MAPS OF THE NIGHT SKY with FRANK ATOM and the SALLY FIELDS at the Cameron House, January 14. Tickets: $5. Attendance: 70 (sold out). Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Oh, the pitfalls of the digital revolution. The proliferation of affordable gear has created an endless parade of shows marred by aborted tunes, missed cues and crashing disasters.
Case in point: last Friday's packed gig at the Cameron House .
First up was Montreal-based singer/songwriter Scott Gray (aka the Sally Fields ), who used a Discman as a backup band. Scott, there's a reason why musicians don't use CDs for live backing tracks: they skip. At least bring a laptop up there. Or buy a DAT machine. Or better yet, hire a band.
Gray was best when he ditched the disc and played unplugged. Unfortunately, his cutesy-pie tuneage sounded suspiciously like Lisa Loeb - minus Nine Stories.
The technical foibles didn't end there.
Up next was local indie dude Kevin Lacroix (aka Frank Atom ), one of those lone wolves who write good songs but have way too much gear. Basically, he's the Imelda Marcos of guitar pedals. Lacroix also had an old suitcase full of chintzy synths, and a drum machine covered in Christmas lights for extra quirk appeal.
But when his keyboard crapped out, Lacroix was screwed. "Serves me right," he said, sweating bricks. "I try and cut corners; instead of hiring a band, I built this suitcase. And now it's biting me in the ass."
You got it.
Thank god for local trio Maps of the Night Sky, then, whose bare, sombre twang offered much-needed respite from all the technical pimples popping up. Granted, not much can go wrong when you keep things this simple. Bassist Wes Gerbrandt plays the root notes and stands almost perfectly still, while coat-hanger-thin frontman Ray Cammaert rarely ventures above the sixth fret and sings in a no-nonsense Lou Reed/Steve Malkmus lilt.
The band's solemn vibe doesn't exactly blow up a room, though. For a CD release "party" (even though their Twilighters EP came out in September), there was a conspicuous lack of revelry. Even the drunk guy who tried to pick a fight with me did so while sitting down.
But just when things started to get dull, the band brought up Lacroix (who finally had his keyboard working) and a saw-playing Willow Dawson for the haunting A Measure Not Measured.
Clearly, they knew what they were doing.