After a full day of reading silly April fools posts on Slashdot and xkcd, I was ready for what I though would be a serious night of music. Having become recently obsessed with the newest Rock Plaza Central album Are We Not Horses and its anthemic choruses of dark poetry sung with the most fragile Will Oldham/Bonnie Prince Billy/Palace like voice, I was expecting a band of dark and unapproachable musicians. I couldn’t have been farther from the truth. The other 2 bands of the evening, Unlucky Atlas and Death Ships each encompassed a subset of the sound that Rock Plaza Central fully integrated.
Locals Unlucky Atlas took the stage first. Unfortunately, I think the cold weather and Sunday evening in general meant that there weren’t many there to see this wonderful band. That was too bad for them since they missed a good half hour of The Dead Can Dance meets This Mortal Coil meets The Incredible String Band . Using mostly acoustic instruments (there were 2 electric keyboards on stage) that included cello, violin and autoharp they literally beat out the most dark and swirling gothic Americana I have heard in a while. They were a little reminiscent of another local band Spires that in the Sunset Rise both in mood and texture. What I liked better in the live setting compared to the sample tracks on their site was that the vocals were drenched in a nice amount of reverb that blended well with the rest of the sound.
Add Death Ships to the list of bands with a name that sound like they should be screaming over heavy riffs but instead actually sing pop songs. There was no wispy arty folk to these guys from Iowa, they were all about the energy and excitement of playing. While they were very tight the songs were really boring. Think Hootie and the Blowfish with even worse songs. Every song encapsulated the same musical space: a major chord progression, an un-catchy chorus, a lame solo, and lastly a jammy outro.
So now four of the Rock Plaza Central members take the stage, the lead singer yelling to some drunk guy in the crowd. Said drunk guy leaves the music room and the four start to play, no one is behind the kit but they don’t need him right away they said. After the first verse is over, said drunk guy runs into the music room He IS the drummer and proceeds to take a seat behind the kit. As soon as he starts playing he is a totally different being, locking in tight with the rest of the band. In fact, the whole band was completely different when they weren’t playing, cracking jokes and being silly in general. This stage presence really brought out the “raise a glass” camaraderie of the songs off “Are We Not Horses”. The albeit small crowd was arm-in-arm, swaying and singing along. Even though the record just came out in the states this week they knew all the words and requested favorite songs. They played most of “Are We Not Horses” and a few of the earlier album “The World was Hell to Us”. Everything sounded beautiful, the horns we blaring right in my face and Chris Eaton vocals sounded even warmer and more endearing then on record. I overheard that some people even drove up from places 3hrs away to catch this show. It was a very fun and funny way to start the week and I hope they come back soon.