with Kipper Tin and Madder Rose

The Middle East Upstairs, Cambridge, MA • February 10, 1999

Okay, so I am not going to lie and make anything up, but I did not get to see the opening band Kipper Tin, nor did I care to see Madder Rose. I have been following Macha for the past year, and was simply interested to see how they are coming along, especially since the release of their self-titled debut album on Jetset and their appearance at the Jetset Showcase at this past CMJ Marathon. That was a grand show itself, but I’m sure it was easy to do so well with the hype going on at that particular showcase. The boys from Athens must have been loving it! This time I was able to see them stand alone.

I have always liked to describe Macha’s music as a cross between Joy Division and Dead Can Dance. Their “grooves and beats” have those nice defining lines that Joy Division is so well known for — but not founding fathers of — and of course, Macha’s use of more eclectic instruments gives them similar tones to that of Dead Can Dance. But what I find so great about Macha is their power and energy to display live when playing these instruments. So many bands are so traditional and delicate with dulcimers and vibes, but Macha doesn’t hold back. Some say that they are riding on the wave of instrumental bands like Tortoise, but I must disagree. I think Macha is bringing worlds together by introducing the “Indie Rock” world to different cultures.

Macha consists of Kai Riedd, Josh McKay, Mischo McKay, and Wes Martin. Besides drummer Mischo McKay, Macha does a lot of instrument swapping on stage between the dulcimers, vibes, keys, guitars, and vocals. This isn’t really such a strange thing to see anymore, but it is rarely pulled off well when attempted during the songs. I think only other band I have seen do this was Yo La Tengo. It is a matter of writing the material to the performance, and these guys have that down. One may think that they have a choreographer!

I can’t give a comparison of their live show to their recording, but I could imagine that it would have a whole different level of appreciation, probably in the same way that Stereolab can be intricate with their recordings and massive with their performances.

One of the best parts of this evening was when the sound man gave them the all-too-well-known “time’s up,” and the crowd demanded another two songs! Macha have a way of capturing everyone’s attention and pleasing minds with new ideas. It will be interesting to see what’s next.

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