Friday, April 2, 2010

Via Audio: even whiskey couldn't save 'em

I stepped into The Union Thursday night with a sense of slight curiosity for the out of town band, and to see how Athens' own have progressed since the last time I saw them. It's been a few months since the last time I saw Manor Animals, and they were still quite the young band then. Since then, one of our own at ACRN has written a very good feature article, and the band has evolved from a side project that gets shows, to something of a burgeoning entity around the Athens musical scene.

On the other hand, Brooklyn-based Via Audio was on the bill, and I'd spent some time of my Spring Break visiting a friend in Brooklyn. We hung out in Park Slope and Williamsburg and I saw Black Lips and drank a lot of Brooklyn Lager. Nevertheless, I felt after only three days in New York's undeniably coolest borough that I was of the city. A false belief indeed, but the fact that I knew which subway stops were the so-called “hip” stops led me to believe that I should check out this Brooklyn band, even if I'd never heard them before.

These beliefs in tow, I arrived to The Union late under a growing haze of whiskey-induced drunkenness. Now, I don't know if it is just me or if this is some kind of universal truth, but does music not sound 10 times better when one is under the influence of alcohol? It does. There, I answered my own question.

Manor Animals have improved drastically since the last time I saw them, and they are now able to command The Union stage with relative ease. The days of their own basement, fond as they may be, were cramped and sweaty, but under the red glow of The Union stage, the jangly flavors of the Animals' music swelled and breathed with openness and ease. Singer Tim Race's voice quivered and shook as he led the band through a 30-minute set as the crowd, friends and newcomers alike danced and sweat to the roommates' rhythms.

In between sets, I resumed my Union custom of playing and losing a game of pool, while also making very poor passes at women. I smoked more cigarettes and drank more beer in defeat, hoping that Via Audio would pick up my down-and-out spirits.

And, they didn't. I now redact my statement from earlier claiming that all music sounds good when one is drunk. Is it the blandness, the lack of fluidity and cohesion in a song that makes it sound bad? Are they not playing in the same key, or are they playing legato's when they should be playing staccato's or any other musical jargon that I can't claim to understanding? It may damn well be a combination of these things, or none of them at all. What I know is that I am a man of simple and undiscerning taste, and still yet, Via Audio could not satiate my musical thirst. They were not original and they sounded just like every other band in the world that waves its flag under the moniker of “indie.”

And OK, no band is ever truly original and everyone sounds like someone else, but with that universal truth in tow, is it so hard to create enjoyable music that'll get my body to shake and move and sweat and cause me to temporarily forget about worldly problems in the rife of a rock 'n' roll show? Perhaps, maybe it is. Who am I, a music critic writing in a car on his way to Columbus and listening to Jack Johnson, to judge someone else for their attempt at art?

Alas, readers, I apologize for leading you down that road. Existentialist quandaries aside, my night ended halfway through Via Audio's set. I gave up, I got drunk and I talked about stupid things with friends. Another Spring Thursday spent at The Union, and definitely not the last.

-Paolo Balboa, Staff Writer

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