29 April, 2008

Five Eight, The Young Antiques, Big Fish Ensemble @ Lenny's

Lenny's was jumping once again Saturday night as three more Atlanta bands took the stage for a good, old fashioned rock show. But this was not your average all local line-up; Big Fish Ensemble, The Young Antiques, and Five Eight all boast many years of performing around Atlanta and the Southeastern US. Five Eight and BFE have been active since the early 90's, and The 'Tiques have been at it for most of this decade. Five Eight and The Young Antiques have also enjoyed relative success despite their unwillingness to conform to the "sound" of both the 80's Athens scene and the present Atlanta scene.

Big Fish Ensemble were the first act to perform. BFE are an interesting band. They sport the traditional guitar, bass, and drums, but they also have a dedicated violinist band member. The band has also incorporated trumpet, baritone, and trombone into the mix as well. The resulting sound is a mixture of generic rock, jazz, funk, and country. Lyrically, the band aims to please with off-kilter comedy, as song titles "Dog-Faced Boy" and "I Know I Drank Too Much Last Night" suggest. While the diversity of instruments and musical ability of all four members is admirable, the final product falls short of its lofty goals. The songs tend to drag on as the chorus is repeated again and again, the music itself ceases to be enticing once all of the instruments have been introduced, and the comedic value is mildly amusing at best. Even the crowd drawn by BFE became a disappointment. The number of people attending was an average Lenny's turnout (40-50), but the age range trended to the elder levels of live rock patron. I also found it interesting that 90% of these fans left immediately following BFE's performance. To judge for yourself, visit http://www.bigfishensemble.com/ for a taste of the band's comedic style and a few posted songs (MP3 links are found in the body of posts and play through Internet Explorer using QuickTime).

Big Fish Ensemble performance rating (out of 5): 1.0

Next up were The Young Antiques. YA is an exclusively post-punk style band, evoking memories of Husker Du, The Replacements, Gin Blossoms, and Soul Asylum. The band's attire also sets the tone, as it borrows heavily from style popular in the Minneapolis scene of the early 90's. The three piece outfit is comprised of Blake Rainey (guitar, vocals), Blake Parris (bass, backing vocals), and Kevin Charney (drums). The music is loud, satisfying, and thunderously propelled forward by the drums. Blake Rainey's voice and delivery often reminds the listener of early Elvis Costello, and the lyrical content aspires to the same high levels Mr. Costello has consistently achieved throughout his career. Blake Parris is a sufficient bassist and serves as a superb companion voice on stage. By this point in the evening the previously emptied stage room was once again filled, this time by a more traditional twentysomethings set. The resulting swell in atmosphere made The 'Tiques performance even more electric and memorable. To hear more, hopefully buy some of their music, and check out their show schedule, visit http://www.myspace.com/youngantiquesrock.

The Young Antiques performance rating (out of 5): 3.0

Last, but by no means least, were Five Eight (pictured above). At this point in their long and storied career, Mike Mantione (guitar, vocals), Dan Horowitz (bass, backing vocals), and Mike Rizzi (drums) have become legends in their hometown of Athens, GA, and wildly popular in Atlanta (thanks in part to 99X's [R.I.P.] regular rotation play of their 2004 single "Square Peg" and several stints at the now-defunct Music Midtown Festival). But despite glowing reviews of their 2004 self-titled release and a spot on R.E.M.'s tour that year, Five Eight has not reached nearly the level of success they deserve nationally. Their songs are witty, sad, happy, funny, and brutally honest. They craft beautiful melodies to accompany Mike Mantione's strained and tinged-with-visceral-pain vocals, but are never afraid to let it all hang out and break out into a fast and furious guitar solo. And these guys are absolutely hilarious on stage. You can really tell that the three of them are very comfortable with one another, even after the trials and tribulations they have faced over the years. The band played mostly older material, with only two songs included from their 2004 release ("Criminal" and "The Liquor Song"). And even though the vast majority of the crowd were too young to be well-acquainted with the songs, Five Eight's massive stage presence drove home the point that we were all privileged to witness this performance. If you are not familiar with Five Eight, shame on you. But you can get on your way to catching up by visiting http://www.fiveeight.com/fiveeight/ and http://www.myspace.com/fiveeight.

Five Eight performance rating (out of 5): 4.5

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