Atlanta rock circuit and would pair very well on a double bill with Atlanta's Palace Wolves.

There was another band on the bill, Brunch, of whom I also had not heard, but for some reason they didn't play and the evening went right from Metroscene to Alex Bleeker, which was fine with me.

We last saw Bleeker, who also plays in the excellent New Jersey band Real Estate, back in March when he opened for Ducktails just up the street at The Earl by setting the bar so high with his extended jam-band enthusiasm that it was everything his fellow Real Estate alum Matt Mondanile could do just to play the same stage afterwords. Bleeker's sound has been described as a hybrid of Woods' lo-fi style and the more easygoing sound of Real Estate.  Here's a sample of something they played last night (but from a recent New York set) - their song Epilogue, channeling both Dylan’s You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere and Brewer & Shipley’s One Toke Over the Line

Bleeker tried to get the small 529 audience dancing with frequent reminders that it was Friday night in Atlanta, Georgia, but except for a few people in the back of the club, his exhortations fell on deaf ears.  As a result, the band didn't quite reach the stratospheric heights they achieved that night at The Earl, but they still induced several blasts of serotonin in this listener's brain with the guitar interplay between Bleeker and the band's second guitarist, and the overall feel-good, party-hearty attitude of their set.  Bleeker seemed almost as disappointed as the audience when his set finally ended shortly before 1 am.  They didn't quite manage to scale Mount Olympus, but they were still led us up onto some pretty high Alps.

My pictures didn't come out very well, but in case you're curious, more are posted over at the Flickr page.

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