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  GRINGO STARR w/ Envie and The Sweetloves  
  The EARL  
  East Atlanta, GA  
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Envie are an Atlanta band who we here at EvilSponge have seen and enjoyed for years, and so it was a given that we'd make it over to The EARL for their long-awaited CD release show. Furthermore, the bill promised to be an odd, but interesting one. I had never seen opening act The Sweetloves, but I have heard good reviews of their music. And the headliner, Gringo Starr, was the new name of Atlanta stalwarts A Fir Ju Wel, who I had not seen in years.

Brandon from The Sweetloves thoughtfully pointing out the location of the exit
at The EARL. The Sweetloves are all about the safety.

Shortly after we arrived, The Sweetloves took the stage. Playing a combination of raunchy early blues rock with a dash of 70s style hard rock, I immediately recognized most of the band members from other Atlanta bands like Ocelot, The Titanics, and The 45s. Musically, depending on the song, I mentally compared them to early Rolling Stones, Highway to Hell-era AC/DC, or perhaps The Faces. All in all, they were a quite competent band who seemed to be having a great deal of fun on stage, and they pulled off a faithful cover of Brown Sugar at the end of their set. Not bad at all.

Renne from Envie contemplates the harp.

Then it was time for Envie. They don't seem to play around much anymore, and feature a revolving cast of musicians centered around vocalist/keyboardist/harpist Renee Nelson. On this evening, drummer Kevin Wallace laid down a fast, hard beat whilst bassist Susannah Barnes maintained a thudding accompaniment. As usual, Nelson's voice and keyboards held up the high end, and provided a focal point for the music.

Envie in action.

The biggest difference between the recorded Envie and the live version revolved around the addition of guitarist Keith Lee. He provided some nicely intricate guitarwork without the frenetic effects of previous guitarist Chris Hoke. This gave Envie a cleaner sound overall, and allowed the various parts (especially the bass) to come to the forefront. Most importantly, in total, this show highlighted the many good things about Envie, and hopefully encouraged audience members to pick up a copy of their self-titled debut album.

Guitarist Keith Lee, the newest member of Envie.

After Envie left the stage, the headliner took a good long time to set up. Admittedly, I hadn't seen Gringo Starr since they changed their name; in fact, I hadn't seen them as A Fir Ju Wel for even longer. I'm not sure why, but the previous times I'd heard them, I always thought them somewhat precious, in a kind of sense that The Music Tapes were. Furthermore, the new name "Gringo Starr" causes me, at least, to wince painfully. But despite the history and the new name, on this evening, I rather enjoyed them. Although the musicians still changed instruments on a regular, and occasionally unneeded basis (see "precious", above), the songs had a nice, poppy jangle.

Gringo Starr in action.

And I have to admit that the constant touring of the past few years have turned Gringo Starr into a tight musical unit. In fact, it seems to me that the band is less like a quirky, Muppet Show influenced house band and more like Elf Power, who have managed to harness their oddities into something that is both listenable and interesting. I'd like to see them again at some point, just so I can determine if my pleasure was really from them, or was rather a hold over from my general liking of the previous band.

Thoughtful keyboarding in Gringo Starr.

At the end of the night, I do have to admit that it was a strange bill, with three bands that musically have little in common. Yet, each band was filled with competent musicians who clearly take pleasure in performing in their distinctive style. So, when you look at it that way, I think it was a success, and I certainly had a good time.

PostLibyan: Another shot that i adore: the guitarist in Gringo Starr tuning.
This picture was taken with a short exposure and no flash, and really
shows the deep red lights at The EARL. I think this is a beautiful shot.

Related Links:

The Sweetloves:
Envie: or
On EvilSponge: Album: Envie


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