at the Horseshoe
February 28th, 2008
By Allana Mayer
Bradford Cox wants to be a punk.
Not that Atlas Sound’s emaciated, sarcastic, pink-sweater-clad frontman would rather don a studded leather jacket and throw beer bottles at us. But he announced it himself during a diatribe on how he wished he smelled more. The lanky vocalist had been wearing the same clothes for three days when they performed at the Horseshoe for their album release tour, and was feeling a bit less than manly because he barely emitted an odour. Oh yeah, and then he told us all to go home and blog about it. So who am I to refuse?
The show was full of non-sequiturs, overloading on the banter and stage interactions between performances of their satisfying and immersive shoegaze. Enjoying their textbook Guided by Voices/My Bloody Valentine guitar swirls took little brainpower. But the music took a backseat to anecdotes about how delicious our Canadian bottled water is, and discussions about Pitchfork and 9/11. The band of misfits that fills out the Atlas Sound includes two lovely-looking, baggage-heavy brunettes with bangs, a bespectacled boy wobbling on crutches across the stage to perch on a milk crate and fiddle with synths, and a scruffy-looking short dude who wailed on his guitar. Together their usefulness as Cox’s sounding boards ranged from polite smiles to bullshit-calling on some of his more outlandish statements.
It felt prototypically indie, with a casual atmosphere and many fuck-ups shrugged off as experimentation. Actually, it was an exaggeration, almost a caricature, of those types of shows, as if Cox’s nervous rambling and their half-finished performances were simply part of a persona. So I bought in. And so did the rest of the crowd: mohawked kids rubbed their heads against each other in ecstasy, a few overenthusiastic bouncers moshed with themselves, and the rest of us just closed our eyes and nodded along. Turning a half-full Horseshoe back room into a cozy cross between theatre and jam was exactly what I needed.
Returning for their encore meant — after a guessing game of bizarre covers — taking requests from the audience and trying to work through them onstage. This involved teaching the drummer to play guitar, digressing into a five-minute talk about the Dirty Projectors whilst trying to mimic Dave Longstreth’s high-pitched wail in “Not Having Found,” and having a mini-guitar-battle that sounded entirely unlike the rest of their set, but still impressed. Tons of unconventional stage presence, great playing, and a ridiculous knowledge of ’90s music made for a show much more entertaining than anyone expected.