Atlas Sound @ Music Hall of Williamsburg, 2.24.08

BRADFORD COX: Screaming life

Text/Photos by Andrew Parks

“When you’re almost pushing 40,” said Honey Owens, Atlas Sound‘s bassist and the wounded bird behind Valet, “You kinda have to let it all hang out sometimes.”

No kidding. Much to the delight of a modest Music Hall of Williamsburg crowd Sunday night, Bradford Cox‘s solo band (featuring Owens, Adam Forkner of White Rainbow, Brian Foote of Nudge, and drummer Stephanie Macksey) emerged for a topless encore–yes, even Owens, who quickly wrapped herself in a makeshift black shawl. The move wasn’t shocking so much as appropriate, since it reflected the relaxed vibe of the group’s entire set. While Atlas Sound’s debut, Let the Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel, is a dank, damp ambient pop affair, its songs took on a sprawling, ramshackle quality live, made all the more intimate by Cox’s between-song banter. (Forkner–who performed an astounding, loop-and-drone-doused solo set earlier on–volleyed one-liners and quirky nonsense at the towering frontman all night. Seriously, get these two a comedy show stat.)

This being the band’s second week of shows ever, they were a bit off at times–often bleeding well into the red thanks to Forkner’s guitar heroics–but some songs were absolutely transcendent due to Owen’s wobbly bass lines, Forkner and Cox’s criss-crossing chords, and Foote’s constant knob-twiddling. Macksey kept the rhythm section in step as well, but let’s be honest here: most of the songs were so noisy they drowned out any drum beats. Except for a trifecta of abbreviated, endearingly sloppy covers, including Blue Öyster Cult’s “Don’t Fear the Reaper,” the Breeders’ “Last Splash,” and the Grateful Dead’s “Operator.”

Yes, they played the Grateful Dead. Photos after the jump kids …

Adam Forkner of White Rainbow

[L to R: Forkner, Stephanie Macksey, Honey Owens, Bradford Cox]

Brian Foote