LIVE REVIEW: Keep Shelly In Athens

Disoriented.

If I did a one-word review of this show, that would be the word.

The first order of disorientation was procuring my ticket for the show. It was under another name, but nowhere to be found on the list. It was on the will call list, but in order to prove this I had to show an image of the ticket. I do not have a smart phone, so, the ticket in another name had to be emailed to my friend’s phone and then shown to the list lady at her podium, along with my ID, which had nothing to do with the name on the ticket.

That was the first five minutes.

The lineup for the night was supposed to be thus:

-Teletextile

-Chad Valley

-Keep Shelly in Athens

So imagine my disorientation when the venue switched the order around and the last two bands refrained from introducing themselves, at least audibly. I knew the first band was Teletextile. They said so. However, their music was disorienting in the sense that it seemed out of place with the venue and headlining band. I can’t say Teletextile was a bad band, because that wouldn’t be fair. They all clearly knew what they were doing; they’re good musicians, write songs that are instrumentally textural, and put a lot of integrity into their performance… but I didn’t like them. Lead vocalist and harp-strummer Pamela Martinez was just a little too peppy for my liking. The songs were solid but there was something about her gleeful stage presence that made me skeptical of their depth. But maybe I’m just grumpy.

Next up was supposed to be Chad Valley according to the lineup. Yet out walked a band fronted by a tiny girl, who was wearing the same windbreaker donned by the lead singer of the opening band.

Oh, this must be Chad Valley.

The band immediately dived into a song I’ve heard before.

But, I’ve never heard Chad Valley before.

This song sounded strangely like one I heard at the AudioFemme office, but that song was by Keep Shelly in Athens.

I guessed both bands sound a lot alike.

Well, this Chad Valley band was damn incredible.

They sounded like Portishead meets My Bloody Valentine and The Stone Roses with a lick of Siouxsie Sioux, and dare I say, some early Moby.

You may have guessed this already, but this band was not in fact Chad Valley.

In fact, I did not care for Chad Valley. Ms. Martinez of Teletextile joined the set and it just wasn’t my cup. The only phrase that came to mind was Gleewave.

So now I’ll tell you more about Keep Shelly in Athens, the accidental sub-headliner of their own show.

They opened with “Time Exists Only to Betray Us” which is one of the most powerful tracks I’ve heard from a contemporary band in a long time. It’s a wall of sound, flitting with tension and anxiety slowed to 15 rpms of stoner-rock molasses. The lead vocalist, aforementioned tiny girl Sarah P, wails far beyond her weight class. She’ll start with a soft coo and stretch into a wide-mouthed snarl that carries through the ambient chaos of the music. It’s as if she morphs from Hope Sandoval to Patti Smith in one measure.

However, Keep Shelly in Athens isn’t just Sarah P. The band is co-fronted by producer RNR, who shows a lot of promise in my opinion. The duo has a rare ability to sound far better live than recorded, even though they still sound great in the studio. Their music is challenging, intoxicating, and perfectly mixed. It is one thing to be a band that writes great songs. It’s a completely different thing to be a band with a producer as one of the members. These guys know how to write, play, and perform, but they REALLY know how to mix, and that’s everything the other two bands were missing.

You know one last thing I really love about Keep Shelly in Athens? They’re actually from Athens.

I found that comforting amidst all the confusion.

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