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  THE ROCK*A*TEENS w/ The 45s and shannonwright  
  The Echo Lounge  
  East Atlanta, GA  
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Friends, Atlantans, Music Geeks, lend me your ears;
I come to bury The Rock*a*Teens, not to praise them.

Itís hard for me not to turn this review into an elegy; itís a known fact of my life that The Rock*a*Teens are easily my favorite Atlanta band (and have been for some years). But all things must end (despite the apparently contrary examples of Sonic Youth and Superchunk), and this was the night. There was no formal announcement, just the word of mouth that passes from band to friend to acquaintance to fan; Iíd like to think that had people known, more would have shown up for this final performance. But thatís sort of jumping into the middle of the story...

As I said last year, historically, New Yearís Eve has been a bad night for me. Luckily last yearís show changed all that. And I have to admit, when I first heard of this concert, I began to think that perhaps this 12/31 wouldnít be so bad. Of course, I had my doubts when the first act, shannonwright, took the stage. As an act, shannonwright gets the dubious distinction of being better than A Fir-Ju Well. However, thatís not being fair to Shannon Wright, the singer/songwriter. I have some of her albums, which I like. And Iíve seen several of her performances, which have varied widely as to style and quality. In short, I like her songwriting in general and her performance in theory. But sometimes the actuality is disappointing or disconcerting.

Unfortunately, as you may guess from the above, this was one of those disconcerting shows. Now maybe it was the mood or the expectation, but a noisy, angry, wailing performance was not what I needed. I thought back to the days of the ďkeynote visualizerĒ and an acoustic guitar with fondness as I watched her writhe on the stage and yelp. I know many people seemed to enjoy it, and perhaps I would have too on a different night. But on this evening, I was ready to move on, and it certainly seemed like her nearly hour long set lasted nigh-unto-forever.

Afterwards, The 45s were due up. I think the first time I ever saw The 45s was at the late, lamented Point, headlining after The Titanics (who at that time had 2 members of The Rock*a*Teens in it). I didnít like them much at first, but as time went on, I came to appreciate their straight-up 60s keyboard-driven rock sound. Itís fun and you can dance to it (take that Dick Clark!). However, after their debut album, I sort of fell out of touch with this band, and this was the first time Iíd seen them in about a year or so.

After seeing this performance, I can say that I still like them. Their sound seems a bit crunchier and the keyboards seem a bit more prominent. But itís still fun and danceable and for New Yearís Eve, they seemed like a great choice. Unfortunately, because of the long opener, The 45s were still tuning at midnight, and they didnít play that long. It was a shame, because everyone I could see seemed to be having fun listening to them.

Then The Rock*a*Teens took the stage to a maybe 2/3 full Echo Lounge, and it was like old times. In past reviews, Iíve described them in terms ranging from loose to playing with minimal screw-ups to awe-inspiring. All of those were true on this last show, with awe-inspiring perhaps coming closest to hitting the experience. Furthermore, on this last evening, it seemed as if they were moving at breakneck speed, barreling through a range of songs which covered their entire career. And what an amazing group of songs they played, from their only recorded cover (Iím your Puppet) to their most driven (Black Ice) to my personal favorite (Donít Destroy this Night) to the carnivalesque (Car and Driver) to the almost elegiac (To Lady Ben and all her Friends). And despite a few mishaps, it was all like I remembered: loud, fast, echo-y music played by the only band I know which consistently sends chills down my spine. Soundwise, it was a mixed bag. Where I was standing, you pretty much heard the guitars and a few vocals and the drums (especially the ubiquitous ride cymbal), but the bass seemed a bit low, and I couldnít hear the keyboards at all. But apparently that was a flaw down front; others I talked to felt that the guitars were a little loud, but otherwise it was good.

After they left the stage for the final time, it really hit me: this was the last time to see this band whose music has brought so much to me. Like other bands Iíve discussed before, when I first saw The Rock*a*Teens, I didnít particularly care for them. Over a few months and with the help of severe personal trauma, I changed my opinion. Eventually it got to the point that their concerts (and they were always a live band -- nothing theyíve ever recorded measures up to the strength of their concerts) were wonderfully cathartic, as Iíd stand there and let the wall of vocals, reverb, and drums wash over me. At the end Iíd smile and laugh, joyous from having seen so much energy and terrible musical beauty on one stage. In their heyday, The Rock*a*Teens were glorious, and Iím glad I got a chance to see them as often as I did. And now theyíre gone.

My heart is in the coffin there with the Rock*a*Teens,
And I must pause till it come back to me.

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