Sunday, January 24, 2010

Southeast Engine: My Athens music scene tradition

I am often asked about the Athens music scene by folks who are either not active show-goers or don't live here. My first question, if the person is familiar with indie rock at all, is if he or she has heard of Southeast Engine.

Most of the time the answer is yes.

It doesn't matter if you think Southeast Engine is over-rated, if you think their music is boring, if one of the members of the band once gave your friend's friend a dirty look this one time three years ago. Whatever. Southeast Engine is Athens' most popular indie rock band for a reason, and you just cannot ignore that.

Southeast Engine was the first local band I ever saw perform in Athens. This was a little over three years ago. Between now and then, I've seen roughly 150-200 shows here in little ole Athens. And I think I've missed only a handful of local Southeast Engine shows during that time period.

Why, exactly?

I'm not saying Southeast Engine is the absolute best band in this town. I'm just saying that they really capture what this town means to me -- and to other people, too. They bring back a lot of memories for me throughout my college years. My friends have changed, my tastes have evolved, even my personality has grown since I was a freshman. But seeing this specific band play the Casa Nueva stage hasn't.

ANYWAY, I saw Southeast Engine play again last night at Casa. They were, as usual, more dynamic live than they are on their recorded albums. I danced, I sang along, I fist-pumped like I was a member of the "Jersey Shore" cast. It was bliss.

Fresh off a string of touring dates, Southeast Engine debuted a few new songs off their upcoming album last night. We saw bassist Jesse Remnant trade his bass for the keys on a particular track that sounded like the latest Wilco album. The new songs felt comfortable. They felt like relaxed fit Southeast Engine.

We also heard frontman Adam Remnant pontificate on the verb tenses most often associated with the phrase "rocking out." The grammar nerd in me had a good chuckle, but you know, he's right. Rarely is the term "rocking out" used in the present tense. It's most often associated with the idea of "rocking out" sometime in the future, and "having rocked out" previously. He's a charming and wise fellow, that Adam Remnant.

All quippy on-stage remarks aside, the highlight of Southeast Engine's set on Saturday was "Where Are You Now?", a song off one of the band's older releases. In fact, this song is ALWAYS the highlight of every Southeast Engine set. It's the song generally toward the end of the show, in which the audience screams a series of "OHHHHs" along with the band and claps furiously. It's always incredibly loud and energy-filled, and my throat usually hurts a bit afterward.

Here's a pretty good video of the song's performance in Chicago about two weeks ago. Just imagine the crowd participation times a trillion toward the song's end and that was last night.

The set was over a bit after that, until the crowd started chanting "Holy Ghost." I could hear the screams very clearly through the wall of the girl's bathroom, in fact.

Southeast Engine obliged. The crowd went wild! You all know how this story ends. Great night.

-- Jillian Mapes, ACRN Editorial Director

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