Live review: Five Eight with James Hall at Eddie’s Attic in Decatur, GA 7/27/13
Mike Mantione, the seemingly moody/evil genius head of Athens, Georgia’s Five Eight, must confuse people. His public persona before and after shows is calm and polite, but when the band begins to play, a musical demon takes over. After seeing the title of the band’s last album, Your God is Dead to Me Now (2011), it would appear that there may be some demons at work (or play) here.
Fact is, Mantione – and the rest of the band – make killer, emotional music that sounds as fresh today as it did back in their heyday in the 1990s. This was a group going places. Opening gigs for the likes of R.E.M., Cheap Trick and The Ramones, they were doing the right thing apparently at the wrong time. But dang, does he seem mad. If it’s not the trouble he’s having with his reading glasses while staring down the iPad before songs, it’s the sheer frustration with…whatever, like when inexplicably stopped playing guitar and singing mid-song (while the band continued). Spectators may have felt like they were in for a George-Brett-pine-tar-incident meltdown. It turns out that Mantione had a hectic day and barely made it to Eddie’s on time – with no time to eat. From there, it became a stressful game of catch-up. We’ve all been there. By the way, the allure of a Five Eight show usually involves this sort of thing. No other band is quite like them.
Despite all this, the quintet delivered a scorching set of tunes. Mantione, on acoustic guitar, shredded, as usual. Fans were maybe hoping he’d pick up the electric, but that would mean total destruction of eardrums and windows. Lead guitar duties were left to the amazing Sean Dunn, with the remainder of the band supplying tight, college rock-era sounds: stand-up bassist Dan Horowitz, drummer Patrick Ferguson and Sean’s brother David Dunn, killing it on the keys (he had never played in a band live and only rehearsed some of these tunes). Dunn's keys added a unique new layer of sound to Five Eight. This rare five-piece was in rare form, delivering a raw and rocking set.
Selections from Your God were performed including the terrific “Motorcycle.” The band jumped all around their nine releases, spanning back to the early days of their first CD release I Learned Shut Up (1992). In between songs, band members infused great humor while chatting with fans. Mantione mentioned at one point that he was buying shoes on his iPad. I think I believe him. The somewhat smallish room at Eddie’s (it claims to hold 165) is a perfectly intimate setting to see anyone, but Five Eight filled every inch of that room with angsty rock music. Yes, this was a rock show and there can be no argument that there was never a dull moment. Rumor has it that the band is working on some new stuff. Five Eight fans around the world rejoice. Dubbed last fall as one of the "Top Five Bands That Should Be Way Bigger Than They Are" by NPR's All Songs Considered, maybe these guys still have a shot.
Opening the show was Atlanta’s James Hall (The Futura Bold), who, if you didn’t know better, could have been a young Ray Davies. Hall emoted for nearly 40 minutes (we know this because he set the alarm on his phone) and put it all out there, at times screaming lyrics to a rapt audience. Bruce “Brucifer” Butkovich was alongside him for guitar and vocal harmonies, but it was Hall doing the lion’s share of the sweating. A true performer.
Hall executed his tunes handily, while keeping the crowd in stitches. After yelling out, “Dennis!” to Brucifer, he explained that during certain less-rehearsed songs, “we use names instead of chords, like D for Dennis.” And to silence anyone doubting his commitment, he went on to say that, “I have kids. If you think I’m doing bong hits in Cabbagetown, you’re wrong.”
For Five Eight’s final encore, Hall joined the band – sans Mantione – for a killer rendition of the David Bowie/Mott the Hoople hit “All The Young Dudes.” This was a proper ending to a poignant and memorable show.
For Five Eight tour and music info, click HERE.
To view the Five Eight Documentary: click HERE.
For James Hall tour and music info, click HERE.