Photos & Review by Rosie Judd
Special Guests: Del Venicci & Shannon and the Clams
Being new to the world of Mikal Cronin, I wasn’t sure what to expect from his show at the Earl on Sunday night. School nights can be tricky in Atlanta. Sometimes a Sunday night crowd can be just as enthusiastic as a Saturday night crowd, but sometimes Sunday nights can mean a headliner playing to a half-empty club.
The first band, Atlanta’s own Del Venicci, slid onto the stage and immediately launched into their short set of dreamy garage-pop. Soft vocals on top of loud guitars and spacy beats set a nice positive vibe for the night, in spite of the guitar player breaking a string in the last song. Truthfully, it added to the sparseness of their arrangement.
When I walked in I immediately noticed the multitude of merch available for the second band of the evening, Shannon and the Clams. Hailing from Oakland, CA, this 3 piece obviously had some fans in the audience. Their rockabilly meets garage-punk was made for venues like the Earl. Think Wanda Jackson meets California Surf. By the end of the set, even I was bouncing along and admiring the wonderful interplay between the co-songwriters and lead vocalists Shannon Shaw and Cody Blanchard. During their last song, Shannon and the Clams were going all out and the 2 broken stings on Cody’s guitar added even more “character” to their direct and simple sound. These guys may not be a household name yet, but I’m sure they’ll be headlining their own shows here shortly.
Mikal and his band took the stage and immediately launched into 3 songs from his first record. Loud guitars, driving drums and flinging hair set the mood for the night. This is what we came for. Mikal just closed his eyes and went for it, pouring his heart into the performance and the lyrics that made us fall in love with his songwriting. A similar way that many of us have enjoyed his records, for sure. Mikal is known for being a busy guy. He’s been in or worked with at least 4 other bands and is most frequently associated with his fellow Laguna Beach native, Ty Segall. But I think Mikal stands best on his own. His brand of garagey power-pop combines 2 of my favorite things, smooth and insightful lyrics over jangly guitars and the occasional string arrangement. But, it being The Earl, there was no room for string arrangements Sunday night. This was a night to rock.
The 3 boys and their matching long hair meant that you rarely saw their faces as they bent over their guitars with their synchronized hair flipping, but it was OK. The drummer was driving the show all night with her no-nonsense style and leading the boys along in a set that was a good blend of Cronin’s first record with some new tracks off of his sophomore release, MCII. Cronin’s touring guitarist was definitely a highlight of the evening. Giving many of the songs an even harder edge and providing even more angst to those of us that wanted to get lost in the sound that Cronin has adopted so well. There must have been something in the air, as Cronin’s lead guitarist also broke 2 strings during their 5th song, and rather than restring, just opted to borrow another guitar, tune up and go while Cronin thanked us for our patience and promised that they’d make it up to us. Cronin’s band got started again and didn’t disappoint, as the guitar was even louder and fuzzier than before, driving the crowd to dance more and sing louder. “Shout It Out” from the new record was a clearly a fan favorite, as all of us in the front row were shouting along to every word.
Only having 2 solo records under his belt, we were all still saddened by the relative shortness of Cronin’s set. This was the kind of epic garage-pop that you want to go on forever. However, Atlanta Sunday night curfews beckoned and just a little over an hour after taking the stage, Cronin was done. However, the crowd didn’t feel overly shortchanged. I mean, any show where bands are playing so hard that a total of 5 guitar strings are broken in the space of one evening, you know you’re getting your money’s worth. The night was loud, hazy and full of fun. If you didn’t dance along at some point in the evening, then you clearly weren’t paying attention.