Atlantis Music Conference 2000 Overview
including Myssouri, Lift, Metroscene, Audra & the Antidote, Kenny Howes & the Yeah!, Star Room Boys, Ex-Husbands, and Two Dollar Pistols
Atlanta, GA • August 9-12, 2000
Instead of following the herd of industry types to see each “important buzz” band, my approach was to camp out at the Echo Lounge, which sported a very strong bill of artists. Even more intriguing, the Echo was able to piece together consistent lineups. For instance, Friday was pop and Saturday was Americana. Very frankly, every band playing the Echo made a great effort, and each deserves compliments. Even those bands playing early to handfuls of worn out attendees held their own, like Dirtball and Tift Merritt, who opened the Saturday Americana event. Outside of the festival itself, too, a number of events were planned that added to the excitement in Atlanta that weekend. For instance, Lords Of Acid were probably the biggest draw on the first night of Atlantis, even though they played the Masquerade, which was not an Atlantis venue this year. Hats off to the Atlantis organizers this year, as they avoided last year’s pitfalls very smoothly and have this year made the festival one of the nation’s music events to be reckoned with.
Myssouri debuted its new lineup for Atlantis, and won approving nods from many an old fan, including the former members who have gone on to form a new band. Myssouri’s Nick Cave meets the Swans meets Sixteen Horsepower vibe has changed a bit, but Michael Bradley’s trademark sound is firmly intact. The new lineup brings a different vibrancy and slight rockabilly edge that puts an interesting twist on the dark and powerful songs. Forget about this being a debut — Myssouri fans have plenty to smile about.
Lift seemed to garner plenty of “industry” interest, and they seized the opportunity with a blazing set of Boston-style pop that smacks strongly of the likes of ’til tuesday and Mistle Thrush. A bit more rock edge than they’ve displayed recently, but that energy is well-suited to the music. Lift sure started off the night with a bang and set the tone for a great night (hell, I was so excited I even bought their pricey debut).
It’s difficult to ask for more than these gifted popsters have to offer. Probably one of the two or three most signable bands in Atlanta, Metroscene has built itself a behemoth local following in a very short time. Atlantis attendees were treated to well-crafted (Brit)pop tunes catchy enough for mass appeal, coupled with a psychedelic edge that would please even the crustiest indie rock snob. Until some national A&R genius stumbles on the obvious, these guys will remain an Atlanta treasure. I doubt that will be for much longer — Metroscene has that rare combination of accessibility and credibility that demands a national forum.
Audra & the Antidote
This band was the only out-of-town act on the bill Friday. Hate to say it, but Audra & the Antidote at first glance looked and sounded like a house band with a gimmick. Gymnastics aside, this Nashville act’s music seemed a bit too safe, a bit too clich•. As their set progressed, the impression improved, but was still essentially the same. The coy flirtation might work with a crowd of corporate machines who don’t get out much, but for a town where BDSM is an accepted social niche, Audra and Company will have to work a lot harder to create some sexual tension. Also, the Antidote could stand to dress a bit more nicely — it would fit their style. Credit where credit is due however, this is one of the bands that actually seems to have gained some notoriety from their Atlantis performance.
Kenny Howes & the Yeah!
Kenny Howes has become virtually synonymous with the Atlanta pop scene. His work with the Yeah!, the Lizardmen, and Orange Hat take him all over the pop spectrum and back again, and he’s proven masterful in all his incarnations. In particular, Kenny and the Yeah! are pop writ large, with a strong nod to the likes of the Who permeating the great harmonies, musicianship and energy. Seeing Kenny before the show, it was apparent that they would be in top form for Atlantis, and damned if they didn’t stop people in their tracks. A bit more playful and lighthearted than other shows of late, this was a real pleasure to watch.
Star Room Boys
Forget that people describe the Star Room Boys as throwback country. This band is so compelling that I cannot imagine anyone leaving one of their shows unaffected. Yeah, they’re probably country, alright, right down to the singer’s drawl. But holy cow, this is NOT the schlock crap being formulated in Nashville. It’s as if these guys have succeeded where too few folk or country artists have ever succeeded, and that is to create an honest, uncomplicated connection with everyone in the room. And when they find your heartstrings, they prove they can play those too. Maybe the name of their debut, Why Do Lonely Men and Women Want to Break Each Other’s Hearts?, will give you some idea of where they are coming from.
Ex-Husbands and Two Dollar Pistols
On the other end of the spectrum from the Star Room Boys are the last two featured acts from Saturday, the Ex-Husbands and Two Dollar Pistols. Undeniably tight bands that really know their craft, but unlike the Star Room Boys, these bands trade on cry-in-your-beer lyrics and smirk-when-you-catch-the-cliché country best suited to a honky tonk. Good show, good music, but when each band finished, all you are left with was the ringing in your ears and the urge for another PBR. Maybe if they weren’t following the Star Room Boys…