Last night, Portland's Ages & Ages played Vinyl at Center Stage. Where were you?
We've said it here before and we'll say it again - we can't tell which of the bands we like are popular and likely to sell out and which one are obscure and known to only a relative few. We don't listen to the radio much, and don't know a lot of other people who share our enthusiasm and taste for music, so we don't know if everybody and their brothers will be going to the Ages & Ages show and it will be a sell-out, or if no one will be there and we'll have the floor to ourselves. To be on the safe side, we bought tickets well in advance, as the band's received a lot of good reviews and endorsements from the usual music web sites, they've played a Tiny Desk Concert, comments are very enthusiastic on their YouTube page, etc. However, being lazy and a little more than run-down on Friday night after a hard week at work, we didn't rush out to be the first in line for when the doors opened at 8:00, instead pulling up to the venue at about 8:30 or so.
We were dismayed to see a large crowd already gathered on the sidewalk in front of Vinyl when we pulled up. Worse, the parking deck was full and we had to park in the overflow parking lot a block away. There was no line at the door but a lot of people milling about outside the venue, and when we finally got through the doors at Vinyl, we saw there there was almost no one inside. The crowd, as it turned out, was there for mixed-martial arts fighting at the adjacent Center Stage - a totally different audience, mostly from out of town, "way out of town," according to the Vinyl bartender, who said they all drive to the fight events. "None of them take Uber."
So anyway, long story, and a long-winded way to say we were surprised at how few people were there to hear a band as great as Ages & Ages. But first, Atlanta's Clavvs opened. Clavvs are the alt-pop duo of Amber Renee and Graham Marsh - she sings, he produces the beats in a manner not dissimilar to a hip-hop MC and DJ.
They were pretty good, and man, can Amber sing. A sizable percentage of the small audience that was there seemed to be present just to support Clavvs, wearing band t-shirts as they were and hanging around the Clavvs side of the merch table.
Anyway, around 10-ish or so, Ages & Ages took the stage and opened their set with They Want More, the opening track of their great new album, Something To Ruin.
They played most of the new album, as well as some older favorites, including Divisionary (Do The Right Thing) to close their set. The singing and harmonies were excellent and uplifting, and I don't think there was anyone in the audience not smiling by the end of the set.
For All Of My Enemies, the band lined up away from the microphones to sing a cappella and unamplified, letting the audience hear their actual voices. Frontman Tim Perry occasionally wandered away from the mic as well to sing his solo parts directly to the small audience.
For their encore, the band left the stage and played in the middle of the audience. This is not completely unique, and we've seen other bands do this as well (Lost In The Trees comes to mind), but given the rapport the band had achieved with the audience, it seemed like a particularly intimate moment.
The sad thing is the picture above captures about 50% of the audience.
Look, I know Project Pabst is Saturday in East Atlanta Village and a lot of people are resting up for the day-long festival, but come on people, if we don't support great bands like Ages & Ages when they come through Atlanta, these bands won't come through any more. We're already seeing a pattern of touring bands avoiding the American South in general, and we don't want to see this trend continue, do we?
Okay, we're off of our soap box. What else was there? Oh yes, this was Ages & Ages first performance in Atlanta - they've passed through once before to record a set at Paste Magazine in Decatur, but this was their first actual show. We've seen them before, once at Bumbershoot in Seattle in 2011 and later, we think, at MFNW (RIP), but our age-addled minds can't recall the exact venue or year. Also, Tim Perry totally won us over last night when he told a story about participating in a week-long meditation retreat (something we've done several times), and was hearing people alternately whining and bragging through the thin walls of the retreat center (which we've also experienced). We had a feeling that the level of sincerity and intimacy the band displays had to be inspired by some contemplative practice or another. One of us!
So anyway, a wonderful show by a wonderful band that made for a magical evening. We were enchanted at Bumbershoot 2011 when we first heard them, and the charm last night was no less than that first evening.