This early 2014 weekend, as a matter of fact the second weekend of the new year, has the potential to be a pretty good showcase of Atlanta bands, what with Saturday night's Ohmpark Fest 2. But things actually started off on Friday night with a set at the redoubtable Earl by three local bands, headlined by Atlanta's Takenobu, although as it turned out, the audience was primarily there to see Lily & the Tigers.
Openers Beau Victrola were new to me, although frontman Victor of Beau Victrola, Molotov Pipedream, and The Dandyls (and probably other bands as well) has apparently been around for a while now. Beau Victrola appears to be Victor and whoever he wants/can get to play with him, which in the past have included such Atlanta luminaries as Nirvana Kelly of Little Tybee and Adron. For this gig, he had a bass player and keyboards with no percussion.
His music is hard to classify, but for lack of a better description, I would call it sweetly psychedelic folk pop in the tradition of Syd Barrett, played with a sardonic, one-raised-eyebrow manner in the fashion of Foxygen. Here's a sample:
When Beau Victrola took the stage sometime between 9:30 and 10:00, The Earl was still filling up with noisy patrons wanting to see Lily & The Tigers. One of the unfortunate characteristics of Earl audiences is to talk loudly, especially around the bar, during a performance but last night the crowd was especially loud and disrespectful to the performer, even by Earl standards, not only back by the bar but even by several gaggles of young women right up front by the stage, who were far more interested in greeting each other, taking group pictures, and chatting about whatever than they were in listening to a band that was not Lily & The Tigers. Victor tried a couple of times to get them to quiet down, at least a little, and compared playing the club last night to being in a high-school cafeteria, with the stage the table where the cool kids were hanging out and the rest of the club where all of the jocks were chatting loudly and not caring one little bit about the cool kids' table.
Which was really unfortunate, as I liked what I heard form Beau Victrola, and wish I could have heard more of them over the din of the crowd. Victor actually seemed a little relieved at the end of the set, and no one seemed to much notice when he walked off stage. Their loss.
Things have changed considerably for Lily & The Tigers since we've seen them last, not the least of which is their new-found popularity. By the time they took the stage, The Earl was quite full with an audience there primarily to see Lily & The Tigers. I don't remember them being this popular back when I saw them open for Viva Voce and for Shearwater. They have a new, Kickstarter-supported album coming out, and if that is the reason for their increased popularity, it says a lot for the power of Kickstarter to get a band's fan base involved and mobilized.
One of the things that I've always liked about Lily & The Tigers was their odd instrumentation. In past performances, singer Casey Hood's acoustic guitar was backed and augmented by stand-up bass, violin, and woodwinds, giving the band a unique, gothic, almost baroque sound.
The violin and woodwinds are now gone, and the band on stage last night was a trio, Casey on guitars and vocals, stand-up bassist Adam Mincey, and the fine guitarist Jared Pepper. Their forthcoming album, The Hand You Deal Yourself, was recorded up in Vermont, which seems to have changed the band's sound as well, with less of a southern gothic vibe and more of a generic folk-country sound. The audience seemed to love it, however, based on both the size of the crowd, the relative attention paid to the stage, and several of the young women up by the stage putting away their cell phones long enough to dance along to several songs. I'm happy for the band and their success, even if I do prefer their older sound.
Takenobu headlined, and much of the audience stayed around after the Lily & The Tigers set for at least the first half of his set before reverting back to chatting and eventually leaving altogether.
We last saw Takenobu at 529, and were quite impressed with his performance. Takenobu plays cello, using loop pedals to build up layers of sound for him to play over, much in the manner of Andrew Bird. As before, he was accompanied by a violinist, and the virtual string section that the two were able to create on stage using just their two instruments was astounding.
To keep things varied, he occasionally switched from a standard cello to an electric version, and brought a drummer on stage with him for the electric cello songs, switching formats every four or five songs or so. The man, Nick Ogawa, is a true artist, and Atlanta is fortunate to have him in its midst, although it's unfortunate for Mr. Ogawa that he's not more widely recognized. He would more than hold his own opening on tour with someone like Andrew Bird, or Kishi Bashi for that matter, which might provide him the exposure he deserves.
The audience was significantly smaller by the end of his set, most of the Lily & The Tigers fans having departed, but a small crowd remained to encourage Ogawa to come back for an encore, an unexpected cover of The Pixies classic, Where Is My Mind?
My first show of 2014, then, was three local bands, including a new discovery, a revamped favorite, and a reliable artist.