Atlas Sound at the Cedar Cultural Center, 3/02/12

Categories: Last Night
Atlas-Sound-Mackenzie_Orth.jpg
Photo by Mackenzie Orth
Atlas Sound
With Carnivores and Frankie Broyles
Cedar Cultural Center, Minneapolis
Friday, March 2, 2012


View a slideshow from the concert here.

Read more: Bradford Cox to "My Sharona" haters: "Suck my d*ck"

Love it or hate it, the modern indie blogosphere has the tendency to fixate on the personas of buzzed musicians. On one end of the spectrum sits Best Coast's Bethany Cosentino, ripping hits with her surf-punk boyfriend as Snacks the cat inadvertently poses for Twitpics. And on the other -- somewhere in a lair of loop pedals and seclusion -- lurks Deerhunter front man Bradford Cox.


Following a stream of, um, weirdly dismal press circling the Atlas Sound (his solo project) release Parallax, Cox has been presented as a bizarre, indie Prince of Darkness. Much of this can attributed to the irreverence of certain "content farms" but it's surely also linked to his unabashed candor and self-professed "stream-of-conscious" approach to all facets of his life. It can be hard to sift through all of the exploitative hype but -- as evidenced by Atlas Sound's Friday performance at the Cedar -- both his music and his demeanor speak authoritatively for themselves.

Of all the Deerhunter-worshipping acts that could have opened for him, fellow Georgian (and indie tween heartthrob) Frankie Broyles snagged the spot. Equipped with just a guitar, a pained, Chris Martin-esque voice and some pedals, he delivered a short but commendable set. Though his music was a familiar brand of poignant, acoustic catharsis, his delivery was strong and his use of technology added necessary dimension. Other openers Carnivores rocked a little harder, their punk roots wholly evident as they powered through a lively set, keyboardist Caitlin Lang commanding the stage with wild-eyed enthusiasm.

And then there was Atlas Sound, but more fittingly, Bradford Cox. To be fair, things felt a little awkward the moment he initially stepped onstage, his face utterly concealed by a menacing, black, ski mask. But, as he purposefully prepared an intricate guitar-looping framework and launched into "Parallax," all was temporarily forgotten.
Atlas_Sound_Hood.jpg
Photo by Mackenzie Orth

The first part of his performance was completely spellbinding. He's a musician of astounding talent and it's much more salient when he's in the raw. His rich, resounding vocals carry more weight when they're the central focus of the music. An elongated rendition of "Te Amo" proved to be the most striking part of the evening, leaving the Cedar audience silenced and in awe of the multi-dimensional orchestra of guitars that one man was creating with his loop pedals. This wonder carried through eight songs, mostly drawing from the recently released Parallax, but also including material from 2008's Logos (in a moment of brief excitement he even teased us with the intro to Deerhunter's "Desire Lines" before transitioning into "Walkabout").

He also offered a particularly emotional cover of Beat Happening's "Youth." It was the performance that everyone knew he was capable of and, had it ended with his last original song, "Mona Lisa," the audience would have left completely fulfilled and dismissive of any aforementioned blog gossip.

But then, per request of an obnoxious audience member to hear "My Sharona," things got strange. The transition was stark and instant, as if Cox suddenly felt mocked or distrusting of the audience he had gradually opened dialogue with throughout the course of the night. He obliged to play the song, which at first was generally entertaining. He employed his looping skills again, picking up different instruments along the way and inviting the openers to join him onstage. But it morphed into something bizarre, a unending cover that rivaled the length of a Phish concert and let's get real: "My Sharona" isn't exactly a "jam track."

It was interesting to observe the reactions of the openers. Initially the vibes were positive. The musicians, all fairly young, were clearly honored to be sharing a moment of spontaneity with someone they idolized. 35 minutes later that enthusiasm began to fade. They were visibly uncomfortable and beginning to question the sanity of their esteemed proctor, unwillingly locked in some twisted, Doomsday clock performance of a '70s hit. Yet, "My Sharona" endured still, as did Cox's increasingly awkward interactions with the audience. He asked people to take their clothes off. He shouted seemingly intoxicated defenses about his art. He simulated fallatio. He, to the horror of the Cedar employees, told everyone to pick up their chairs and shake them above their heads. While this behavior in another context could have been viewed as "rock'n'roll" it was unsettling and some people began filtering out of the venue. Eventually, after inviting the audience onstage (which visibly gave the Cedar staff an anxiety attack) he seemed to get the picture that the show was over and bid his adieu, dedicating the show to "the death of folk music and the birth of punk."

Update: Here's a pretty awesome segment.


It's unclear to decipher what sparked the change in what began as a truly unforgettable performance (really, it was incredible). Atlas Sound at the Cedar was unforgettable, definitely, but it's disappointing that it was for strange reasons and additionally, that, contrived or not, it was facilitated by the artist himself.

Critic's notebook:

Personal bias: I'm a steady Deerhunter and Atlas Sound fan. Also, I've always really, really hated the song "My Sharona."

The crowd: twenty-somethings mixed with an alarming amount of tweens. The world is changing. It's weird.

Overheard in the crowd: "I wish he would just play his own songs. They're so great! This is going to give me night terrors!"

Setlist:

Parallax
Amplifiers
Te Amo
Walkabout
Youth (Beat Happening cover)
Sheila
Modern Aquatic Nightsongs
Mona Lisa
My Sharona


City Pages on Facebook | Gimme Noise on Facebook | Twitter | e-mail us


Sponsor Content

My Voice Nation Help
17 comments
Sharon A.
Sharon A.

While In theory it sounds like launching into an improvised hour long performance of "My Sharona" would be AWESOME and PUNK ROCK... it wasn't. Not because it was offensive. Not because it wasn't memorable. But because for 1. it was simply bad. The dude played the same chord for an hour and it was boring. boring= not punk rock. and 2. bradford cox (genius that he is) is in a terribly dark place. Anyone who reads anything can be well aware of that. it's not funny in any sense. what was unsettling about the "My sharona" stunt is that his desperation was super evident. It was sad. It's possible that he WAS aiming to be genuinely entertaining but that fact that there WAS such a disconnect with the audience says something. The awkwardness was not imagined. It's just too bad that institutions like P4k think it's worthy of national news. They want to see him snap and it's sick.

Zinovy
Zinovy

Another tastemaker fail. :)

Blurg
Blurg

To agree with Lionel, you have to essentially accept the premise that anything Bradford Cox does is interesting because ... well, I guess because he's Bradford Cox? No thanks. I don't see an argument in either of Lionel's posts as to WHY the show was supposedly so vital and exhilarating. It was a talented musician abusing his audience for an hour over the same riff. There was no particular display of musical chops or proficiency, and if there was a larger subversive point being made, it honestly escapes me. Lionel, I'm genuinely asking for a defense on terms more substantive than just your superficial praise. What point was Cox trying to make, and how did he make it? To simply say people who didn't "get it" are missing the point is not ... truly good music writing.

AConcernedMother
AConcernedMother

If the author were writing in the late '70s, she would have detested Andy Kaufman for being too subversive.  I feel like Ms. Hedburg might be better served writing about what's chique in today's animal embroidered fashion accessories marketplace.  Perhaps whether or not Montessori or Waldorf is the "In" educational format this year?

lionel
lionel

the notion that this article was written by "my mother" is on point but far too generous. there will not be a better concert in minneapolis this year, and it's totally within the realm of possibility to suggest that minneapolis will not see a better show in the foreseeable future.

the author's tired read of friday night's concert as disappointing is pathetic. it's more troubling still that the author blames bradford cox for her inability to grasp the vitality of the evening. the majority of the audience stuck with cox as he led them down an unpredictable and exhilarating descent. the ultimate disappointment is that city pages has given real estate to a review that could not be further off base.

ms. hedberg would have been better served had she made for the doors along with everyone else who failed to grasp the vitality of cox's performance. the cedar should wear friday night like a badge of honor, and anyone who left the concert unfulfilled needs to find a new hobby. better yet, stop attending concerts altogether. the limited amount of tickets available to the excellent small venues throughout minneapolis can be put to better use.

AConcernedMother
AConcernedMother

This article sounds like it was written by my mother.  Appreciate the performance for what it is.  You have to admit playing My Sharona for an hour and then having the drunken idiot that shouted it strip down to his underwear and saying "this is what happens when you make requests" is a pretty great punchline.  If Zach Galifianakis had done this you would be rolling with laughter.

iblamesummers
iblamesummers

should have revelled in the Spectacle kiddies...

Blurg
Blurg

I'm a Bradford Cox fan, esp. Deerhunter but also Atlas Sound. The beginning of the set was great. But the "finale" was just awful and, worst of all, boring. To use a tired cliche, it was like staring at a car wreck. But even that is only interesting for, what, a minute or two? Imagine staring at a car wreck for an hour. We left about 35 minutes in and my only regret is we didn't go sooner.

jorudan
jorudan

@Sharon A. To connect with any audience I've experienced in the last 10 years (minus Dan Deacon concerts) would require such true awkwardness and sociopathy...  that I'm glad you perceived this as a "disconnect."   Let's face it, concert crowds are terrible, and terribly deflating of what I think of other 20-somethings.

I don't think anyone criticized Andy Kaufman for "failing to connect with the audience" when he read the Great Gatsby to them, and they left.   I think if Cox can connect successfully with 15 people with the effort he gave on stage, it's worth repelling 500.  It's not about your pleasure, and it takes two to be awkward.

lionel
lionel

I am indeed a Bradford Cox fan, and that's clear in my comments above, but my appreciation doesn't grant him or any other performer a free pass. I interpreted the performance as exhilarating for the simple fact that it took place. I personally don't feel the need to find "a point" behind what took place. If I were to put myself in Cox's shoes, I'd guess that the point was to react in-kind to the utter absurdity of some dip shit requesting My Sharona at the end of an Atlas Sound concert. But god bless this dip shit for doing that! Requesting My Sharona made no sense, and what followed largely made no sense, but it didn't have to. It was live punk at its best. I'm afraid this defense will do little to bring our interpretations of what transpired closer. For me, the "My Sharona incident" - we need to come up with a name for what took place that night - was significant because it defied expectation and because it was a relentless antidote to the glut of scripted, mediocre and programmed entertainment we are exposed to.

BlurgsSon
BlurgsSon

If you read it as a musician's version of standup comedy, it's fairly genius.

Reed Fischer
Reed Fischer

I like your writing style, Lionel. Let me know if you want some real estate in our pages.

Optimist
Optimist

YES!!! Give Lionel some real estate. Lionel is a rare, humble, exhilarating, sympathetic, generous, absurd, riveting, singular, diligent, excellent and unpredictable writer. Unlike those tired and pathetic mothers out there, Lionel can give us an alternative to the foreseeable adjectives! Get him while he's cheap. Talent like this won't last long.

Lionel
Lionel

A humble plea to see that performance in a more sympathetic light. Moments like last Friday night are rare and should be celebrated, not discounted. I can't recall a more generous performance than the one Cox authored that night. It was strange, it teetered on the absurd, but it was riveting and should have been reported about as nothing less than a singular moment. If the alternative is predictability and a diligent run through of the hits, count me out. Let's talk real estate...

Now Trending

Minnesota Concert Tickets

From the Vault

 

Loading...