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  SWELL w/ Boulevard  
  The Echo Lounge  
  East Atlanta, GA  
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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 Favorite.

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 was born...

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.

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