Maps & Atlases
Subterranean – Chicago, IL
June 26, 2010
Chicago simply adores Maps & Atlases. This much was evident at the local group’s sold-out record release show at Subterranean on June 26, with fans pacing the sidewalks outside looking to buy tickets and those inside turning the packed venue into a sweaty dance party from the get-go. Playing a mix of material from their new release, Perch Patchwork, out June 29, and their first two self-released EPs, the quartet showed that though their sound has matured and progressed from earlier days of somewhat frenzied math rock, they haven’t slowed down their high-energy live shows one bit.
Read more of our live review of Maps & Atlases after the jump…
Rhode Island rock outfit Fang Island opened with a half-hour set packed with cadences, anthems and heavy guitar that got the already amped-up crowd at attention. Mostly instrumental, Fang Island’s technical savvy and experimental style liken them to some of the most interesting progressive groups of the aughts, like Ponytail, and classics like The Fucking Champs. The crowd was absolutely into it, and Fang Island fit well as a warm-up for Maps & Atlases.
With barely any room to move about the already small stage, Maps & Atlases began their set with a cadre of instruments densely strewn about, playing the dramatic and percussive tune “The Charm” from the new album. Bassist Shiraz Dada took to a large bass drum, guitarist Erin Elders manned a spare snare drum, and a guest on the bells armed a lone cymbal to create the intense percussive buildup of the song that was the perfect way to introduce the new material. The buildup of the all of the percussive elements combined with Dave Davison’s soulful vocals held the room to the end, when they burst into fits of excitement.
More new material followed, really showcasing the athletic abilities of Chris Hainey on the drums-Sidenote: This guy can seriously wail on a kit-and Dada’s entertaining waltzes in place while on the bass. For such a young group-all of the members are in their early 20s-their technical prowess is beyond impressive, with Davison and Elders mirroring each other on the guitar beautifully and Davison’s exceptional range of vocals that put him on par with vocalists from well-established groups like TV on the Radio and, dare we say, Eric Clapton. The finger-plucking guitars and melodies of the new material are technical and wonderfully crafted into more of a folksy sound, but not too heavy to drown out the slightly pop and math rock undertones of the group’s core that got them their big break last year.
A little more than half an hour into the set, the group busted out old favorites from EPs Trees, Swallows, Houses and You and Me and the Mountain like “Ted Zancha” and “Artichokes.” This was about the time the crowd really began to move, including an unsuccessful attempt at crowd surfing-a big no-no at Subterranean-that landed directly on my head. Maps & Atlases were scheduled to play at Chicago’s Green Fest the next day, and fans in the crowd were already reworking plans to see the group there.
By the end of the show, the back of the room was a full-fledged dance party, and fans at the front were singing along to the older favorites perhaps louder than Davison himself. I had heard the new album Perch Patchwork before attending the record release show and did wonder if the dedicated Maps & Atlases fan base would take to it easily, as it seems so different from the hectic and frenzied sound they had come to know and love so well. But during this show, the first time the group had really played the new material for a crowd, Maps & Atlases were so well-rehearsed, so confident, and so generally “on it” that the fans gleefully followed along into the new world of folk-friendly pop the group is exploring, and rightfully so.
Written by Jessica Galliart
Photographed by Dan Thompson