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MAGNAPOP w/ The Polar Dunes and The Water Lions

  The EARL  
  East Atlanta, GA  
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A music scene goes through cycles, like any living entity will. Bands come into existence, exist for a while, and then fade away. Sometimes they come back, with new members and a renewed sense of purpose (like Magnapop), or sometimes they break into their constituent parts, each of which go on to new and different projects. In one sense, tonight was about seeing Luigi and The Silent Kids, albeit with both bands splintered apart and reformed in new ways.

Tonight was also about surprise guests. You see, before the show Tracers and i wandered over to Joe's Coffee, where we grabbed a cup and sat down to caffeine up before a long night of standing. And then, suddenly, Mr. Pharmacist was standing in front of us, with his wife, who we had never met before! You see, Mr. Pharmacist is a resident of Columbus, GA, which is about a hundred miles to the southwest. As such, we don't see him that often, and seeing him and the missus in a coffee shop caught us off guard. Well, apparently they had the weekend free from parental responsibilities due to it being their anniversary, and for some reason they decided to head to The EARL to see some bands.

Tonight was not, in retrospect, the best night for such an excursion. But none of us knew that going in...

We moseyed up the street to The EARL in time to see the first act, The Water Lions. This is a new band featuring Jeff Holt (ex - Space Crime Quintet, Silent Kids, Ultrababyfat, etc.) and Thad Goad (ex- Ruvulo), as well as a guitarist and bassist who were unfamiliar to me.

The Water Lions in action.

The unfamiliar guitarist played Southern indie lead guitar, which is to say, there were lots of solos, not a lot of distortion, and an almost slide guitar like effect used at times. Mr. Holt, on the other hand, plays a little more general indie rock guitar, which means a bit of noise and a hint of distortion thrown in. Together, the two of them managed to sound like what one might expect a Thurston Moore and Neil Young collaboration to sound like (not to say that either of these guitarists were as good as Moore and/or Young, mind you). To be honest, that is not anything i would ever have wanted to hear. I wanted more space rock, less Southern rock from this band. But oh well.

Jeff Holt in red light.

The best tune they did was about P.T.Barnum and featured Goad on some tribal, tom-heavy drumming and the unknown guitarist using an eBow to get a nice hazy guitar sound. This song meandered in that manner for a few minutes, and then exploded into a rocking out jam, with Goad really pounding his kit. Good stuff.

eBow in action.

So there was some promise in what The Water Lions were doing, even though on the whole their set was not that impressive. However, i got the impression that this act was very new, so i will give them some time to work it out, and perhaps the band will be more interesting. Time will tell.

As the next act set up, we Minions were pleased to see Michelle DuBois (ex- Luigi, Ultrababyfat) set up, along with Leanna Fugate and Michael Oakley (both ex- Silent Kids).

Oakley, Fugate, and DuBois try something new.

They also had a female bassist who did not seem familiar to me. (Brendanís Note: Apparently she was in Catfight.)

Catfight, apparently.

EvilSponge has enjoyed the various acts of Ms. DuBois greatly over the years, so we were pleased to see her back in action. Pairing her with Mr. Oakley is an interesting combination. Both are strong songwriters, but each has a different style. What would happen in The Polar Dunes (formerly called "Whale Fall"), a band involving both of them?

Polar Dunes in action.

The result, to me at least, was reminiscent of The Undertones. The songs were upbeat and catchy and had a faint layer of distortion to them. Not bad in itself, but the sad fact is that these tunes refused to rock. The songs plodded along, even with the fuzzy guitars, and never really grabbed me.

Oakley sang some of the songs...

...while Dubois sang some as well.

Perhaps that is because i wanted them to. I wanted The Polar Dunes to rock. I wanted their music to engage me in a way that The Silent Kids and Luigi both did. Sadly, this did not happen, and i was left feeling very disappointed. Maybe the band is just too new. Maybe they haven't learned these songs enough to play them at the rollicking pace and intensity they deserve (and i want). Maybe.

Oh well. You win some, you lose some. I will withhold judgment on this act, hoping to catch them in a few months, where after some more development they will engage me. I hope so, at least.

Finally, at around midnight, Magnapop took the stage. I have been listening to this band since the mid 1990s, and have enjoyed their recent resurgence. For those of you who are unaware, Magnapop were, at one time, one of the bigger bands in Atlanta. They had videos that i actually saw on MTV (for the younger crowd: MTV used to be like YouTube, showing music videos instead of the non-stop stream of reality shows they play now. Really! It's true....), and they toured around the world.

Linda Hopper never stands still on stage.

Then ... the band sort of fell apart. I don't know what happened, but the only members left from before are vocalist Linda Hopper and guitarist Ruthie Morris. Linda and Ruthie eventually put together a new lineup, including bassist Scott Rowe (ex- Luigi) and drummer Chad Williams. EvilSponge has seen them several times in the past few years, and they always put on a great show.

Williams and Morris in action.

Part of the reason that their shows are so great is that Hopper and Morris obviously enjoy performing. Hopper in particular dances around on stage grinning as if she is having the time of her life. It is infectious, and i find myself bouncing along to the songs, and singing along with those i know.

Linda Hopper in a rare moment of "not moving too much".

Tonight's show celebrated the release of their fifth album. However, they did not just play the new record through. Instead, they played a sort of "best of" set, hitting songs from across their career and adding in a few new tunes. They played their cover of 13 for the recently departed Alex Chilton. Slowly, Slowly and Open the Door both got the crowd going. They played a new song called Lions and Lambs that flowed really well with the rest of the songs. And of course, they ended with a good frenetic version of Merry.

I've seen your eyes ... MeeeEEEEEErry...

Magnapop were fun enough to save the night from being a complete disappointment. Thank goodness for that...

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