In my Mid-Year Report, I mentioned that Maps & Atlases had one of the most impressive full-length debuts to come out in 2010. I also mentioned that the lists featured were going to dramatically change. With the performances I witnessed by Russian Circles, Cave In, and Boris, I knew that my list of best shows had already changed. However, an unexpected entry has emerged into the top 5 shows I’ve seen this year. This one is brought about by the compelling performance I witnessed by Maps & Atlases at The Middle East upstairs on August 11, 2010.
Extraordinary hype magnets Cults opened the show. I am still astonished at how much hype the band has generated for essentially only having four songs available to the public. I was skeptical that this would translate into any kind of significant live show but they had managed to win me over. The band did so while fighting off some serious feedback issues and some disrespectful chatter from people in the front row.
The band, who started as a two-piece between Madeline Follin and Brian Oblivion, performed as a sextet which meant that there were plenty of guitars and layers to keep the music interesting. When getting the levels on the vocals, the band stated that they wanted reverb even requesting what they referred to as “too much reverb”. Madeline, dressed in white and discreetly sipping a tallboy of Budweiser, looked angelic while gently resonating over the rest of the group. Her brother, Richie Follin of The Willowz, added a little kick to the mix playing guitar next to her. The band played an extremely short set; consisting of maybe five songs yet somehow managed to fit in many highlights.
My favorite song the group played was what they referred to as their “slow jam”. Having listened to a lot of soul music and artists such as Otis Redding lately, I found the R&B influence to be refreshing and exactly what I was in the mood for. The cheery diss track “Oh My God” was another bright spot with it’s peppy and catchy chorus. People in the crowd were so anxious to hear “Go Outside”, easily one of the best songs of 2010, that they started to sing it before the band even started. In the end, I was left wanting more and wondering what a full-length from the group was going to sound like. Listen to their debut 7" and view the appropriately child-like video for “Oh My God” from the Adult Swim singles series below. Also check out a cool and introspective video about the band here.
Maps & Atlases had transitioned so effortlessly from an insanely technical math rock band to indie pop up-and-comers that people barely had time to take notice. I was wondering how much of their older material they were going to play and if they could even still pull it off. I was pleasantly surprised to say the least. The band played a bunch of their more technical material from their EPs, Tree, Swallows, Houses and You and Me and the Mountain. These were mesmerizing to say the least. It was hard to take your eyes away from their intricate jamming which was miraculously tight. I’m not even sure I heard one flubbed note. How the drummer can keep up with the tempo changes is beyond me. Both EPs are embedded for your listening pleasure below.
Singer Dave Davison sounded tremendous and hit every note perfectly. The bassist kept working the crowd and getting them to clap at the right moments. He also played a huge marching bass drum during “The Charm” which was one of the coolest sounding songs I’ve heard performed live this year. Watching them perform songs from Perch Patchwork, you can see how intricate they really are even though they seem so delicate on the surface.
Unfortunately, my attention was drawn away from the stage on and off while people kept shifting back and forth through the small venue during the sold out show. I somehow always end up standing in the spot with the highest amount of traffic. It’s hard to pay attention when a big, burly mountain man is trying to slip behind me with no room. On top of this, people kept periodically stopping in front of me when walking by and then just gazed around and looked confused. It’s almost as if some people don’t even realize they are at a show. But I digress...
The band closed out the main set with “Solid Ground”, their memorable new single which can be found at the end of this paragraph. They were incredibly polite and gracious, thanking the audience and the venue and stating, “You’re Incredible”. “We’re incredible?!”, I though, “I didn’t just finger-tap the shit out of a guitar!” They then announced that they would be playing their encore outside the venue on the sidewalk.
They moved outside with some acoustic gear as promised and played a short set of songs with tunes like “You and Me and the Mountain” which people gently sang along to. It was a very cool moment and something I have never seen done before. It was nice that the police allowed it to happen and didn’t break it up. Maps & Atlases are a creative and unique band with an impressive set of tunes under their belt. With such a flawless live show, they present themselves as the full package and a band that you must catch if they come through your town.