Atlas Genius at House of Blues, 10/22/2013

Atlas Genius House of Blues October 22, 2013

"Dallas? Fuck Dallas!"

-- Keith Jeffries, Atlas Genius

Sometimes, I really, really like my job. In those moments, the long nights and early mornings, bags under my eyes from lack of sleep, and the stress of deadlines don't matter. And every time I've seen Atlas Genius play -- three times this year now -- I've felt that way. So if you missed last night, you definitely missed something special.

To be fair, there's always something a little bit special about catching a show where the band is stoked to be onstage, and aren't jaded or worn out from the hazards of touring. It's refreshing to watch, but there's more to Atlas Genius, led primarily by Australian brothers Keith and Michael Jeffery, than just that excited new-band vibe.

From the moment the guys took the stage, it was fairly obvious that their previous House of Blues show (opening for Imagine Dragons) hadn't been a fluke. Their natural ability and uncanny stage presence -- though it's a quiet, pulled-back presence -- makes it difficult to lose interest.

In opener "On a Day," Keith immediately grinned at the crowd of (mainly) chicks and made his way to the edge of the stage, close enough to pull the crowd closer to crushing-mass status, but not quite close enough to interfere with those impeccable vocals.

And impeccable they are. Not often does a band have the ability to translate a studio album flawlessly into a live venue, but somehow Atlas manages to pull that off. The synthy, dreamy quality of their indie-pop sound is recreated nicely, and even numbers like "Backseat" that sound highly produced on the album (especially in their remixed format) still work during the madness of a live show.

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Perhaps Atlas plays well outside a studio setting is because they're a kind of do-it-yourself band by nature. Their album, recorded in the home studio they built and released online to major viral fanfare, was hardly recorded under the bourgeois pretenses as of some of its indie-pop siblings, and yet it had record labels clamoring to sign them. Pretty impressive for the first go-round, eh?

But as I watched the band do their thing, it was pretty evident that this is no fluke. Atlas has been here three times this year because they're a strong, interesting band. They pull back when they need to, and push forward to expand past indie-pop when necessary. They're masters of knowing the limitations of their sound, while still testing the waters. That usually comes with a band much more seasoned than this one.

One gripe though: Houston, we need to learn to shut up. The band exited the stage at one point, leaving Keith to his own acoustic version of "Don't Make a Scene," on its own a pretty endearing little number. But the chattering was so obnoxious that even I was embarrassed for us, and I'm hardly the silent one at a concert. It's getting to be an epidemic, and I'm hardly the first writer to point this out. Be nice to your artists, or don't buy tickets to a concert. Go to a football game, where you can yell funny quips all you want. Please.

There were, of course, standout moments. They gave the opening to their big single "Trojans" a heavier hand, both in percussion and sheer volume, which toughened up the bittersweet song just enough that the guy behind me didn't mind bellowing the lyrics along with the rest of the crowd. And trust, he didn't seem the type to normally do so.

Personal Bias: I really don't like most indie-pop, but I still like this stuff. Do with that what you will.

The Crowd: Chicks, man. And a couple of unnecessarily rude boyfriends who were obviously dragged to the show. Must we yell stuff at the artists, bros?

Overheard In the Crowd: "Hey, these guys are pleasant-sounding. Like Hanson. Remember Hanson?" (A statement about the folksy openers. I only know "Mmmbop," so I'm not an accurate barometer of that.)

Random Notebook Dump: It still irks me that I cannot pull off skinny jeans like these musicians. Why must I be plagued with my girlish figure?


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