LIVE REVIEW: Maps & Atlases @ Mercury Lounge, 8/12/10
Surrounded by the dizzying city lights, Maps & Atlases found their way on a cloudy Thursday night to Manhattan’s Mercury Lounge. Accompanied by three impressive opening bands, the night’s musical travels truly proved that all who wander are not lost.
First, the So-Cal band We Barbarians played a solid set indie-rock set including a cover of a David Byrne-Brian Eno tune.
With thick brown bangs and wide doe eyes, Laura Stevenson gives Ms. Deschanel a run for her indie-queen heartthrob money. Accompanied by her songbird voice, she could easily fall complacent into more timid musical labels. Yet, instead she utilized her talents to form Laura Stevenson and the Cans, a 5-piece band that uses the haunting soprano of Stevenson’s voice against heavy and unapologetic rock infusions. Stevenson and the Cans wasted no time in showing their range. Stevenson sang a refrain from the classic “Shenandoah” mixed with her own original work, ending the song with a heavy drum beat and cataclysmic finale meant for an arena stage. This sort of musical equation was seen again on one of their best songs, “Cool New Song,” although the night showed Stevenson’s talent is far from formulaic.
Cults, the third band to take the stage, were met by a wave of whispers, audience members curious of the band who had received the title of Pitchfork’s â€˜best new music’ having only been together mere months without any semblance of an album. “It’ll be out December 31st 2012,” said guitarist/vocalist Brian Oblivion. “Too bad we’ll all be dead,” he smirked. Such quips seem to embody the dark humor that spars against the angelic-looking band members. The song “Go Outside” begins with an eerie recording of cult leader Jim Jones saying, “To me death is not a fearful thing. It’s living that’s treacherous.” Oblivion’s girlfriend and lead vocalist Madeline Follin continued the night of strong female performances, wistfully swaying on stage with a voice the managed to invoke eras past while commanding the present to take notice. The music is infectiously catchy with Motown soul and a dash of playful 60s pop. Accompanied by lyrics penned with a bit of veiled deviousness, Cults provided musical Kool-Aid that the audience readily drank.
When the time finally came for Maps & Atlases, the room brimming with anxious anticipation, the always-humble Dave Davison, reminiscent of a young Cat Stevens under the influences of Don Caballero, came out swinging. With powerful rhythms backed by dexterity and stealth, Davison’s nimble fingers prancing at breakneck speed across the neck of his guitar. With impeccable technique, Maps & Atlases, which also includes bandmates Shiraz Dada (bass), Chris Hainey (drums), and Erin Elders (guitar), have managed to take the sound of folk and transcend it, at times into the playfully danceable and at others into the longingly woeful. But perhaps most remarkable about Maps & Atlases is their commitment to not just leading audience members on a voyage, but taking to the pack and walking alongside them. Such was the case when Davison announced that having finished their set, per the okay of the audience, they were going to come down to the middle of the floor to play. Consumed in complete darkness, revelers looked upon their shadowed silhouettes highlighted only by the occasional flash of a camera blub. Swaying in the darkness, engulfed by Davison’s remarkable voice, a universal sentiment befell the audience: wherever Maps & Atlases would journey they would willingly follow.