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  THE FALL w/ Paper Lions  
  The Echo Lounge  
  East Atlanta, GA  
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So i went to see The Fall. They are one of those bands that have been around forever and have a gazillion albums, but about which i know next to nothing. Now, after the show, i am very curious to hear their music, even though the concert itself was a freaking miserable experience. So here's what happened.

I arrived circa 10:30 PM at an intensely packed out Echo Lounge. It was hot -- damned hot -- inside, and the place was full of beer-swilling, caruousing, older musos, celebrating the appearance of this legendary act in the relative musical wasteland of Atlanta. The whole thing had a very festive feel, underwritten with a current of tremendous (in many cases, decades-long) anticipation.

The opener was on stage when i walked in. The Paper Lions, from Athens. I have seen them before, and they put on a good show in a very "Fugazi-influenced" sort of way. That is to say, this is straight-forward serious punk. Lots of shouting and guitars playing odd mechanical riffs to time signatures just one notch off from 4/4. They do it very well, if you like that sort of thing, but they are not going to win any converts.

Two things interested me about their set. Firstly, at one point the lead vocalist played some type of mouth organ. Crowd buzz indicated that this song is referred to as being similar to the work of The Gang of Four, another old-school British punk band that i am largely unaware of. So i don't know how Gang of Four it was: to me it sounded Fugazi with a strange organ noise during the chorus. In fact, i rather liked that song. The other noteworthy feature of their set was the final song, which both Tracers and i knew, and which we believe is some sort of cover. The guitars were playing a little less math-y than normal, and the vocalist seemed to be concentrating hard on the words. Of course, due to the tremendous volume, the voice was all distorted so that what i heard sounded like: "something something make noise something something la la la". I swear it is an old punk tune. I have it somewhere in my collection. Tracers thinks it was a Buzzcocks tune. For some reason, i kept imaging Mike Ness singing it, so my vote is for Social Distortion. But really, if you can identify the tune, please email us.

So, overall, Paper Lions put on an entertaining if non-challenging set. I continue to enjoy their live shows. In fact, up until then i was largely enjoying the show. Sure it was hot and i was sweating like a pig, but it was mostly bearable.

But people kept coming in. And kept coming. And suddenly i was there, in "club darkness" (you know, where only a few scattered lights provide any illumination), packed in so tight it was hard to move, continually being slammed into by people, having beer sloshed on me by people walking by, barely able to hold a conversation with someone 3 feet away because of the loud sound system and the louder buzz of talking fans.... and i lost it. Well, more correctly, my lungs lost it and i went into "asthma attack mode", which, if you have never lived through one, truly stinks.

So i fought my way out of the crowd (which took 5 minutes to move 20 feet!) to the restroom, where i stood and hogged The Echo's one men's room stall while i puffed Ventolin and tried to get the ole lungs to start working properly again. Asthma is brought on by many things, and in this case i think the culprits were anxiety (i really felt like i couldn't move in the crowd) and humidity (it was extremely humid in there, wedged among the sweating bodies).

At any rate, in 10 minutes or so i had calmed down enough to allow others to urinate, so i headed back out into the fray.

It seemed even more crowded. I ran into Alex Weiss, the booking guy at The Echo, and he said to me, "There are 50 less people tonight than there were last night [at the final Dismemberment Plan show]. But it's more crowded." When i asked how that could be he said, "Plan fans are skinny kids. Fall fans are pudgy older guys. Ha-ha!" And he was right. I don't know about the actual attendence numbers, but the average body mass of people at the Fall show greatly exceeded that of the average Plan fan. At any rate, i don't know if i have ever seen The Echo so uncomfortably packed out.

Rather than fight my way back into the crowd, i stood at the bar, wedged between an insanely tall (like 7' plus or so) Australian guy and local singer-songwriter Shannon Wright. EvilSponge has an ambiguous relationship with Ms. Wright -- some shows we have really enjoyed, sometimes she annoys the bejesus out of us. So i tried to avoid eye contact which might lead to the uncomfortable "why do you hate my art" conversation....

So about an hour after The Paper Lions finished (if i hadn't been fighting an asthma attack i could've gotten new eyeglasses done, or my muffler changed!) The Fall took the stage.

The band came on first. They are all new and i could barely see them. Then Mark E. Smith, the only original member left (he basically is The Fall at this point) wandered out, and the crowd went wild. He started singing, and the show went from there.

As i said earlier: i am ignorant of all things Fall, so i have no idea what songs were played. I do know that the songs were catchy and interesting in a New Wave sort of way, with lots of guitar and occasional keyboard accents. Smith's voice, which is rather distinctive and uses an odd delivery style, was really the emphasis, and i think he performed well.

Certainly, it was a musically competent performance. However, i could see nothing at all (apparently the keyboardist was female -- i couldn't even see her from the bar), and the sound was sometimes muffled by the crowd noises.

Overall, i really wish that The Fall had played at The Variety Playhouse rather than The Echo. The Echo can only deal with a crowd by cramming people in like sardines, while at The Playhouse you can always go sit in the balcony to get away. Also, The Playhouse has a functioning AC system, something The Echo seems to lack.

But oh well.

I think i stayed for about 45 minutes of The Fall's set, liking what i could hear, and wishing i could hear more. But frustration at the crowd volume and general ill health prompted me to leave.

I drove north to my home in Marietta through an epic late-night thunderstorm. The sky lit up like daytime through marvelous strikes of lightning. It was a truly magnificent storm. It was also the best thing about the whole evening, and it had the least distorted sound.

But at least i got to see The Fall. Sort of.

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