What is it with Sunday shows this year? In 2008 there was been a preponderance of interesting shows at the end of the weekend. I wonder why that is? At any rate, i had wanted to see a full performance by Some Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin (hereafter abbreviated SSLYBY) since i caught three songs by them in the afternoon at an uncrowded dive bar in Austin during SxSW. So i dragged myself out after watching The Simpsons, knowing full well i had to be in the office at 8 AM.
I arrived at The EARL just after 9 PM, sighing at the thought of how long i would be out on this, a work night. My mental calculus worked like this: arrive at 9, first band at 9:30, second band at 10:30, SSLYBY on by 11:30, show over around 1, home and in bed by 1:30, up at 7 to be at work by 8 or so... Monday would be a tiring day, but this was do-able.
I was very surprised to arrive at the almost empty EARL and discover that band 1 had already played. "It's Sunday," the door guy explained, "and we have to shut down at Midnight." Really? And that is enough to make shows run at reasonable times? Interesting...
So i stood around for a few minutes watching band 2 set up. This is a 4-piece act called Via Audio, one of the innumerable Brooklyn-based bands touring the country at any given moment. They started promptly at 9:30 with a keyboard heavy piece with bopping rhythms. Ah, synth pop, is there anything more fun? Alas, Via Audio do not simply do synth pop -- this band is all over the place. A few of the songs rocked, a few of the songs bore a funk undercurrent, one tune that featured the female keyboardist on vocals sounded almost like Sade, but most of their songs were standard indie rock.
The female vocalist of Via Audio is, in fact, a smooth operator.
I found the constant jumping back and forth between genres to be slightly disconcerting. It seemed as if Via Audio have a lot of ideas, but don't quite know how to merge them all into one song, so they do songs of different types. Still, there were more good tunes than boring ones, and the band members jumped around, smiling, and tried to act as if they were having the time of their lives playing to 40 people in a Southern club on a Sunday night.
Keyboardist playing ecstatically ... for next to no one.
The bassist in particular was noteworthy. He was a tall guy dressed as if he had just stepped off the basketball court, and he thumped away at deep grooves. His playing really drove the band, allowing the other three to riff around him. I also found their female keyboardist/vocalist to be interesting. A small girl with chaotic hair, she has a powerful voice, and when she really lets loose (as on the Sade-esque tune i mentioned above) it is pretty amazing. Still, she tried very hard to be "quirky", tilting her head oddly, and accenting her words in strange places. That seemed kind of affected to me, but with that great voice, it really wasn't too big of a deal.
Overall, Via Audio were worthwhile. I think that their set was a little too long, but i enjoyed most of it. The band seems to have potential, if only they can figure out exactly what they want to do, musically speaking.
They played for 45 minutes, and then quickly tore down their gear while SSLYBY set up. The lads from Missouri took only 15 minutes, and started playing at 10:30. I was shocked to see a show run at such a timely pace. Perhaps the EARL was empty because no one else really believed that they show would run at reasonable hours. I can't be sure, but if all EARL shows ran on this schedule, i would be a much happier person...
One thing i did notice looking around the crowd between sets is that the audience was, oddly, largely female. Aside from certain Decaturian acts, you don't see mostly female crowds at rock shows in Atlanta. It was halfway through the set that i realized why: the SSLYBY boys are, apparently, cute. It was as if i were at a show promoted by Lisa Simpson's favorite monthly, "Non-Threatening Boys Magazine". And indeed, they are a bunch of clean-cut Midwesterners with strange vowel inflections and generally sunny attitudes.
Boris Yeltsin was fond of vocal harmonies.
Tonight, SSLYBY played at a 5-piece, adding keyboards and a second guitarist to the lineup i saw at SxSW. The music they played was insanely catchy, and this new expanded lineup was tight. Obviously they have all been performing together for a while, and the additional guitar and keyboard added just a touch of richness to the songs.
Boris Yeltsin was a fan of the 2 guitar band.
They played most of their latest record, Pershing, and i feel that these songs come across better live. With the band standing there, grinning and sweating, their catchy pop tunes have an immediacy to them that is infectious. And indeed the crowd, albeit small, responded very enthusiastically to their performance. Even a jaded old fart like your author found the music to be toe-tappingly good.
Boris Yeltsin was a singing drummer too.
They played Oregon Girl, as i knew they would, but also did great versions of Modern Mystery, You Could Write a Book, and Oceanographer, both of the latter two coming across a whole lot better than on record. This was a really great performance, and even better that it was over at about 11:45, allowing me to get most of a full night's sleep before work the next day. I am glad i finally got to see them, and even more pleased that their performance was as fun as i had hoped it would be. SSLYBY are a young pop band on their way up. I will keep listening.