Music Midtown 2011 Recap
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After a six year hiatus, Atlanta’s Music Midtown returned for a one-day event packed with ten bands. Doors opened at noon and hundreds of loyal fans ran to both stages set up in Midtown’s Piedmont Park. Fans were scattered about the park, searching for shade, beer and a place to settle for the next ten hours. Slowly but surely the event became more and more crowded until finally you weren’t able to turn around without offering an apology for a spilt drink or a stepped on toe.
New York City rockers The Postelles welcomed the audience to the resurrected festival with a very Strokes-like set. It’s not surprising considering Albert Hammond Jr. produced “123 Stop” one of the band’s most popular songs. The quartet danced along with the meandering crowd and tossed free albums out, which drew the crowd in closer before the band’s set really took off. Four songs in, The Postelles played “White Night.” The song is easily their most popular and drew shrieks from the fans in attendance. The song was featured on the FOX show Raising Hope last season, which considerably boosted the band’s fan base.
Fans jumped around, waving their hands to the rhythm of the song, shouting every lyric back at lead singer, Daniel Balk. The intensity remained high as the band went directly into a poppy dance number aptly titled, “Sleep On the Dance Floor.” After slowing their set list down with an up beat ballad, the Big Apple band covered the Ramones’ “Beat On The Brat” sending the now larger crowd into a frenzy. After thanking the crowd for giving them a chance, The Postelles ended with the catchy love song that doesn’t sound like a love song called “Can’t Stand Still.”
After cheering loudly back at the band, fans immediately ran over to the main stage to catch hip-hop infused psychedelic rockers The Constellations. Playing in front of their hometown crowd, the band fed off of the energy and opened with “Love is a Murder” a synth-backed song that switched rap-style singing with a melodic chorus. Singer Elijah Jones looked straight out of Woodstock and put on a set that would have held its own alongside Jefferson Airplane and Jimi Hendrix. The six members danced on stage in a frenzy, jumping on monitors, drinking, smashing bongos and clapping along with the band. Every song produced a danceable atmosphere with their fans moving along to every beat. When Jones said that an upcoming song was about a girl he knew, fans yelled back “Felicia”—the name of the upcoming song.
The Constellations clearly knew they were playing to loyal fans and stepped up their energy and rocked harder than most bands would for a scattered afternoon crowd. Even when they played their ballad “Side By Side” their frantic pace kept the crowd enthralled. Ending with an ode to everything Atlanta, The Constellations walked off stage to a crowd wanting more and more. They really set the stage for the rest of the event.
Give credit where it’s due: Walk the Moon sounded great and undoubtedly satisfied the modestly sized mid-afternoon crowd. Their synth-coated dance-punk songs and melodramatic vocals recall the likes of newer Yeasayer, Passion Pit and a million other indie buzz bands, so it comes as little surprise these guys are gaining buzz themselves. They fit that popular indie niche like a glove. They played an earnest, energetic set that didn’t do anything unexpected but did exude a seamless professionalism, sounding surprisingly tight and polished for such a young group. “Anna Sun” was the obvious highlight of the material, and consequently the show, their catchiest song by far with a hooky chorus built around sunny harmony and cool vocal interplay. All in all, though, Walk The Moon are going to need to do something more distinctly “them” if they’re going to evolve into a band with staying power, because right now their style, though promising, was just too generic to capture my attention.
The Joy Formidable
Photo: Max Blau
Welsh power trio The Joy Formidable are an interesting group. For one, they’re fronted by Ritzy Bryan, a beautiful, fair-skinned blonde with a mop-like haircut who provides the group’s expansive, airy sound, while bassist Rhydian Dafydd and Matt Thomas veer toward a heavier rock sound thick with bass chords and double-bass pedal action on the drums. Then there’s Bryan’s vocals, which, elastic as they are, are overshadowed on stage by her unique approach to her guitar playing, where she delicately picks light chords that reverberate and soar into the ether. While she does relies a lot on effects, it works for her persona and the Joy Formidable’s overall style — it’s due to her that their wall-of-sound shoegaze style floats with a strange beauty and tranquility. During the often lengthy instrumental passages, she and her bandmates positively thrashed about on stage, shredding at their instruments, utilizing feedback and, particularly as they closed the set with their popular single “Whirring,” building their layers of noise-laden shoegaze to a thunderous climax.
Band Of Skulls
Photo: Jaz Dixon
Another power trio demonstrating the, well, power that configuration can create, Band of Skulls was the perfect follow-up to The Joy Formidable not just because they share the co-ed, guitar-bass-drums format but because they were the only other daytime band representing the U.K. Though dressed in all black, the trio showed no sign of the heat getting to them, channeling it all into their steamy, sweaty blues rock. Band of Skulls only has one album to date, 2009’s Baby Darling Doll Face Honey, but a new album is on the horizon for 2012, and though more than half of the band’s set was devoted to songs off their debut, there was plenty of new material to savor: They opened with back-to-back new cuts “Sweet Sour” and “Got It Going On” and even threw in a brand-new song with an undisclosed title. Guitarist and chief lead vocalist Russell Marsden dominated the music thoroughly with his roaring, fiery blues riffs, while dark-haired bassist/singer Emma Richardson mostly kept to the background with her muscular bass lines but sang with equal vigor to Marsden on the songs where she was granted the spotlight.