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Bradford Cox (Atlas Sound) played his (annual?) show @ The Bell House (and one at Maxwell’s)

words by Rachel Kowal, photo by Cienna Wills

Atlas Sound

Ornate blue and white paper snowflakes dangled from the ceiling of the Bell House on Saturday night (12/11), announcing the unofficial onset of winter and appropriately setting the stage for the sparse, introspective music of Atlas Sound. Following Lyonnais‘ early performance (which I inadvertently missed), Bradford Cox walked on stage alone and began with a bit of an awkward intro. “How you doing? Can you guys hear this?” He took a seat on the stool. “Oh, it’s soft,” he admitted with surprise. He hadn’t even begun to play, but he already held the audience’s full attention. With a harmonica strapped around his neck and a guitar in his lap, Cox kicked off his show with a string of newer songs, beginning with the excellent “Terrarium.”

After a few songs, Cox addressed the crowd, his voice comically laden with reverb. “It’s great to be here,” he began. “I figure [he reached to turn off the effect] I figure I came here in the winter last time and played and had such a good time. Why not repeat the experience? I really like this place a lot. The people are awesome, and I really like the sound. And I think I’m going to come here every year. In the wintertime…. like a Christmas tradition… or Hanukkah tradition…or Kwanzaa – whatever it is you choose. A holiday tradition. What do you think?” The crowd cheered enthusiastically in response.

Though Cox played a few songs from his studio recordings (like “Shelia” and a toned down version of “Walkabout”), much of his set contained songs he self-released on his website in recent weeks. “I hope some of you have heard these,” Cox announced mid set. “I got off tour with Deerhunter, and I went home and didn’t have anything to do. I started feeling pretty wild. Like cabin fever, you know? I watched two seasons of Law and Order: Criminal Intent in like 52 hours, and I wasn’t returning phone calls. It was dark. So I got out my little recording machine and made some recordings and then I decided to play them.”

As per usual, the lyrics in Cox’s new repertoire were often on the bleak side, making them well-suited for the winter show format. But to counteract the foreboding sense of gloom that pervaded his lyrics, Cox warmly interacted with the cordial, sold-out audience throughout the evening.

After capping off his set with a few longer, more meandering songs, Cox thanked the crowd and announced that there was another event scheduled, so he had to wrap up his set. As he walked off stage, the lights to the venue came back on, but it wasn’t enough to deter the crowd from cheering for an encore. Cox soon returned with a big grin plastered on his face.

“I’ll remember this. That was a nice feeling. I really didn’t think I’d have time, then they told me to come back.” He fumbled around for a moment, trying to figure out what to play. “Would anyone be mad if I played ‘The Screens’? You guys are actually making me nervous. You’re so nice.” “You’re nicer!” came a gruff male voice in response. Cox began to play the harmonica, then stopped abruptly to shake the spit from it. “Let’s see if I can’t fuck this up.”

Despite his low estimation of his talent (or perhaps because of it?), his brief encore was the perfect end to the evening, and I eagerly await next year’s winter show, as promised.

Atlas Sound also played Maxwell’s in Hoboken one night earlier. The approximate setlist from The Bell House and a video from the show, below…

Atlas Sound @ the Bell House

Approximate Atlas Sound Setlist (* denote songs from the Bedroom Databank collection)
*Terrarium
*Border Agents
*Afternoon Drive
Walkabout
*Mona Lisa
Shelia
*I Can’t Take It
Te Amo
Flagstaff
Attic Lights

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