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The Rock*A*Teens played Elsewhere Zone One (pics, review, setlist)

In support of their first record in eighteen years, Atlanta’s Rock*A*Teens brought their raucous brand of rock n’ roll to Elsewhere Zone One on Friday night (7/13), in what was an early show for a late-night band.

Before the scheduled 9 PM start time, frontman Chris Lopez stated to his bandmates, “I’m ready, let’s go,” thus starting uncharacteristically earlier than they had to; a revealing indication of what was to come — a 60 minute freight-train that pounded through 16 songs in lurches, kicks, and utter sonic bombast. With singer/guitarist Lopez slinging his sweat and charisma from one side of the room to the other — coming off as a cross between Jon Spencer and Robert Pollard — the raw emotion howling through his throat and dripping from every pore was undeniably powerful. He almost accidentally kicked show photographers numerous times and pounded down every crowd-donated gin and tonic in one gulp, while bassist Will Joiner sang along so loud that his mic picked up his voice despite him standing three feet away from it. There was nary a de-energized moment.

Drawing primarily from the new LP (without the added benefit of former bandmate and Neko Case pal, Kelly Hogan or their more recent former bandmate, Michelle Dubois), the band enlisted fellow Atlantan Anna Kramer to provide backup vocals for most of the second half hour; her soothing undertone providing a pleasant contrast in timbre to Lopez’s guttural roar.

Keeping consistent with their history, un-rehearsed moments peppered the performance. A call from the crowd for “more drums” brought a drum-solo interlude from Ballard Lesemann, while a call from the stage for “bar towels” followed Lopez accidentally laying waste to every beverage currently sitting before him in one swift jump back to the mic stand, and during some of the in-between banter — before a new song about religion — Lopez spoke of being raised as “a good Catholic boy” which he defined as “carrying around a lifetime of guilt.”

The songs on the new record differ slightly from earlier R*A*T efforts, some tracks sounding more like Tenement Halls (Lopez’s singer/songwriter solo effort put out by Merge in 2005). But once they hit the R*A*T live mode, the pieces all fit back into the same familiar puzzle. The guitar interplay chemistry between Chris Lopez and the severely underrated Justin Hughes is a factor; Hughes consistently winds his way in tastefully placed lead lines in a diverging but complementary rhythm to Lopez’s. And despite the lack of much distortion, their guitar power was robust as a reverb-laden string section.

For a band out of the 90’s that never quite attained the same level of success as their indie-rock peers Superchunk, Pavement, or Destroyer, to the cult following that was lucky enough to be there it was, in the words of a fellow concertgoer, “like getting a much needed hug from an old friend”.

Drawing Boards started off the night with Joseph War and Nighthawks following, both laying down a mid-tempo, jangly vibe. Pictures from the night are in the gallery above, and Rock*A*Teens’ setlist and a stream of the LP are below.

SETLIST: Rock*A*Teens @ Elsewhere Zone One 7/13/2018
Lady Macbeth
Billy Really
Black Ice
I Could’ve Just Died
Cherry Red Compilation
Turn and Smile
Lost In Sound
Don’t Destroy This Night
Black Metal Stars
Crystal Skies
Cry Cry Baby
Go Tell Everybody
Baby’s On Me
Closest To Heaven
Listen Sonny Boy
New York By Helicopter

photos by Gretchen Robinette; words by Adam Blastevic

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