The heat was stifling when I showed up to watch Photo Atlas play the main stage in the Goodwill parking lot, and the crowd seemed too sluggish to truly enjoy it, even though the band's guitar-based, Foals-style technical pop warranted some foot shuffling, at the very least. The band's angular brand of dance-rock is a little more straight-ahead, a little less experimental than that of genre stewards like Q and not U, but the band played a tight set that satisfied.
After sticking around for a few minutes of Lucha Libre, mostly just out of curiosity, and watching two semi-fat guys (it speaks volumes that the Luchador presented as the hero was much more fully clothed than the villain) pretend to throw each other around for a while, I moved on to catch the last few songs of Bela Karoli at the Irish Rover across the street.
The place was packed. I couldn't really see the band performing, but the mix was good and the band was well-rehearsed, with the two vocalists doing harmonies reminiscent of Eurythmics. Arrangement-wise, the band kind of reminded me of a restrained Tom Waits, with the accordion rounding out the band's subdued, old-world rhythms.
I caught Alan Alda for a couple of songs just down the way at 3 Kings next, and although I was a little distracted at that point because I was fairly certain I was going to get heatstroke, the band put on a good show. I'd hadn't seen Alan Alda live before, and I was pleased to find that it was as loud and intense as I had expected it to be. The band plays heavy, prog-influenced rock with breakdowns to spare, and it proved just what I needed to wake up a little.
Aaron Collins' set with A Tom Collins in the Goodwill parking lot was quite a bit more subdued than the set of his I'd seen with Machine Gun Blues the night before, but it still had the raucous, hoedown vibe to it that makes Collins such a fine frontman. With his classic blues wail, the New Orleans big-band arrangements and Collins' propensity for shouted choruses, the band reminded me of southern hometown weirdos of swing-rock like Leon Russel or Doctor John.
Nathaniel Rateliff played next across the way, and you could have heard a pin drop during his set. It takes a confident performer with a commanding stage presence to play music so quiet in front of a big, noisy crowd and pull it off, and Rateliff did exactly that with apolmb. Not that his band's incapable of rocking -- if anything, the hushed vibe of so many of the songs gave the ones that ratcheted up the intensity that much extra emotional heft.
When Aaron Collins got up onstage to goof around and pretend to play the flute a la the jazz flute scene in Anchorman (he might have actually been playing it, but it wasn't miked), it felt like a relief, like it broke a tension that had been building. In spite of its restraint, Rateliff's performance was pretty intense.
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