Thursday, August 12, 2010

Laura Stevenson, The Cults, Maps & Atlases Concert Review

It seems like every concert I have been to this summer, the opening acts have been especially talented and enjoyable, Laura Stevenson and the Cans was no exception. Brooklyn based Laura Stevenson, the front woman, has a perfectly charming voice that captivated the audience of almost 200 almost instantly. The sound is a melodic warmth verging on pop but with bursts of noise in all the right places that keeps you on your toes. I loved watching the trumpet/accordion/glockenspiel player if he also plays the banjo, I'd probably propose to him. You can download their CD for free here, but a donation is encouraged. I also really liked their song Mouth breather on their Holy Ghost! EP. Based on what I have listened to, I think their live show is much more exciting than the digital version, with a lot more energy and intense sounds, but I am sure that given some time that will all balance out.

The Cults suffered from serious sound issues, hecklers, people in the front row chit chatting, so it I feel bad making any assumptions based on their performance. As expected they played their hit that made the blogosphere rounds, and started the tremendous buzz that surrounds them, "Go Outside", as their closing song, and it was definitely their best. For the rest of the performance there was a lot of feedback and volume issues that made it difficult to judge the quiet vocals that were obstructed by a too loud bass. But the band played on despite the issues and at the very least I would have to say the entire crowd was enthralled by the lead singer, Madeline Follin, in her flowing short white dress, long wavy locks, who nonchalantly sipped her tall boy bud throughout the show. It felt like the entire band could be cast in a Midsummer Night's Dream and they would fit in perfectly as forest pixies. Hopefully when they release their album they will have a longer more substantial set. I will be perfectly content listening to "Oh My God" and "Go Outside" until they do make that album. For a band that accidentally stumbled onto the scene, they did alright, but a lot of people were expecting more from them.

This was a sold out show, and it was easy to tell that the band was very happy with this. Maps & Atlases stood outside the venue as all of us without tickets mulled around waiting. As people approached the band they were nothing but cordial and extraordinarily kind to their waiting fans. I love seeing a band take the time to thank their fans for being there and talking with them pre-show, makes me so happy.

Maps & Atlases were so much fun. I am not a huge fan, but listened to enough of their songs over the past few months to know what they were about, but not enough to know what to expect at their live show.  After the mediocre Cults performance, this is exactly what everyone needed. They have been described as Math-Rock, a genre I have no understanding of. But I think they are more one of those little bit of everything type bands that has no need for a genre, they just are what they are, and that is wonderful. I wish I could tell you more about their set list but I was having too much fun to pay attention to it. They are one of those bands where actually watching them play, watching their nimble fingers and faces, is really exciting. The bass player was super into it, dancing around in the tiny space and getting the crowd to clap, the drummer was a hot sweaty mess and doing an incredible job with the constantly changing tempos. When the lead singer looks like he just wandered out of the woods after three years (long hair and impressively long beard with glasses) you kind of don't expect him to be rocking out like he did. And his voice is just so unique it really sets the band apart from the norm. They played a high energy set straight through for an hour and the small Middle East Upstairs was hot and sweaty, and starting to get pretty smelly. After profusely thanking the crowd and the venue and closing with "Solid Ground" the band announced they were going to take the encore to the streets. What a fantastic thing. The crowd gathered around, half the people were taking videos, and they played a few more songs in the refreshing cool air. They finished up with "Perch Patchwork" and "Pigeons" and the crowd timidly sang along, so as not to drown out the soft acoustic set, while police officers waited on the corner.

Maps & Atlases is one of those bands that you don't have to know very well to enjoy, whether it is listening to their album or watching them live. They have obvious talent and they keep it interesting. Their songs are intricate, soft and slow and hard and fast all with just the right touch of emotion all at once. They certainly have a sound that is all their own and it works so seamlessly well. It was a fantastic and memorable show. I recommend seeing them if you can, and don't be scared to strike up a conversation, they are wonderful people.

*Pictures are on their way, just looking for the cord. Also I would like to mention how much I enjoy the Middle East. I have had a few ticket snafus in the past and other various concert issues and they have been over the top accommodating and helpful. If you are in the Boston area and considering seeing some live music, try and see it here. 


  1. I was at this concert! I thought Cults were pretty clearly on their first tour, and they'll only get better from here on out. Although I think the crowd didn't mind _too_ much, if only because they were fixated on a certain lead singer...

    ...that said, Laura Stevenson and Maps & Atlases were tremendous. So sad I missed the outdoor set, we were afraid we would miss the T.

  2. Also MORE DANCING. Are all Maps & Atlases fans zombies or something?

  3. Boston is kind of notorious for not being the most dancey crowd (also for being an oddly quiet crowd). I wish it was different, but its not just maps&atlases fans. You could have stayed for the outdoor set!!! I made the T no problems.


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