[Above: Baby Shakes play the first night of the Atlanta Mess-Around.
Though the three Atlanta labels behind the two-day Atlanta Mess-Around
have released a diverse array of music, their punk and power pop offerings have evolved into the unquestionable centerpieces of the scene, as evidenced by the Mess-Around's line-ups: The second night would boast a strong pop sensibility, but the first was almost all about punk rock.
And when talking about punk rock in Atlanta, you start with B Jay Womack, alias Bobby Ubangi (Lids, Gaye Blades, Bobby & the Soft Spots). Like the Gaye Blades, Blade II is anchored by the duo of Ubangi and Jared Swilley (Black Lips), but with (Gentleman) Jesse Smith and Dave Rahn (Lids, Carbonas) rounding out the all-star quartet on drums. The group opened the Mess-Around with rough, rollicking set of mostly Gaye Blades songs with a few new tunes interspersed. Ubangi, who was recently diagnosed with cancer, played well but seemed to have a tough time on stage, though the outpouring of support he's received since his diagnosis continued throughout the night.
Following a set of local staples, it was time for the out-of-towners to take the stage. Denton, Texas’s Wax Museums
play deceptively catchy hardcore, while the hyperactive lead singer physically acts out each song. The HoZac
classic “Claw You Like a Cat” highlighted one of the weekend’s best sets.
Wax Museums' songs rarely last two minutes, which posed a disadvantageous contrast to the next band: Atlanta’s All Night Drug Prowling Wolves
plodded through interminable songs from its new album while lead singer Tom Cheshire pranced drunkenly around the stage. It was the weekend’s lone dud.
[All Night Drug Prowling Wolves]
Fortunately, New York’s Baby Shakes
were there to pick up the pieces.
With a new bassist in place,
The all-girl trio (joined by the omnipresent Dave Rahn
) was sharper than ever. Though its full-length debut from this year can get monotonous, the new songs were an absolute blast live as the normally pristine power pop group added just enough distortion.
Next, the Mess-Around wasted no time getting back into punk with Carbonas and The Spits
. Carbonas shows in Atlanta have always been inconsistent: Sometimes only half the members show and you get fifteen minutes of sloppy songs, but sometimes you get what happened Friday night. In their best Atlanta set in over a year, Carbonas perfected their incomprehensible blend of punk intensity and pop melody. From the opening notes of “Blackout,” the crowd went crazy. The moshing commenced right away, and during “Phone Booth” the stage-diving began. Reacting to the positive response, Carbonas played rare treats like “Frothing at the Mouth” and “Cold Waste,” which served to rile the crowd further. Friday provided proof that Carbonas are Atlanta punk at its finest.
The headlining Spits have been around forever and, boasting some of punk’s most intense fans, the band didn’t disappoint. Though they paled in comparison with Carbonas (who count themselves as fans), The Spits closed the first night of the Mess-Around in spectacular fashion as the crowd constantly goaded the black-robed band into playing one more.