Pictured above: Bill Taylor
Considering it’s the first freezing, rainy Sunday of Atlanta’s “winter,” the turn out at local rock club The Earl is pretty impressive.
There are people standing in small groups in various spots around the L-shaped room, waiting for the music to start. It might not be the ideal circumstance for the last stop on The Kingsbury Manx and The Standard’s six-week tour, but you wouldn’t know it from their performances. The music is tight, and the sets are peppered with frequent “thank you”s from band to band, and band to audience.
Both groups are all about the music, barely looking up from their instruments during their performances. Only the opening band, Abalone, possessed an outward energy, but this is likely because they haven’t been touring since mid-October. The Standard came across as a youngish, overly serious band, but they’re from Portland, Ore., so what can they do?. With the warble of Conor Oberst and a Sam Beam-style beard, vocalist Tim Putnam has an intensity that magnifies under red stage lighting. Even so, keyboardist Jay Clarke may be the soul of the band, providing the necessary dramatic undertones and ballerina piano with two keyboards and a synth.
On The Standard’s most recent record, Albatross, the sound has a kind of darker-than-Spacehog showiness, but onstage the vibe is more mellow and straightforward. For such a layered sound, it was well-balanced; I could hear every part and it was mostly clean.
When Chapel Hill, N.C.’s Kingsbury Manx went on at 11 p.m., I was a bit disappointed by their slightly catatonic stage presence. It seems they come from the “music-speaks-for-itself” school of songwriting—wearing T-shirts and jeans, and mostly standing fixed in place for the set’s duration. But the music was still engaging, managing to hold the crowd’s interest. After the band left the stage, lead vocalist and guitarist Bill Taylor said he felt “the show went really well. We always have a good time in Atlanta.” It doesn’t hurt morale that The Kingsbury Manx’s drive home is only six hours back to Chapel Hill, and that Taylor will get to play with his dog when he gets back.
The Standard, on the other hand, had to start the long trek back to Reno. But don’t feel too sorry for them; they’re opening for Nine Inch Nails at the Reno Hilton, home of the world’s largest stage. No, really, check it out: Two-acre stage.
Though I would’ve liked a little more show, my excitement scored a walk-on role when three members of The Standard joined in for a rousing, tambourine-and-sleigh-bell-heavy rendition of “1000 8” as the set-closer. At the very end, The Standard’s drummer threw his guitarist a drumstick so they could bash the hell out of the cymbals with new Manx bassist/drummer Clarque Blomquist. After that spectacle, the audience roared with the approval of a crowd five times the size.