Live Review: Deerhunter, Pylon, Jay Reatard and Times New Viking @ Variety Playhouse; The Spooks, Cola Freaks and Mourdella @ Star Bar, 10/31/08

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Live Review: Deerhunter, Pylon, Jay Reatard and Times New Viking @ Variety Playhouse; The Spooks, Cola Freaks and Mourdella @ Star Bar, 10/31/08

[Above: Jared Swilley of the Black Lips plays in Halloween-appropriate band The Spooks.]

With such a full docket, the proceedings got underway early as Columbus, Ohio’s Times New Viking commenced rocking the Variety in low fidelity at the stroke of eight. Hopefully the sparse crowd managed to stop fondling their limited Deerhunter cassettes long enough to appreciate the taut, power-packed set.

“Taut” is normally an understatement for the next performer’s notorious, breakneck live show. But on Friday night, Jay Reatard played for half an hour-- a relative eternity for the eBay god. In those thirty minutes, he drew on his whole career and received mixed results. The Matador songs were received well, but the Blood Visions-era numbers fell on largely deaf ears. The Goner classic, “Hammer I Miss You,” meanwhile, elicited only confusion from those in attendance. Despite an infectious set, the crowd reacted to Reatard apathetically, saving their excitement for Pylon, the Athens, Ga. legends, who faithfully recreated their songs despite the near 30-year lapse since the release of their seminal record, Gyrate.

Though Deerhunter doesn’t have age as an excuse, you wouldn’t have known they were the vigorous young people in the room by watching them Friday. While the band was tighter than ever, they seemed exhausted. The lone exception was the band’s newest member, guitarist Whitney Petty, who had a blast wheeling noisily through the better part of Microcastle and "Lake Somerset" from Cryptograms. The smattering of new songs that the band played, however, may have been the highlight as they featured a My Bloody Valentine-like wall of sound. Inspired by Deerhunter's approach, perhaps, the light show also aped that of My Bloody Valentine, though much less successfully. That is, unless “cheesy epilepsy” was what they were going for.

As Deerhunter was finishing up, the chaos had already begun over at the Star Bar. Two excellent local bands, Predator and Coffin Bound, had unfortunately already wrapped up by the time I made my way over, but Mourdella was just taking the stage. Fronted by the first lady of Atlanta rock, Jessica Juggz, Mourdella reeled off some solid punk with an edge of metal. Mourdella interspersed new songs into a batch of songs from their debut LP, This Kill is Mine. Notably, Juggz sang about her “Mustache Nightmare” in coy tribute to the ‘staches of many of Atlanta’s finest musicians. (See: Gentleman Jesse & His Men.)

Playing their second of three Atlanta shows in a month span, Denmark's the Cola Freaks followed with an emphatic brand of hardcore that injected a shot of adrenaline into an already frenzied crowd. The spastic lead singer nearly incited a riot, shoving microphones into the faces of onlookers and dedicating every song to Travis Flagel of Rob’s House Records. While the intense set scared some tamer onlookers away, those that stuck around got to share in the multi-media experience that is The Spooks.

Draped, as always, in bed sheets, The Spooks took the stage to the theme of the Braves’ Tomahawk Chop as 3D animation of ghosts played behind them and smoke poured into the venue. Comprised of Jared Swilley and Cole Alexander of the Black Lips (who apparently have a thing for weird side projects) along with a host of Atlanta musicians, the synth-heavy Spooks may not have quite lived up to their MySpace address (“Atlanta’s Crunkest”) but their show was certainly the wildest party to ever feature a theremin. The very nature of The Spooks as a party band, however, led me to wonder about their effectiveness on the record they were releasing Friday night.

The Spooks long-awaited LP, Death from Beyond the Grave, bears the numbering “DSH 013.” Considering that Die Slaughterhaus Records is currently up to their 45th release, you can begin to understand how delayed this record has been. It is only fitting, then, that the record was not actually ready for the show, though a CD-R was offered in its stead. The finished product will not knock anyone’s socks off, but it features solid garage punk rave-ups backed by danceable synths. Though it lacks substantial replay value, Death is sure to show up on turntables for many Halloweens to come in Atlanta.

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