Trends are a strange thing. Back in the 1990s, every band out there had a cellist, and now here i am in 2011 writing a review of a show in which all three acts feature female violinists. Why is that? Why has the stringed instrument of choice become smaller? I don't understand how these ideas spread, i just note them. So now we are in what i am dubbing The Golden Age Of Violin Pop, a trend which i have to admit i have been enjoying of late. Then again, i liked The Golden Age of Cello Pop too. I suppose i just like the blurring of the lines between classical music and contemporary pop, and whichever instrument people use to do this is fine with me. (Please, more kettle drum. Please!)
Up first were Do It To Julia, a band from Asheville. You just don't see a lot of bands from Asheville, which isn't really all that far away. Why is that? Anyway, there were a four piece, featuring a tiny blond woman on violin, who danced like mad, stomping her feet and swaying mightily as she played; a bored looking guy on 5-string jazz bass, who was really amazing and looked like he could play that music in his sleep; a drummer who was oddly micced in a way that i would describe as "down the hall, in a box", which is unusual for a live setting; and a guitarist/vocalist.
Yeah, the five-string bass is a little under-utilized.
Their first few songs were interesting, almost post-rock with a hint of the complexity that characterizes the work of My Latest Novel.
The first violinist of the evening.
However, the rest of their set was sort of alt-countryish. I am not a fan of that genre, and i was standing there thinking that the music had shifted towards the boring, when non-Minion affiliate Kerry leaned over and commented that the last few songs had seemed "by the numbers" to her. Then she remarked that she really disliked it when the vocalist sounded like Dave Matthews, which caught me off-guard as i am not really familiar with Dave Matthews.
(Insert witty pun on Dave Matthews lyric here. I honestly don't know any!)
I cannot say how accurate NMA Kerry was, but there was a kind of whininess to the voice in a few of the songs, and "whiny" is a term i would use to describe what little i know about Dave Matthews. Still, he has legions of fans, so sounding like him might be a career move for the band.
Overall, they were a mixed bag. The first few songs were very different and very good, and there were moments in the rest of the set that were nice. Overall, though, i get the impression that this is a very new band, and perhaps they haven't exactly figured out what they are doing yet. There is talent there, if the band chooses to push themselves musically and avoid the easy route to stoner hippie alt-country. Oh well, time will tell.
Up next was Venice Is Sinking, whom i had seen a few weeks before at a tiny club in Austin.
There, the sound was absolutely perfect, Venice Is Sinking's vaguely melancholy pop reverberating around the almost all hardwood room, adding even more richness to their complex sound. Here, well, the voices sounded distant, and the guitar was too loud while the violin was a little under-loud.
Tonight's second violinist could have been turned up in the mix a bit.
Such is life -- for every show where things sound perfect, you get one that is a little muddy. It wasn't too bad, but it wasn't as pristine as the last time i saw them either.
Daniel is okay with a little mud.
They played pretty much the same set i saw in Austin, and it was good. I like the new songs that they are doing.
What's up with the Don Johnson jacket, Mr. Sewell?
And Okay and Bardstown Road really got the crowd going. Even a few members of the headlining act got on stage for the long, repetitive ending to Bardstown Road, most of the audience stomping and clapping and wailing along. Great fun.
Members of Little Tybee join to sing Bardstown Road.
Finally, Little Tybee took the stage. This is the band that was playing at Clive Bar when we walked up to the Atlanta day-show in Austin. We heard one song walking through the neighborhood, and it seemed to be pleasant pop. I was curious as to what they sounded like tonight, at their album release show.
The third violinist of the evening, here rocking the shaky egg.
The answer, in short, is unfocused jam rock. There was violin and guitar and voice and percussion and drums and keys all meandering around on stage, never seeming to jell for me. I stayed for two songs, then headed out, not wanting to spoil the memory of the beauty that was a Venice Is Sinking performance.