Thursday, January 12, 2012

Photos/Review: The Olivia Tremor Control @ The Earl (Atlanta, GA)

The Olivia Tremor Control @ The Earl (Atlanta, GA) - January 7, 2012

Photos & Review: Jeffrey K.

About 10 years ago, a friend of mine was shopping at the famous Wuxtry Records in Athens, GA. After several minutes of filing through CDs, she narrowed down her choices to a few albums and made her way to the checkout line where the clerk was fervidly discussing music with another customer. He cut away from the conversation to thumb through my friend's choices when he lifted up the copy of Olivia Tremor Control's Black Foliage: Animation Music Volume One she picked, and exclaimed, "Oh, hey! I'm in this band!" That clerk: multi-intrumentalist and founding member of Olivia Tremor Control, John Fernandes. OTC is so engrained into the city of Athens and its music scene that you can't walk 2 blocks without bumping into someone involved in OTC or Elephant 6, the collective of musicians and bands that Olivia Tremor Control spawned from. The connection is so tenacious that the entire Elephant 6 collective is assumed to be completely Athens based, even though the majority of the bands that came from it (Neutral Milk Hotel, Apples in Stereo, Beulah, Dressy Bessy, etc.) were not based in Athens at all.

How engrained is OTC with Athens? Atlanta--Athens' neighbor a mere 70 miles to the west--has not seen an Olivia Tremor Control show in 13 years. Granted, there weren't many shows in their hometown either (I remember a great one at the 40 Watt Club in 2005 and an incredible show performed in the woods of the conservation community where many members reside). I had always felt a little gipped being so close to the music that defined my college years, but had to travel 90 minutes by car just to see it. That all changed on Saturday. Olivia Tremor Control finally made it's triumphant return to Atlanta and they sounded just as good as ever.

Scott Spillane opened the show with a subdued and intimate performance, playing many old songs he wrote with his Athens band The Gerbils. As with many solo performances in general, the barflies in the back engaged with each other while the faithful in the front hung on Scott's every word.

Olivia Tremor Control finally took the stage as the familiar warbled tones of Black Foliage's "Opening" floated over the sold out crowd. That led right into "A Familiar Noise Called 'Train Conductor,'" a song that could define the band's dense sound. OTC's records had a timeless quality to them. The songs seemed to melt into each other, creating a cohesive mass of harmonies and noises. The same could be said of their live show, though the energy was far more palpable. William Cullen Hart's performance was clearly the band's focal point. Hopping around on bare feet, he was electric. It was absolutely wonderful to see him so energetic after a decade of toiling through painful health issues.

The exhausting two-hour show covered about everything you would have wanted to hear from the band's output. Highlights included "Jumping Fences," "Hideaway" (my personal favorite), "I Have Been Floated" (with Pipes You See, Pipes You Don't's Peter Erchick on lead vocals), "NYC 25", and "The Sylvain Screen." The pacing of the show was also well constructed, with the more experimental compositions ("Green Typewriters") book-ended with their more traditional material. The middle of the show also saw a new song, "The Game You Play is in Your Head, Parts 1, 2, & 3" that blended in with the show nicely.

The encore was brilliant, displaying the two best songs from Dusk At Cubist Castle: "Holiday Surprise 1,2,3" and the explosive "Opera House." It was the perfect cap to a memorable show that made me both nostalgic and excited for the possibility of more music in the future.


Check out some photos Jeff shot at the Earl, and also be sure to order the wonderful new vinyl editions of OTC's Dusk at Cubist Castle and Black Foliage directly from Chunklet...

Scott Spillane

The Olivia Tremor Control

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