Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Live Review: Elf Power

Download: Elf Power - "Spiral Stairs"
Download: Ham1 - "I Wave Back"

Currently, I'm living in State College, PA on a National Science Foundation/NASA grant. It's a sleepy little town full of great drink specials, the people who take advantage of them every fucking night, and absolutely nothing else.

Or at least that's what I thought until last week when I noticed a flier for an Elf Power concert at a local hookah bar called Chronic Town. Three things should give you pause about that last sentence: 1) This one-horse hell has a totally ballin' hookah bar. 2) It's in Pennsylvania, but named after R.E.M.'s first album. 3) Elf Power is playing there.

It's a little weird –I'm still not sure why they'd want to play in the exact geographic center of PA rather than Philly or Pittsburgh- but I can swallow the premise if it means I get to sample some of Georgia's finest.

The show opened up with Ham1. . Their most recent CD is up for free at and it's vastly better than their live show. I'm really into weedy white guys, but these dudes droned on in a dead parade, too uncharismatic for even me to handle.
Moving on, Elf Power was really frustrating. Briefly, the show was a B+ presentation of C material. As someone who was really not into their last two albums, it would be really easy for me to spend the rest of this piece picking holes in the songs themselves, but I won't.

I will, however, pick holes in their set list. The band puts on a marvelous show. They're not an eye candy band, but they've got a lot of enthusiasm and even the dullest songs off of In A Cave and Back to the Web sound at least moderately compelling with the rough finish of a live performance. Compliment of the year? No, but I haven't listened to In A Cave (which I initially enjoyed) since it came out and I have Back to the Web deselected in iTunes. Cave is just the type of album that I feel aggressively ambivalent about, and Web is irritating in a very nebulous way. I recognize that they're touring behind the new album, but the complete lack of any old classics was really quite disappointing.

The show wasn't a total bust, though. When the songs from In A Cave were sped up and the drums turned up, a lot of the pacing issues that plagued their most recent two albums were resolved. The bottom line is this: catching Elf Power is worth it for serious fans of the band who dug the new album. About half the crowd walked out during the set– and you can smoke indoors in PA, so they weren't just craving cancer.

Elf Power MySpace Page

(April Wright)

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