Maps | Luna Lounge | 9.29.2007

Maps_lunaOne of the better albums of the new crop of shoegazers, MapsWe Can Create is a dense miasma that is nearly impossible to pull apart. Is that a treated guitar or a synthesizer? Real drums or samples. Strings or a keyboard preset? Only James Chapman‘s breathy voice is easily discernible in the mix.

So I had no idea what to expect from their appearance at Luna Lounge on Saturday night. Or even if it would be a "they." Chapman made the whole album by himself. My worry was it would be Chapman alone on stage with a laptop and a smoke machine.

There was a laptop onstage and Chapman, but also four other guys rounding out the Maps Live Experience, including a drummer (sans headphones), a bassist and two multi-instrumentalists who divided their time between keyboards and guitars. There were also a couple drums and crash cymbals scattered around the stage for Chapman and others to take advantage of at various times over the course of the evening.

With a smile on his face the night, Chapman seemed generally chuffed to be playing the enthusiastic audience, even if it was only about half capacity. (The crowd would’ve filled Mercury Lounge, where they played the night before.) The 45 minute set hit all of We Can Create‘s highlights, including "Eloise," "You Don’t Know Her Name" and forthcoming single "To the Sky." If the show lacked anything, it was a visual element. Maps’ music has a mysterious, elusive quality but Chapman seemed entirely approachable. Maybe that smoke machine wouldn’t have been a bad idea after all.

MP3: Maps – To the Sky
(buy it)

Addendum: I haven’t been much of a fan of the new Luna Lounge and have said so more than once here in the past, my main complaint being tinny, boomy sound that was often set at full volume even when empty. I am happy to report that my last two visits here, the sound issues seem to have been solved. I still wish there was a separate room where you could hang out if you didn’t want to watch the band, but otherwise they’ve really improved the place all around, and the bartenders are especially nice.

Shout Out Louds | Luna Lounge | 7.17.2007

Shout Out Louds fans are intense and loyal which makes a show that much more fun. Dancing, singing along, and one girl in front of me seemed to be, um, living the songs if you know what I mean. I’ll take that over cool detachment any day.

It was also the biggest crowd I’ve ever seen at Luna Lounge, and the best sound (maybe it sounds better with all those bodies). Tuesday was a longer set than at Spiegeltent, with more songs from the new album, including "South America" (accordion fixed or new one purchased) and "You Are Dreaming" but no "Hard Rain." Less Howl Howl Gaff Gaff songs too, but different b-sides, with "Hurry Up Let’s Go" dedicated to Merge label-mates the Essex Green who were in the audience.

No doubt, Spiegeltent was better
. But I was home at 11:30, which was before I was even allowed into Spiegeltent the night before.

I managed to get a video of the latter half of "Very Loud" when they kick into "Train in Vain," through to the end of the song/set. I missed, however, the start of it where some dude jumped onstage and decided to stage-dive, but no one was prepared so it was literally headfirst into the floor. (Audible gasp!) But he was OK, folks. Singer Adam Olenius warned the crowd, saying either "Don’t dive" or "Don’t die." I would like to think it was the latter as it would be funnier. Anyway, the clip:

Openers were Philadelphia’s Saturday Looks Good to Me. I know people who like them, but I just don’t get it. Last night they didn’t even sound like a band, more like a bunch of people who decided to get onstage and play music together. Maybe it was inferior equipment, or the mix was bad, or maybe it was just them. Utterly unimpressed.