Live Review and Photos: Maps & Atlases, May 26, 2012, Crowbar – Tampa, FL

Photos by Michael Do

With Saturday night fun to be had and a new album in tow, Maps & Atlases paid the Crowbar in Tampa a visit and were met with one of the warmer receptions seen in the area recently.

Upon walking in about halfway through Sister Crayon’s opening set, I was quickly won over by their energetic stage presence and unusual lineup. Sister Crayon is a four-piece band that consists of a drummer, two people manning keys and various electronic equipment, and a frontwoman whose vocals were a combination of singing and rapping. Their music alternated between ethereal electronica, which featured either singing or no vocals at all, and harder-hitting beats that the frontwoman, Terra Lopez, would rap over. She was an engaging presence to watch, bobbing across the stage and moving her hands emphatically during her verses.

Next up was Brooklyn trio the Big Sleep, who played a noisy, looping set heavy on repetitive guitar and synthesizer riffs that tried to build a trance-like atmosphere. Vocals were barely intelligible, serving more as an additional instrument nestled at the bottom of the sound than anything else. At one point during their set, someone in the audience decided to blow up balloons and send them bouncing around the venue, which didn’t mix very well with the dark atmosphere the Big Sleep seemed to be trying to create. Other people took a little too much delight in popping the balloons when they got close, which was to the chagrin of the bands playing when it happened mid-song, although it didn’t prove to be too much of a disruption.

With little fanfare, Maps & Atlases took the stage and started their set off with “Pigeon,” an album track from their sophomore album, Perch Patchwork. Having seen Maps & Atlases before, at the same venue on the Perch Patchwork tour, the most notable difference from the outset of this show was that it was a lot less percussion-based; earlier, the band would augment just about every song with additional percussion that complemented frontman Dave Davison’s math-rock finger tapping, but this show featured fairly straightforward renditions of the songs. This goes along with the more straightforward pop themes of their latest effort, Beware And Be Grateful, which features a whole lot less math rock trickery than their previous efforts in favor of more traditional song structures and instrumentation.

The setlist would draw as heavily from the band’s first two efforts as it did from Beware And Be Grateful, which was to the appreciation of the crowd as the best receptions were generally given to older songs. That’s not to say that the new songs didn’t hold their own though, especially the forlorn “Remote And Dark Years,” which was a definite highlight. But it was clear that most of the crowd came for songs like “Witch,” “Living Decorations,” and “Solid Ground,” that successfully blend the band’s pop and math tendencies without overindulging on either side.

The focuses of the show (not counting Dave Davison’s immaculate beard, which must always be mentioned) had to be Chris Hainey’s drumming, which was emphasized even more when he went largely unassisted on some of the trickier parts of the band’s early material, and Davison’s guitar playing. Davison’s voice, while in fine form, tended to get lost in the mix at times. The stage setup featured pyramids planted at various points around the stage that would light up during the climaxes of a few songs, although they seemed to be a little under-utilized, as they were only synced with a few of the band’s most popular songs.

Every year, as the summer approaches and the weather warms up, fewer and fewer bands decide to brave the blistering heat and make the trek to Florida on tour. It’s always a disappointing thing to watch, as spring slowly winds to a close and our concert schedules down here dwindle, but when the bands that do come play sets as solid as Maps & Atlases did, it’s hard to complain.

Maps & Atlases Set List:

Ted Zancha
The Charm
Remote & Dark Years
If This Is
Living Decorations
Solid Ground

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