Atlantis Music Conference
by James Mann
Familiar faces and new treats this year at the 2nd Atlantis Conference, and surprisingly enough, I didn't hear one band that didn't have at least some reason for existing -- which, considering how much of a grump I am, was surprising. Here's a brief blow by blow:
Mayflies USA, critics' darlings after the release of Summertown , turned in a ragged but right set to about 20 people at the Tabernacle, louder than you would guess, but still maintaining pop hooks and great harmonies.
Modern Hero followed, formed from the ashes of Shock Lobo. Jeffery Butts is a guitar powerhouse, and has finally formed a band around him that complements his musical ideas. Guitarist Rob Guthrie adds atmospheric layers atop Butts' strong chording, and drummer Karman Gossett is tight, and seems to be having the time of her life behind the kit.
7 Foot Politic had the Star Bar jumping with raucous twang and trumpet. It's easy to see why these guys are a Atlanta favorite, with country-fueled raveups that extend the whole swing/rockabilly/twang thing past other, by-the-numbers practitioners that get booked by the number of tattoos they have.
Kenny Howes and the Yeah! settled into the Star Bar like returning kings -- at the Star Bar, they pretty much are -- and sent the hard drinking crowd into orbit with Howes' great pop tunes, a mixture of British Invasion cheekiness with pure American guitar slam.
Lou Ford, playing under the yellow flag of injury (one of the guitarists had a broken arm, and only sang), still spun tangled webs of literate country pop, with nods to the current alternative country scene, without being slaves to it. Undiscovered gems, these guys are.
The Rosenbergs, pop darlings from New York, unfortunately didn't sound as good as past Atlanta visits -- way too freakin' loud, for one thing (maybe a soundcheck would have helped?) -- but still, the strength of the material came through, and hell, even Greg Maddox gets beat some nights.
The Bay County Poets surprised me. Initially, the singer's resemblance to that goof from Sugar Ray scared me, but once they started playing, that fell by the wayside, since John McMullen can actually sing. Their tight, uptempo pop-funk had the crowd jumping, and girls squealing. Always a good sign...
The great find of the conference, for me, was the Usuals, from Gainesville, Florida. Pure, happyface ska without any of that annoying punkfunkjunk slapped on, this horn-driven band had me tapping my foot to their Madness/Specials-influenced sound. Singer Julie Esbjorn has a great stage presence, all smiles and hip sways. It's a shame they played so early, before the crowd at the Star Bar got really deep into their bar tabs -- this is one fun band.
So, another Atlantis Conference has come and gone, and it was fun. More spread out than last year, it was a easy way to see a lot of good music quickly. While some aspects showed growing pains -- the Cellar of the Tabernacle didn't seem ready to host live music yet, (and can it with charging for refills of soda, ya money grubbing bastards...) but all in all, I'm looking forward to next year. Since last year's inaugural event, several bands -- Marvelous 3 and Billionaire, among others -- have gotten record deals, so maybe somebody from this year's crop will snag the gold ring. Who knows?