NEW YORK, NY—If 80 percent of success is just showing up, then Harvey Milk, it could be extrapolated, took the better part of a dozen years to get the other 20 percent into the wider consciousness of the hip tastemaker scene after it got a taste for dirty rock about a half-decade ago. After all, nothing reeks of cool like obscure bands that never got their due in their time, but by all accounts, the past few years have been more Harvey Milk’s time than their first incarnation in the mid-1990s when you had to take a trip down I-95 to find the right record store in the right town and hope they had some Harvey Milk singles. Remember singles?
Then again, you weren’t even cool then; you had to track down their original demos to enter the ranks of the truly in-the-know. In the days of Rapidshare and torrent files, those deserving of that cred are few and far between, but the mythos has persisted, grown and redoubled in the blog era (and before that, via Athens-based Chunklet—the original snob outlet). And it materialized right into the Village’s latest space for equal parts art appreciation and self-satisfaction, Le Poisson Rouge.
And if 80 percent of success is showing up on time, the majority of the crowd on March 8 were abject failures and didn’t shuffle in until maybe halfway through the first set. Having more than a passing interest in Atlas Moth, I arrived before showtime to a largely empty space and firmly pinned myself to the bar where I stayed for the duration of the evening.
I’m too old for the up front shit. Even if I’m just too old in my mind.
Eventually, Chicago post-rock riff-worshippers Atlas Moth walked on stage, a band whose buzz is at a dull roar if you’re near the right honeycomb. They were recently lifted from the basements to act as support for this short tour, and being relatively ignorant of their work, I was mildly taken by the band. They could be growers, but as the band is now, they largely stand out for their competency—and to an extent, their relative uniqueness in a setting that often fears change—and I want more out of them.
Maybe it was because of their competition. After hardcore heroes Coalesce got on stage—the unyielding, unchanging bright lights beaming down on them a sharp contrast to Atlas Moth’s trippy yellow-purple Poisson Rouge treatment—and promptly played one of the tightest sets I’ve ever seen, the openers looked young and inexperienced. To use a cliché, they killed it, and not even in front of their usual crowd of hardcore lifers, but East River commuters. It was a stunning illustration of all the best aspects of hardcore and metal without any of the bullshit.
Then the trio most came to see took to the stage. Guitarist and lead singer Creston Spiers looked like a Southern interpretation of Jeffrey Lebowski who just happened to know a ton of badass riffs (Could have been the Speed Of Sound Tour.). That’s about as far as I took it, though there exists far more lavish Harvey Milk praise to point to if you don’t believe me. Great riffs are hard to come by, and the Georgia trio’s got a lot of them, so it’s really hard to criticize their show on that level, as they played quite well. Those who knew what they were getting into (i.e. most of the audience) were augmenting their mind’s picture of what a Harvey Milk experience is—as much of the crowd looked like this was their first time—and those who didn’t were still thinking about the Melvins.
It mattered not to Spiers, bassist Stephen Tanner and drummer Kyle Spence. They played it wise, starting up with upbeat and shorter numbers before getting into the newer, more drone-influenced material that grinds the neurons down like an eraser head. They didn’t look like they were buying their own hype, which is admirable, but they’re probably used to it at this point.