EvilSponge has been following Jupiter Watts for a long time. Our earliest review is from 2005, but we had heard the band before then. I think that is when we actually met the various band members... Which brings me to this: in the interest of full disclosure and conflict of interest, i must point out that the members of Jupiter Watts are friends with me on FaceBook. I know these guys, so this isn't like reviewing some random touring act that i might talk to, but will never interact with again. That said, i will attempt my best to be impartial.
I do admine Ramon Wals's pedals though.
When we arrived at The EARL a little after 9 PM, we were the first people in the venue. I wish more people would believe The EARL when they say they are trying to run shows on time... Anyway, we grabbed a spot and waited as the crowd filtered in. Just after 9:30, first act Spirits took the stage.
Spirits are a local band that none of us, including two Jupiter Watts members, had ever heard of. They were a four-piece, with a keyboardist who looked vaguely familiar, an absurdly tattooed guitarist singer in a Bear Bryant hat, a drummer, and a bassist.
Spirits haunting The EARL.
(I hope i am the first to use that lame pun!)
I am not sure what i was expecting them to sound like, but they performed a lively and fun set of vaguely psychedelic music with soulful vocals. Yes, that's right -- the guy with the neck tattoos is a soul singer. Huh. I never would have guessed that, but he actually has a really pretty voice, crooning his way through their short set.
I must point out that Marvin Gaye was no where near as tattoed.
The bassist really drove the songs, providing the melody with his playing. The drummer held his sticks in a strange manner. The keyboardist used his instrument almost like a second guitar. At times, the whole band would get noisy. I kept hoping they would just break into I Think I'm In Love or Electric Mainline, but they only came close to channeling the spirit of J. Spaceman without actually doing so.
I was really impressed. Their music was not like everything else in Atlanta, and they did what they did rather well. I hope to see more from this act.
After that satisfying set we stood around chatting with friends while What Happened To Your Fire, Tiger? set up. And let me point out that yes, the band does use two characters of punctuation in their name, just to mess with the grammar check in my word processor. This band doesn't play out often, which is a shame. However, they are a local supergroup (involving members of Parade, No Disassemble, Slushco, and Pistolero), so i am sure they are all rather busy. I was really looking forward to seeing them again, and as an added bonus, the band was distributing their first release, a six-song EP. Vocalist Carrie Hodge was nice enough to give us a copy, so look for a review to follow.
Carrie Hodge singing, which she does when not handing out CDs to local music reviewers.
Their set tonight was jazzier than i remember, and also a little sparser. As the band has developed, the various instruments and voices have been given some space to reverb and float on their own. You would think an act made up of four singers might get a little harmony dense, but that is certainly not the case. Carrie Hodge and Hilary Kelley split vocal duties, trading verses or just singing backup to one another. There was one song where they harmonized, and it stuck out as the most Azure Ray tune of the entire evening.
Hillary Yarbrough looking like a Maxfield Parrish painting. I promise that i did not do anything in
Photoshop to this image.
Her paleness just glowed oddly under the red and blue EARL stage lights,
and i got a few shots of her looking otherworldly
like this. This had never happened before, which
leads me to wonder if The EARL recently changed out the stage lights.
Here is a picture of her looking less Maxfield Parrish:
The music was great too, aside from some issues with the amp to Hillary's Rhodes Organ. Brian Slusher was doing some interesting new wavish guitarwork, a hint of reggae thrown in as befits early New Wave, and some nice chorus and distortion.
Carrie Hodge and Corey Pallon laid down a deep groove, and the Rhodes traded melodies with the guitar. Well, it tried to, the organ was not quite as loud as i would have liked, but that was due to amp issues. I want to make it clear that tonight's soundguy, who Jupiter Watts called Jonathan but who introduced himself to us as Peregrine, did a wonderful job. The three bands tonight all used space as an element in their songs, and a light touch on the mixing board was required form them to sound good. Mr. Peregrine did a fine job.
Overall, i really enjoyed WHTYFT. This band is doing interesting things, and i wish they could find the time to play out more.
Finally it was time for Jupiter Watts. Tonight they are celebrating the release of their fourth record, Take Time. This is their first release since their self-titled record back in 2005. Since then, the band has gone through quite a transformation.
And by transformation i don't mean that the members can turn into a robotic car...
although that would be pretty cool.
They are not an indie-rock band anymore; instead they have become more of a post-rock band. Maybe that's not the correct term, but what i mean is that the band now make long, slow, melodic tunes that grow and transform in an almost organic fashion. These new songs, which i have been raving about for years here on EvilSponge, are not your four minute pop tunes.
Their complex pop also involves things like saxaphone, and, sometimes, viruoso tambourine playing.
They opened with Break the Curse, which is just under twelve minutes long on the record. Here it grew slowly, a wandering drone that coalesces around Jared Welsh's bass line, as the guitars and keyboards twist. I love this song, and tonight it was well done, that thudding bass line holding it all together and driving things forward.
Clay Fowler breaks the curse...
They played everything off of the new record, but did hit some older songs. It was good to see Jupiter Watts pick up the pace and rock out again, performing Crown from their previous record, and doing it like they would have all those years ago.
Jupiter Watts can still rock out when they want to.
Sometimes when bands transform in the way that Jupiter Watts have, the old music either gets left behind or is updated to the new style. But they were a good band before they spread the music out, and it was good to see that they are not afraid to tighten it back up for those older songs.
This was a wonderful night, with three talented local acts. I need more shows like this.