It was a cold and blustery Saturday night in
Atlanta when i set out to see San Francisco stoner-pop band
Swell at The Echo Lounge. Apparently few others were willing
to brave the cold, as the Echo was far less than half-full when
i blew in at 10:30.
The first band was already on stage. They were a young looking
group from Athens (ah, UGA Freshmen), and played a sort of energetic
new wave pop. They had a female keyboardist, a stocky guy on
bass, a "guitar hero", a drummer (who looked about 14), and
a vaguely effiminant but still male vocalist. As i sat and bounced
along to them i honestly thought, "My god, has it already been
long enough to have 'My
Favorite'-influenced bands?" And, indeed, there is a certain
new wave flair to the band that is reminiscent of My
Boulevard, however, are not quite the pop geniuses M.
Grace and co are, although that could be due to age. Or
perhaps it was a lineup similarity that made my think of My
Favorite, not any real stylistic similarities. Indeed, a
few times the guitarist would break out in solos that were obviously
more influenced by Eddie Van Halen than Bernie Sumner. Still,
the bulk of the sound was New Wave, and so i'll go with that.
They ended their set with a rousing version of the old Bowie
classic Rebel, Rebel, and managed to pull it off fairly
well. The vocalist spent the song strutting around stage like
Mick Jagger, which was funny because he looks under age, and
Jagger was doing that strut many years before this vocalist
Overall i enjoyed Boulevard's set. They are a yound band, but
they do have some potential. We'll see if they manage to grow
any during their 4 (plus or minus) years in Athens.
After Boulevard, i had only a short wait until Swell took the
stage. There has recently been some sort of lineup shakeup in
the band, although i am sketchy on the details. (Go figure,
but their official site, Swellsongs
is kind of rambling....) At any rate, the "other" guitarist/keyboardist
opened the set by singing a very short song (as in -- one and
a half minutes, tops), then normal vocalist Dave Freel took
over and the band tore into a fast-paced version of Song
7, which is my favorite tune by them. They did it quite
well, and played a bit with the tempo, shifting the tempo several
times. Still, it's an excellent song and hearing it live was
a real treat.
That said, well, i don't know the names of any of the other
songs they did. I recognized a few of them, and since i only
have their first three albums, i am guessing they played a few
of the early hits. Overall the band was pretty tight, with Freel
on a beaten-up old acoustic guitar, another guitarist who also
added the occasional keyboard highlight, a bassist, and a drummer.
About halfway through the set, something happened in some song,
and i am not sure what but Freel stopped playing and the other
guitarist had an embarrassed expression on his face. Freel just
sang for a few minutes, then picked it back up to end the song.
Afterwards he said, into the microphone so the whole club could
hear, "When you fuck up that badly, follow the drummer. He can't
change!" I don't know who messed up, or what, since it all sounded
fine to me. However, it was pretty funny to see Freel get frustrated.
And he had good cause to be frustrated -- i stopped to look
at the crowd and about 20 people (not including staff) were
really playing attention to Swell. There were another 10 standing
around, and from the upper lounge could be heard loud conversation
from Boulevard and their fans/classmates. That's a darn small
crowd for such a talented, and long-lasting, band as Swell.
And despite the poor turnout, Swell put on a great show. Their
music is meandering without being jammy, and mellow without
being sleepy. And it's a lot of fun. I enjoyed their set tremendously.