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  THE SUBSONICS w/ Ultrababyfat and The Motolitas  
  The Echo Lounge  
  East Atlanta, GA  
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So what is it with the state of sound in East Atlanta? More specifically, why is it suddenly impossible to find a good concert mix at either The Earl or The Echo Lounge (the two major live venues in East Atlanta)? Is there some bizarre harmonic effect that goes on within those 2 or 3 blocks that makes it difficult to obtain clarity? Or is there merely some conspiracy to make everyone sound like Black Sabbath? I don't know what the answer is, but for the second time in two weeks, I went to concert where the sound at the show was bad enough to affect my overall enjoyment of the bands. That doesn't happen often, but when it does, I find myself feeling more critical overall that perhaps I normally would be.

I'd had a long day, so I hadn't even planned to go the show. But it was a benefit for WRAS (local college radio station) and it was early, so I figured I should go be supportive. Besides it was Saturday, and I wasn't up to just sitting at home and going to bed early.

When I got to The Echo Lounge, The Motolitas were already playing... .but, I have to confess I didn't really recognize them. The last time I saw them was probably a year ago. They were just starting out then, and played mostly surf-rock. I think the vocal duties were spread out more or less evenly through the three frontwomen: a bassist and two guitarists - one of whom had a slightly frenetic style and an enthusiastic (although only adequate) musical technique. There were a little rough, and not always together, but to my mind, they were interesting.

Anyway, I was rather surprised, then, to find out that The Motolitas have no surf left in them. Instead, they reminded me of a bad Donnas rip-off: girly sexy vocals and a bottom heavy, thumping bass kind of sound. Of course, I know that some of this effect is due to the afore-mentioned issues with the PA inside The Echo Lounge. But I could certainly tell that this radio-friendly girl rock band had little in common with the slightly quirky group I had seen before. Even the balance within the band was different: the frenetic rhythm guitarist didn't really sing and had moved towards the left of the stage, instead of holding the center spot. It was a disappointment for me, although the crowd seemed well pleased by the set.

Next up: another band who I haven't seen in a long time, Ultrababyfat. I'll confess up front that, although I respect their tenacity, this band's happy pop punk music has never done much for me. Yes, they rock and yes, they do know how to use their skills well. But their music lacks that indefinable something which would make me pay attention and forget how hard the musicians are actually working. That said, Ultrababyfat seems very popular with their innocent lyrics, sex kitten vocals, and rock moves. And you have to like that on some level. And I do, although Ultrababyfat were just a light diversion until the main act. So I passed the time wondering at how on Earth the PA at the Echo Lounge could make guitar rocking Ultrababyfat sound like The Donnas as well...

Anyway, based on the experience of the previous two bands, I had little hope for the sound of the last band - the one I had really come to see - The Subsonics. Luckily, after about three songs, I realized that, no, The Subsonics were not going to sound like The Donnas (and I was relieved). Instead, they sounded like their usual selves: loud reverbing guitar, strong rhythmic bass, and sharp stand up drums, all topped by petulant angry vocals edged with sarcasm and bravado. They play short staccato songs whose structure rarely varies (verse and chorus repeated, then followed by a short guitar solo) and usually seems to slide to a close about a minute too early. They're a glorious band to watch - one that distracts you from all the glitches.

The set was half done before I really noticed that the sound mix was still off, although it didn't really effect my enjoyment of the music. And I could tell that the band was having some minor issues on the stage, but that didn't change my impression of their performance. The Subsonics still were loud and playing hard - dragging the audience along with them in their wake. It didn't seem like it had been long at all when they left after a 45 minute set. I knew they would likely come back and play a bit, but I was suddenly tired. Normally, if it's a really great concert, I would just ignore the slight exhaustion and continue on til the end. But that wasn't this evening; sure it had been interesting and fun, but it was nothing that I had to finish. There was nothing I would regret having not seen in the morning. So I called it a night and went home to bed, at last.

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