Publicity agents for both Pepper Rabbit and Braids had asked EvilSponge to come this show, and we were happy to oblige. In fact, i downloaded the records from both of these bands beforehand, in order to have some idea as to what we were getting in to. Pepper Rabbit is a kind of pop act with piano and synths and drums. The vocals wear a little thin though, but still i figured this would translate well to the stage. Braids, on the other hand, are one of those heavily electronic acts where the music is an amorphous swirling of sound. I like that kind of stuff, but wasn't too sure if it come across well live. But sometimes you have to take the risk and go for it.
We arrived at The Drunken Unicorn just after 10 PM, bloated with German food and good beer from Der Biergarten downtown, and much to our surprise a band was already on stage. In fact, the door guy indicated they had gone on around 9:45 PM! I turned to Tracers and asked, "What strange world are we in where The Drunken Unicorn starts on time?" Not that i am complaining -- i was pleasantly surprised.
Anyway, the band on stage was apparently called Painted Palms, who i had never heard of. They were a three piece featuring a drummer, a guitarist/vocalist, and a keyboardist with a laptop.
Painted Palms in action.
Their music was a contemporary indie disco: the lush keys of Sealions mixed with the swinging beat of LCD Soundsystem. Tracers pointed out that their sound was pretty much what The Drunken Unicorn is known for, and i think she is correct. I bet their record gets played in the other room as the kids dance.
The keyboardist is wearing a t-shirt on which he wrote in Sharpie"The Grizzled Mighty"
and drew some king of little logo thing.
I don't know what this is supposed to mean.
We only saw two longish songs from the band, but both of them were pretty good. The music was interesting and moved along at a good pace. I would like to hear more from this act.
We then had a whopping long intermission while Pepper Rabbit set up and then asked for a seemingly endless series of minor adjustments from the sound guy. I couldn't tell a difference from any of the minor changes they kept asking about, but when they started to play they sounded really good. This band does a sort of slow pop -- not quiet, just not fast paced.
Pepper Rabbit's rhythm section.
The drummer is actually doing some pretty interesting things, and i think that their guitarist and keyboardist/guitarist/ukelele-ist were doing some pretty complex parts. I like the interplay of the instruments.
Pepper Rabbit's vocalist, here on keyboard. Please note: the sweater was unnecessary.
It's Atlanta in September, that means the temp at night is 65, and it wasn't that cold in the club.
What i did not like, though, was the high-pitched, almost falsetto vocals on the part of the multi-instrumentalist. For a few songs he sang in a lower, almost normal, register, but most of the set was helium-voiced. Now, i don't instinctively dislike such a vocal style (i am Superchunk fan after all), but it just never seemed to gel with the rest of what the band was doing. In fact, the few songs where he was standing and playing acoustic guitar, his voice seemed lower and a little more in the mix, and those songs worked the best.
Maybe the ukelele only made his voice seem deeper by comparison...
I suppose that some people might really enjoy Pepper Rabbit, and i did find myself bouncing along a few times, but that voice just kept me from really liking them. Maybe they just need some more time to develop.
However, it was only 11:30 or so when Pepper Rabbit geared off and Braids started to set up. This is a four-piece band with an odd stage set up. Guitarist/vocalist Raphaelle Standell-Preston stood at stage left, drummer Austin Tufts at the back in a normal drummer spot, but keyboardist Katie Lee and multi-instrumentalist Taylor Smith set up on stage right, facing Standell-Preston. After they started playing, the reason for this set up became clear, as Standell-Preston also sort of serves as the conductor of the band, leading the other players with gestures and eye movements. I was fascinated watching how she led the band.
Ms. Standell-Preston conducting the band.
When she was playing guitar she tended to lead the rest of the band with facial gestures/expressions.
The other thing that was impressive was that their rich, layered sound was duplicated live. Standell-Preston sang with her voice through effects, sometimes using a pedal to modulate it live, and the others all layered their voice alongside hers, replicating the complex vocal swirl of their album. Add to that the fact that Lee is actually a really good pianist (it was joy watching her work) and that Smith was able to do several different electronic effects at once, and what i heard was very similar to what the album sounds like. And that is a good thing, as i like the sound of the record.
Ms. Lee at work.
They played what i thought was a short but fascinating set, only about 45 minutes. I could have listened to even more, and that is really saying something. Braids are doing something new and interesting, and doing it well. A band to look out for.
Braids in action.
Mr. Smith at work.