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  ENVIE w/ Hubcap City and Sound Doesn't Travel Through Nothing  
  The Eyedrum  
  Atlanta, GA  
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It's been forever and a day since i was at The Eyedrum. (Well, 26 months actually....) In the intervening time, the gallery has moved to a new building. No more "band in the basement", instead they have a nice big space.

There was some art, and some of it was neat, but i really don't know anything about "art" so all i'll say is this: none of it made me laugh at the ridiculousness of it. Art that is really wierd, yet seems so serious, makes me laugh. None of this was like that, so i guess that's a good thing.

Anyway, right at 9:30 the first act, Sound Doesn't Travel Through Nothing, were all ready to go. They were sitting there, and they decided to play a cover "while waiting for the show to start". (What we were waiting on, i have no idea.) So they started playing a Radiohead song (off of OK, Computer i think) when suddenly the sound guy ran in, all flustered, and asked why they had started yet. It was a wierd little standoff -- apparently he was offended, and they were supposed to wait for something.... I dunno what was going on, but it was an amusing exchange.

So after another 10 minutes or so, whatever magical sign was needed occurred, and they began playing. They make minimalist classical music out of guitars and piano. I did not find them particularly challenging, but for ambient it wasn't bad. Of course, EvilSponge caused mayhem during their performance. Tracers walked by some large art thingie in the middle of the room and tugged the end of it with her skirt, causing it make a loud, screeching noise that was clearly audible over the band. Then, in a fit of utter clumsiness, i dropped an almost full can of beer, causing Tracers to giggle at me, everyone in the surrounding audience to spin around suddenly to look at me, and my knee to get soaked.


So Sound Doesn't Travel Through Nothing were not bad, but not great. In all honesty i think the best thing about the band is their name, which is, let's face it, pretty awesome.

Now, there was some serious controversy regarding who was to play next. This quote is taken from The Eyedrum's website:

Hubcap City -- this electronica duo from belgium is touring the U.S. for the first time in support of their new CD, Das Kaiser.

Interesting. Not that they are a laptop band, or that they are Belgian, but rather that "Hubcap City" also refers to the quirky drums, acoustic guitar, and ranting act of Atlanta music legend Bill Taft. And yet Eyedrum claims that there is another band that has stolen Bill's band's name. Other people (such as Creative Loafing) implied that it was Bill who would be playing. I, personally, hoped that it was a Belgian laptop act, and that Bill came and got in a fight with them over the name. Now that would have been funny....

Almost as funny as an actual Bill Taft performance, really. See, Bill obviously read the blurb too, so he kept going on about how they were Belgian, and his name was "Leopold II" and his drummer was "Wilhelm". He also went on about how their songs were traditional Belgian hymns about the Civil War, or traditional Belgian ice-fishing songs. All this in his vague southern drawl.

It was like a little stand-up comedy act interspersed with quirky songs. Honestly, i kept laughing. In fact, even old Bill Taft couldn't keep a straight face -- he and his drummer kept laughing.... So it was very very fun.

As to the music: well, Hubcap City defy explanation. Bill sings surrealist stories over strummed acoustic guitar (he even feeds his acoustic through an Overdrive FX Pedal at times, for a really great fuzzy sound), and odd drumming. The drummer's whole kit seems homemade -- an old kick drum on it's side, propped up with a little stand made out of 2x4's, drumsticks that look to be more duct tape than wood, a tiny old electronic keyboard, and some wierd pieces of metal clipped to the side of the drum. The emphasis of the band is on fun: they are goofy and quirky and entertaining. They are there to have a good time, and by golly they hope that you do too. And i did.

Finally, the headliner. This is the fourth (or so) time i have seen Envie. And the band just keeps on growing. This time they consisted of Renee Nelson on keys and harp, Chris Jensen on drums, Deisha Oliver on rhythm cello, Diana Obscura on lead cello, and Suzanne Barnes on violin. Renee, Deisha, and Suzanne are American Dream people, Chris is ex-Myssouri, and Diana does her own thing and plays with Aphelion. So i guess you can say that Envie are a sort of local supergroup: kind of like Damn Yankees, only without Tommy Shaw.

Anyway, they were amazing. It was chamber music, but with the added benefit of drums (something i have often found lacking in Vivaldi). Nelson did most of the vocals, occasionally joined by Obscura. Both of them sing in a pseudo-classical style: drawn out syllables and a generally high pitch. The vocals really fit in with what else the band is doing.

The dueling cellos sounding amazing. And, well, now that i could actually hear Barnes, i realize that she is pretty good at what she does. (This is a slam on the fact that her regular band, American Dream, is often so poorly mixed that the violin is lost in the guitar din. A recurring problem for The Dream.) In fact, all of it sounded great, but there were two standouts.

First, in a blatant attempt at sucking up to critics, Nelson dedicated a song to EvilSponge. Brendan would have been so proud -- but it's far too cold for a water-dwelling creature to travel right now. Anyway, Enviee played Feeling Gravity's Pull for us. She has played this R.E.M. cover before, but tonight, with the two cellos and the violin backing her up, it sounded beautiful. The little coda at the end (Peter Buck's guitar drone fading out on the R.E.M. album) was played by Barnes on the violin. Stunning. Really.

The other standout was a sort of duet between Nelson and Barnes that ended the show. Nelson sang and played, and Barnes adding a rich violin counter-melody. It sounded really good.

So i am impressed. I have enjoyed all that i have heard from this band to date, and am curious to see where they will go next. I know that they are planning to go into the studio, and i hope that they get a good engineer. If this delicate music were poorly recorded, it would be pointless.

Anyway, a fun, but strange, night. I heartily recommend Envie to all of you readers who are looking for something a little different. It's not standard indie rock, and it doesn't have a laptop. It's pretty original, i suppose. And that is saying something.

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