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  RUVOLO w/ Pocket Novel Mystery and The Sudden Rays  
  The EARL  
  East Atlanta, GA  
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I honestly don't care for middle of the week shows. I have a day job which requires that I get up at a semi-civilized hour. Still, it's hard to escape these shows, mainly because, in Atlanta at least, local bands get stuck playing Wednesdays or Thursdays until they are a proven draw. So, understanding club logistics, I sucked it up and headed out to The EARL to see two local bands, and one unknown touring act.

And I have to say I am glad I did. The first opener, The Sudden Rays, used to be known as National Dust. Or, at least they called themselves National Dust the first and only time I had seen them, at 2004's Corndogarama. The Sudden Rays are a three piece consisting of Chris Hoke and Justin Gray, both formerly of 3D5SPD, who do guitar/vocals and bass, respectively. They're rounded out by drummer Kevin Wallace, who you may remember from such bands as: Teen Wheat, Envie, any number of pick up acts, and, current, Ruvolo (who were the headliners on this evening).

The Sudden Rays caught my attention with their first song. With a driving beat and a classic Indie Rock sound, the band came across to me as Superchunk-ish. This impression remained through most of their set, primarily because Chris Hoke's vocals were quite good and evocative, in the same way that Mac's always have been, especially circa On the Mouth. Furthermore, Hoke's guitarwork impressed me tremendously, as he managed to play distinct rhythm and lead parts on the same instrument, mostly at the same time. Having seen him play before, I knew he was good, but I didn't realize just how good until this evening. Gray also came across strongly, acting as a musical counterpoint to the higher guitar lines while Wallace, whose drumming I've always liked, rocked out in an unrestrained fashion.

Despite the rock stance, The Sudden Rays also played some more mellow, or at least less noisy, material. On these songs, the band harkened back to the days of early Replacements, or, at times, some of Paul Westerberg's early solo stuff (which was quite good, I might add). Taken as whole, the music was amazingly good, and I really want to see The Sudden Rays again in the future.

After a short break, the next band, Pocket Novel Mystery, took the stage. I knew nothing of them previously, other than the fact that they are a touring band, apparently from Florida. They are a four piece with a guitarist/vocalist, bass, keyboards and drums. Their first song was a little psychedelic in nature which, combined with the male vocalist's tone, sounded a bit reminiscent of Bowie's Space Oddity. However, this didn't characterize the rest of their set. Rather, as they continued to play and the keyboards became more prominent, I began to think that Pocket Novel Mystery seemed like a combination of Athens' The Fairburn Royals and a less frenetic Deathray Davies. At the very least, the band certainly didn't seem put off by the small crowd and played energetically, which is always a plus. So, I have to say that I also really liked Pocket Novel Mystery, and I would definitely go see them again.

Then it was time for the headliner, Ruvolo. Co-fronted by Kevin Wallace (see above), this 5 piece hasn't been around all that long, and, each time I've seen them, I've liked them more. Since I hadn't seen them in a while, I was intrigued to see if they could continue their track record of playing extremely catchy songs which feature some unexpected delicate interplay between the musicians.

However, from where I stood, that didn't really happen. Sure, the songs were as catchy as I remembered, with their second song being a standout. Sure, it seemed like, in a sheer musical sense, Ruvolo played at least as well as the times I'd heard them before. However, what challenged them during this show was the mix. Since all 5 members contribute equally to the sound, it was disappointing to hear neither the bass nor the keyboards for most of the songs. Rather, I basically heard the two guitars, a little of the drums, and some vocals. In and of itself, this mix was not bad; however, I felt that this sound lost some of the intricacy and interplay that occurs in Ruvolo's music. Clearly, this is not the band's fault, but rather it just goes to show how important a soundguy can be in determining whether or not a show is good.

And that's not to say that Ruvolo were bad. It's just I could see they were trying to do something and I think they were pulling it off, only I couldn't hear it, which was a little disappointing. Nevertheless, I can't hold this against the band and, like the two bands that came before, I plan to see them again.

All in all, it was a good Wednesday, even if I had to work the next day. The Sudden Rays and Pocket Novel Mystery were both excellent and, while their sound mix was off, Ruvolo certainly played well enough to triumph over the sonic adversity.

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