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11 Sep

Sphinxes in the Mainroom or Always Coming Back Home To Lucy

If you live in a city like Cairo or Rome, you don’t really make a habit of going to see the Pyramids or the Colosseum. They are there, yes, they are wonderful and historic and monumental, and they are a place to take visiting relatives and dignitaries so that they can spend money and get their picture taken. With all the success of Atmosphere, especially the national exposure and acclaim that When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold received, Slug and company have become something of the Sphinx of Giza- historic markers still intriguing and worth the journey when you decide to make it. Seeing as how both their Mainroom shows this week were sold out (as they should be for a tour-ending homecoming stand) lots of other people also made the trip.


Eyedea & Abilities, who cancelled their headliner show at the Varsity Theatre to open up for Atmosphere in the Mainroom, provided a deft set that covered songs from all of their records, with special focus on this year’s excellent By The Throat. With his long hair in front of his face for most of the set, Eyedea tore through songs like “Skydiver”, which moved into the simple yet effective rhyme-pattern of “Rain” from 2002’s First Born. The live set seemed also to be a repudiation of any of the critics who complained that Abilities didn’t do much on By The Throat, as Abilities was all over the turntables, showing off the pitch-shifting new Vestax Controller One for extended interludes and tearing up the breakdowns. Eyedea opened up the set with a stand-up routine and went back to other Mitch Hedberg-esque one liners. Before “Time Flies When You Have A Gun”, Eyedea took a minute to address the crowd semi-seriously, talking about how the American consumer votes with their dollar, which makes “Walmart a shitty place to shop!…..If you’re shopping for a guitar, they have a terrible selection, that’s all I’m saying. If you want to buy a gun, though, they’ve got lots of those…” and he cracked a half-grimace, half-grin. E&A had a couple guests on stage, friend and protege MC Kristoff Krane jumped up for a verse of “Head-Tripping” from Krane’s This Will Work For Now release and Nate Collis, guitar player for Atmosphere and Attracted to Gods, hopped on stage to help Eyedea on the chorus of “Spin Cycle”. The packed room definitley had it’s fair share of fans, and when the last turntable noted died, a roar went up and the duo bowed out beaming.

Eyedea & Abilities- Skydiver from Stacy Cupcake on Vimeo.

Unlike most Mainroom shows, the projection screen did not come down to show us Yosemite Sam cartoons in between sets, so Erick Anderson sound-checked the keyboards and singer Mankwe Ndosi checked her mics in front of a jittery crowd. The lights that Atmosphere had brought in were set to a bright red glow for the interim, and when they switched to a deep blue, the crowd erupted and the band took the stage, with DJ and producer Ant in full violation of the indoor smoking ban, cigarette dangling from his lips through most of the show. Slug took the stage in a TC cap, board shorts and green hoodie, looking more like a San Diego skater than a Midwestern MC. “Hiya Home!” were the first words out of his Slug’s mouth, and the band ripped up “God Loves Ugly” for the opening number, with most of the crowd screaming along.

Slug’s between song banter focused on two themes; how easy it was to love the crowd who were intent on loving him right back, and how he is old. At one point, Slug asked the crowd to join him in a dance he invented to keep up with “these young fucking internet motherfuckers.” He held both his forearms in front of him, palms facing inward and proceeded to move through “Painting”, a singularly moving track from When Life… about drinking to try and kill regrets. Despite a couple moves, there was no choreographed dance to teach the kids there, instead it was the lyrical dance that Slug excels in, a simple metaphor encapsulating breathtakingly bare honesty backed by a sweet blues beat. As long as Atmosphere keeps on making music like that, the young internet motherfuckers got nothing.

The show had a number of great moments, from the fierce stalking of the deep funk “Shoulda Known” to the quiet workingman ballad “Guarantees” and the ebullient “Modern Man’s Hustle”. (Slug spoke beforehand about performing that song on tour with Murs and Blueprint, how Murs always got really excited and would leap around during the song and how Blueprint, who never really learned the words, would leave the backup work to Murs and go and make out with random people in the audience.) Atmosphere spent the last half of their regular set grinding out tunes with a thick electro-and-feedback buzz that seemed to lose the deft touch of Ant’s production in the process. The slab of Epitaph Records-appropriate noise felt a like a monotonous punk show, complete with Slug barking sharply into the mic and it kept the crowd moving and sweaty if not inspired.

Atmosphere- Always Coming Back Home To You from Stacy Cupcake on Vimeo.

Still, they were not about to let anyone down. Dispensing with leaving the stage and coming back (“I hate that shit!” Slug declared) for the encore, they killed a couple minutes and then played an extended return that included a number of fan favorites. Slug again spoke about how easy it was to love the audience, and how he had been doing this for a long time- it was riding the city bus at age 15 with his headphones on that made him love music so much. In this respect Slug is our own Sphinx of Thebes, who asked the riddle, “What walks on four legs in the morning, two in the afternoon and three in the evening?” Slugs got his two legs firmly underneath him, and still reaches out to the kids learning to walk, still makes the community important, and that band, when they throw it down, they throw it down for the hometown.

Atmosphere- Freestyle into Sunshine from Stacy Cupcake on Vimeo.

Setlist via Andrea Swensson at City Pages. Thanks Andrea!

Atmosphere at First Avenue 9/9/09 setlist:
God Loves Ugly
One of a Kind
Shoulda Known
Saves the Day
Happy Mess
Modern Man’s Hustle
Fuck You Lucy
You’re So Vain
Like the Rest of Us

Not Another Day
Trying to Find a Balance
Guns and Cigarettes
Say Hey There
Always Coming Back Home to You

Trackbacks and Pingbacks

  1. Now Cracks A Noble Heart | Cake In 15 - October 18, 2010

    […] Everyone is going to have stories of course in the coming days and sharing is part of the public grief. My friend who I told in the car had to slow down as she talked about seeing Eyedea with Atmosphere in a Minneapolis basement when she was twelve. I went to Highland Park Senior High School for a couple of years that overlapped with Eyedea’s time there, when he broke out at the Scribble Jam and Blaze Battle. I used to have a drawing of his that was left in a cubby in the art room. I took the first Eyedea & Abilities record, First Born, to Los Angeles with me- along with Atmosphere’s Lucy Ford EPs, it was a reminder of the things that I liked most and missed about Minnesota. Last summer I wrote more about Eyedea & Abilities than any other act- I reviewed their third record, By The Throat for City Pages, covered the live preview for the Onion A.V. Club, interviewed Eyedea for City Pages again and wrote about them in concert. […]

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