Live Reviews – Maps & Atlases and Laura Stevenson and the Cans, Maxwell’s, Hoboken, 9/9/12
Not every indie-folk band has a technical side to them, and just this past Sunday, 9/9/12, Nicholas and I went up to Hoboken, NJ to catch one live at the intimate Maxwell’s. Although we had bought the tickets solely for the Chicago-bred Maps & Atlases, we were lucky enough to see the opener of Laura Stevenson and the Cans as well. Except for some annoyances vis-a-vis a minority of the audience, the show was an enthusiastic success, and even opened our virgin ears up to the sweet-sexiness of Stevenson’s idiosyncratic music.
As you may know, Nick happens to be a narrow-minded, arrogant, emphatic Fascist when it comes to music. He only enjoys the sounds of dropped-D guitars, perpetual double-bass hits, and guttural vomiting noises — basically anything that is annoying enough to drown out the everlasting sorrow he feels from being slightly less smart than most of the human population. Sure, every now and then he’ll stumble onto something great, but I’m surprised he isn’t wallowing in his own self-filth, listening to St. Anger, screaming incoherent nonsense.
Nonetheless, I was somehow able to convince him to be a decent human being for one night and come see a band that would blow his mind.
Like I mentioned, we were first treated to Laura Stevenson and the Cans, a group of pretty damn-talented musicians surrounding the indie-darling Stevenson. Her charming awkwardness on stage only endeared her to the audience, making fans of those that hadn’t heard of her (such as myself, Nick, and our two other kidnapped friends). Her sweet voice, songs about cats, and Brooklyn hometown may have appealed to the hipsters in the audience (of which there were many — as Nick quipped, he’s never seen that many glasses in one room), but her original arrangements showed a quirky atypicalness that would appeal to a much wider audience. The songs jumped from folky chords to punked-up distortion to slide guitar solos within spans of radio-friendly three minutes, and the Cans showed prowess in keeping up with these compositions and making them vibrant. Stevenson herself was friendly, warm, and grateful — despite random uncouth catcalls from awkward perverts — mentioning about a thousand times how Maps & Atlases are the greatest band ever.
Now, Maps & Atlases may not be the greatest band ever, nor are they a thousand times so, but Jesus, are they really good. On tour for their newest album Beware and Be Grateful, which isn’t quite as good as their previous release in my opinion, the band puts on one hell of a show. Fronted by the bearded man’s man Dave Davison, Maps & Atlases uses their blend of “tech-folk” — another term coined by Nick — to create interesting soundscapes, inherent with technical playing all-around and an innate sense of melody. Their songs are catchy as well as being inventive; just listen to fan-favorite “Pigeon” with its sing-along chorus contrasted with the tapping guitar and the Latin-flavored left-turn. In actual fact, the combination of these two factors made for an impressive live show. I had no idea that Davison sang while doing intricate fingerwork on his instrument, for I only ever thought he’d do simple rhythmic patterns while using his resonant vocals. Boy, was I wrong. Reality hit me even more when I realized that bassist Shiraz Dada and guitarist Erin Elders were playing astoundingly difficult lines on their instruments. And drummer Chris Hainley? He kept up with the entire band, even surpassing them a bit with his infectious beats that at times led the songs forward.
Of course, this leads me into the paragraph concerning the audience. Honestly, for the most part, the audience was great. We were all there to listen to music we love and to support artists that we love. Maxwell’s provides for an intimate location as the maximum capacity is 200, and I don’t actually think that many would ever fit inside the… cozy room. Being an Indie-folk show in such a small venue, the audience was basically warm and respectful. The majority tapped their feet, sang the lyrics to the songs, and just generally grooved, arms folded, to the beautiful music. It was only a minority who blemished the night with catcalls to Stevenson or talking during songs or randomly calling out nonsense words (such as one guy who thought yelling out “Science!” during the course of the entire show was a good idea). However, the such close proximity of the audience in the room made these all the more annoying, especially so when about five guys decided to try to start a bastardized mosh-pit towards the end of Maps & Atlases set. They were quickly put down by those surrounding them, but it leaves one to wonder why they thought it was a good idea at this show.
Ah, but I’m being a bit of a curmudgeon now. Really, the show was extremely enjoyable, the venue was great, the bands were fantastic. And hell, even Nicholas found music he liked that didn’t come from pretend Vikings from Norway.