Between back-to-back shows and the weekly "Shows This Week" updates, I'm in danger of falling behind on reviews of actual live performances, so before I forget, here's a review of the superb lineup that played at Aisle 5 last Saturday night, starting with Big Thief.
We saw Big Thief open for Here We Go Magic last year and really liked their sound, but if anything they sounded even tighter and even better last Saturday night than they did last November. She appears to be fine, but apparently frontperson Adrianne Lenker ruptured an eardrum a couple of nights ago, and had to wear those big, clunky headphones over her ears for the set, although you wouldn't have noticed anything off about her playing.
As usual, I managed to get a spot in the audience right in front of the stage, but that made photography really difficult because a stage spotlight was right in my face for most of the show. So instead of uploading a bunch of photographs of the show, instead here are some videos so you can hear Big Thief's music for yourself.
Big Thief officially became one of my favorite bands by the end of their performance. They did everything from folk rock to quirky indie to some swirling psych, and even had their guitarist sing some sort of a capella murder ballad. It was all very cool, and Adrianna Lenker continues to impress me more and more as a more than proficient rock frontwoman.
I hadn't heard, or heard of, the middle band Saturday night, New York's Sunflower Bean, and in previewing the show I had to rely on the band's official, record-label bio, which said, "Sunflower Bean find magic within friction. The New York trio's full-length debut album, Human Ceremony [Fat Possum Records], emerges at the intersection of dreamy modern psychedelica and urgent fuzzed-out bliss. That push-and-pull colors the aural tapestry of these three musicians—Jacob Faber [drums], Julia Cumming [vocals/bass], and Nick Kivlen [vocals/guitars]."
That turned out to be more accurate than I would have guessed, as it was really hard to pigeon-hole the bands music into any specific genre. Sure, you could here elements of dream-pop and shoegaze, but it lacked the soft-focus gauziness of those genres and had a hard edge reminiscent of punk, although it certainly wasn't punk rock, and a fondness for crushing riffs reminiscent of the best metal bands, although it certainly wasn't metal, either. In short, I really liked them and they tore up the stage with an exciting and explosive live set.
Here are a few of the young band's genre-bending videos, including the Metric-esque Wall Watcher, and isn't it cool that they named a song Tame Impala? (Tame Impala have a song called Led Zeppelin after all, so they're only fair game). For an idea of how genre-free the band is, notice how the song Tame Impala alternates between poppy girl-band punk and psych rock before descending into some tasty near-doom metal riffage worthy of Black Mountain at around the 3:00-minute mark.
On the other hand, headliners Yuck are very genre specific, namely 90s-style fuzzed out alt-rock. Their music is much more song-oriented than Sunflower Bean's jam-prone compositions, and Yuck bring a surprising melodiousness to their lo-fi grunge, with the chord changes themselves often the hooks to their songs. While they weren't as mind-blowing as Sunflower Bean, one could find easy comfort in their familiar tunes, their tried-and-true approaches to alt rock, and their casual professionalism and on-stage self-assurance.
Yuck have a fine new album out, Stranger Things, and on Saturday night they opened their set with the terrific one-two punch of the album openers, Hold Me Closer and Cannonball. followed by other songs from that album and their previous two records. They don't yet have any videos out of their new songs, other than a few, static audio-only clips, so here's that opening set of songs in Soundcloud widgets.
As has been noted on this blog, last Saturday night had more great bands playing in Atlanta than often play here in a month. Given the inevitable disappointment of not being able to see and hear them all, I think the highly diverse lineup of Big Thief, Sunflower Bean, and Yuck was the best choice of the night.