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Atlanta’s Drunken Unicorn is as much of a hole in the wall as a place can be: The venue has no sign outside and no phone number, meaning you have to know where to look if you’re planning to venture there. This means it’s unlikely a band playing there will pull any newcomers into their fan base. On the other hand, it does equal an intimate experience with those who already love your music inside a dark, cavernous room. For the three Atlanta bands in question tonight, this was unquestionably the case: Each band turned out a sizable audience and kept the entire room engaged.
Starting off the night was progressive rock five-piece A: The Color, whose style of music was the most difficult to classify of the three bands on the bill. Led by Zack Beachum, the band’s lead guitarist and chief composer, A: The Color turned out a set of wildly experimental and consistently edgy rock that, even as I dissect their demo recordings, I have trouble describing. Suffice to say the performance was laden with heavy guitars, sprinkled with odd changes in meter and dynamic and a topped with a healthy dose of vocal theatrics. (Complete with a glowing microphone? I can dig it.)
Following A: The Color was ambient country/folk outfit Damon Moon & the Whispering Drifters. Featuring a lap steel guitar player and driven by Damon Moon’s sparse acoustic chords and aching folksy croon, the group’s sound was enveloped in a reverb-soaked ambiance quite akin to modern-day folk rockers Fleet Foxes, making for an introspective, calmer middle set. The music of Moon’s collective, however, was a few notches more experimental than the aforementioned band, with dissonant, angular chord progressions and a few intense electric guitar buildups.
Finishing out the night was StoneRider, a balls-to-the-wall, high-octane power trio, sporting just the bare essentials: guitar, bass and drums. Heavily indebted to ’70s rock (specifically Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin), lead guitarist and singer Matt Tanner steered the band through a blistering set filled with familiar yet fresh riffs and extended instrumental improvisations which took turns through blues, psychedelia and even metal. A few of the tunes, especially toward the end of the set, retained their classic rock sound within a poppier, more accessible framework. Not to discredit any member – the whole unit displayed flawless chops – but most of the attention was drawn to Tanner, whose lightning-fast guitar technique and soulful, Chris Robinson-esque voice proved StoneRider’s ace in the hole. The other groups that night may have had music that was harder to define, but nobody brought the party and amount of energy like StoneRider.