Last Saturday night at around 9 p.m., Cox Ballroom was, at best, one-third full. But an hour and a half later, the room was packed, and the crowd was visibly more pumped: bopping heads, tapping feet, never taking an eye off the stage.
The occasion was Localsfest, put on by Emory University’s student radio WMRE. Localsfest is an annual fall concert dedicated to up-and-coming bands from Atlanta’s music scene. This year, the line-up included Naj Murph, Mood Rings and headliner Atlas Sound, Deerhunter frontman Bradford Cox’s solo project.
Cox is an Athens native who gained recognition in the indie music scene with the creation of the band Deerhunter in 2001. Deerhunter quickly developed a reputation for a vicious live show and ended up opening for a who’s who of alternative rock bands, including the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, the Smashing Pumpkins and Nine Inch Nails.
But Cox also has his own solo endeavors, and that’s exactly what Emory had the great privilege to witness this Saturday night,
A one-man show, Atlas Sound quickly overcame some early-show technical difficulties to deliver 90 minutes of his trademark ambient, experimental rock sound. He blasted through classics like “Sheila” and “Te Amo,” filling the room with keyboard and guitar melodies that were just familiar enough to connect with the audience and just abstract enough to remain interesting.
In studio recordings, Cox’s voice comes across as beautifully aloof and wretched. But in a live performance, it takes a backseat to his incredible instrumental performances, which implement echoes, loops and feedback to create an expansive sound quality.
Perhaps the most extraordinary thing about Atlas Sound’s performance was the way the music seeped into your bones, generating visceral feelings ranging from heartbreak to wistfulness to melancholia.
The sound quality in Cox Ballroom was not great, so it was difficult to understand Cox. But that hardly bothered me. The lyrics are not what Cox’s music revolves around. The music is more about making the audience experience a physical reaction, an emotional result, an ephemeral state of being. And in that endeavor, Cox unquestionably succeeded.
Opening act Mood Rings also deserves special recognition. Like Atlas Sound, Mood Rings’ instrumentals were what allowed them to make the leap from a satisfactory opener to a terrific band in their own right. Mood Rings took their band name quite literally, utilizing juxtaposition between guitar solos and ensemble efforts in order to convey a variety of tones.
Mood Rings always made a point of transitioning to each new song with a distinct change of pace and reinvesting themselves in the music. And ultimately, that’s what resonates with the audience — being able to tell the musician is invested in what they’re producing. In that regard, Localsfest’s bands passed with flying colors.
— By Emelia Fredlick