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CLOUDEATER w/ Kebbi Williams and Dark Room

  The EARL  
  East Atlanta, GA  
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So there it was, August in Atlanta after one of the hottest Julys ever, and the weather had turned so that it was actually nice enough to sit outside and have dinner while watching a bike race in East Atlanta. Actually, that last bit was random dumb luck: Tracers and i showed up in East Atlanta for dinner prior to the show, and found streets blocked off. We eventually found parking and wandered over to The Midway for sandwiches (i heartily endorse their fried green tomato sandwich -- it has a lovely sweet and spicy chutney on it) and beer (the new Red Hare lager is impressively rich and tasty). There we learned why the streets were closed.

It was kind of a weird experience, both the pleasantness of outdoors in August, the mayhem of street closures, people lined up to watch the race, and guys with odd accents tearing by on expensive looking bicycles.

The EARL got a bit of a late start, with the doors only opening a little before 10. Fortunately the first act took the stage right at 10:15. This was Dark Room, which is the solo project of Graham Yoder, one of the guys in Jungol. I have only been peripherally aware of Jungol, but i think they have been around for a little while. I don't know what they sound like at all.

However, Dark Room was set up with a table of electronics including a sampler and a mixer, a board with a lot of pedals, and a guitar. Yoder came out and began to play his guitar through the mass of pedals while using the sampler to add in other layers and the mixer to distort the sound. The overall effect reminded me a lot of the work of Yellow6, early Portal, Schengen, or, heck, the bulk of the Make Mine Music catalog. I loved that stuff -- ambient guitar distortion with electronic effects.

And Yoder did it quite well. The guitar was echoing and blurred so much that it barely resembled a guitar sound at all. Over this, he layered little keyboard loops and beats that were often that sort of clattering that was prevalent in the mid 2000s. Good stuff. I was impressed, and now i wonder what Jungol is like.

The next act was a mystery to us. It was billed as Kebbi Williams, and when Tracers googled that before the show she got a bunch of results about some guy with that name throwing a Grammy party. Okay... so this was some party organizer's band?

Mr. Kebbi Williams on the sax.

Well, no. As the band set up, we saw this was old school jazz. Williams, it turns out, plays saxophone. Tonight he played with a twelve-piece band that included a drummer, a guitarist, a guy running some samples off of a laptop (and it was a Lenovo! you never see people play ThinkPads), a guy running a mixing board, tuba, two trumpets, a trombone, and 4 different kind of saxophone -- from alto all the way up to a big baritone sax.

The EARL's stage was a little crowded. At one point, i stepped forward to get some shots while everyone was still setting up and the stage lights were on. During this photo shoot, i heard soundguy Peregrine ask, over the PA, "Can you soundcheck that tuba?" Never before have i heard that combination of words used.

Anyway, Kebbi Williams and friends played a raucous old school jazz. This set was like what i would imagine seeing Charlie Parker back in the 1950s was like. The horns created a dense, yet textured wall, while the rest of the band created a rhythmic backbone over which one horn or another would step up and solo for a little bit before joining back into the horn chorus. Oh, except for the tuba. Tuba, in the context of this band, took the place of the bass guitar, which is utterly awesome when you think about it.

I have listened to some of this type of jazz on record and CD. I have a bit of familiarity with it, but not a lot of expertise. That said, i thought the Kebbi Williams set tonight was a blast! The EARL filled up and people were swaying along and shuffling around joyously. I can't tell you if they were a great jazz band, but they were a lot of fun, and everyone really seemed to know what they were doing.

Wow. I wonder if that show was what the Kebbi Williams Grammy party was like? I would totally go and see that again.

By this point in the evening it was approaching midnight, and i was running out of steam. However, i had seen two really enjoyable performances in two drastically different styles. So i steeled myself to be up another hour or two to see Cloudeater.

The whole reason we were at this show was that we had caught Cloudeater at The Hole in the Wall in Austin back in March, and had enjoyed their soul meets post-punk sound. However, the sound at THITW is not exactly awesome, so i really wanted to hear them with a good sound system at The EARL.

Well, i thought their sound in Austin was angular post-punk, with jagged guitars and deep soaring keys. Over this, the vocalist sings in a rich, soulful manner. Seriously -- they guy has a great voice, and if he were backed with a different band, one would expect him to do a Marvin Gaye cover or two. Instead, a four-piece rock band backs him up.

Tonight, instead of sounding post-punk, Cloudeater came across more heavy metal. The bass was a loud roar that seemed to drown out the keyboards almost entirely, and the guitar came across as sludgy, an early Black Sabbath kind of drone. To be honest, i found that kind of disappointing.

The guitarist moved so much he was impossible to photgraph.
Either that or he i a mutant -- i can't be sure which.

Cloudeater sounded muddy tonight. I wonder why that is. I know that soundguy Peregrine is good at making bands sound how they want to sound, as is evidenced that the ambient electronic guitar and jazz ensemble both came across really well.

So i take this to mean that Cloudeater are still kind of figuring this out and did not know quite what to tell Mr. Peregrine. As a critic, let me tell them: the sound at this show was too loud. Your music comes across better when the instruments balanced in volume more, giving each instrument space to breathe a little.

Still, they were obviously having a blast up there, and the crowd seemed to be enjoying it a lot. When i left The EARL i was exhausted, but happy that i gone out on this strange night.

Oh, and i did i mention there was a girl in the crowd, hula-hooping in the dark with a hoop that had lights in it? It made for nicely trippy photos.

Related Links:

Venue Website:
Dark Room:
Kebbi Williams:
   Also on EvilSponge:
      Festival Performance: SxSW12 on Thu.15.Mar.2012


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