As the sun went down on a beautiful Friday in Cambridge, the instagram loving types lined the outside of the Middle East Downstairs where Maps & Atlases would once again grace the stage. Regardless of whether it was their first time or fifth time seeing them, the crowd oozed with anticipation.
The first act was Sister Crayon, a trip-hop, electronic act fronted by undeniably talented Terra Lopez and her longtime band member, Dani Fernandez. They started off their set with a very beat heavy tune accompanied with nothing less than soaring vocals made of pure audio velvet, if such a thing could exist. Lopez owned the stage: thrashing from side to side and poetically using her arms as a way of evoking further the emotion behind her music- she was force unheard of.
Comparable to the likes of Jeff Buckley, Yukimi Nagano (Little Dragon), and Bjork, she has blazed a sound of her own and plowed through the set keeping the same intensity she started with. Towards the end of their set, they pulled it back into a straight ambient song that tapered into a one-minute a’capella performance by Lopez, mic-less, leaving the crowd speechless. They were very well received by the audience and as Lopez stated post show, “I think it went pretty well, like we got people to listen to us and hopefully they’re exposed to our music now.” They’ve been touring for the last two and half months and will continue to do so with Maps & Atlases for the next month.
The second act, hailing from El Paso, Texas, was Zechs Marquise- imagine if you will, taking mushrooms and seeing Rage Against the Machine without Zack de la Rocha in a haunted house in Egypt. The venue starts to close in as they start their set full force sending the audience into a head-nodding, shoulder-grooving frenzy. You could hear their experience and practice by how tight they were as a band. Energetically, they were all on the same page and it showed through their near unison head-banging. The bass player, Marfred Rodriguez-Lopez, briefly took the role of the front man, thanking the opening band, the audience and modestly advertising merch in the back.
The performance overall was phenomenal but there wasn’t very much dynamic as far as their set list goes. It was almost like blasting “I Will Always Love You” performed by the late Whitney Houston on repeat- it’s impressive, but gets a little tiring after 30 minutes. They toured with Maps & Atlases last year and as guitarist Matthew Wilkson stated in an interview, “Because I guess this is our 3rd time, 4th time, back at this venue, it just seems that you know, like people are like, ‘Oh I remember these dudes’ and people are coming to watch, y’know, us play.” They will be splitting off from the Maps & Atlases tour after their next show in Brooklyn, NY but you can catch them again this summer with And So I Watch You From Afar.
At the strike of 11:11pm, the crowd started to pack in tight for the headlining set. Chatter hums in the big combination bar and venue but the most important thing on everyone’s mind is seeing the unique stylings of Maps & Atlases. The lights went dim and the crowd went wild. The members came on one by one and Dave started the set, solo, with “Pigeons”. Drummer, Chris Hainey, leisurely tied his shoes before joining in with the rest of the band. They pay a distinguished amount of attention to detail in their songs- many made up of intricate guitar parts, grooving bass lines and complicated but accessible drum beats. There were certain songs that brought more uproar from the crowd, such as their older songs, “Artichokes” and “Witch”.
Every time Dave took the time to thank the audience and express his excitement about their new release, he was drowned out by the audience’s more than enthusiastic cheering. About midway through their set, the bass player broke out a bass drum that he then proceeded to hit like a Japanese taiko drum for a song off their new release, “The Charm”. After that epic presentation, an emotional sing- along inducing performance followed as they played, “Remote & Dark Years”. They picked it back up with a couple more upbeat songs and then brought it back down with a quiet lyrics-less piece. Needless to say, they sent the audience on a musically captivating roller coaster. They closed their set with a melodramatic piece leaving the crowd wanting more. The expected chant of, “ONE MORE SET” ensued and not a moment too soon, they came back on to perform “Israeli Caves” and a 10 minute version of their well loved, “Daily News”. Regarding their new release, Haineysaid, “…a lot of our older songs originated in a live setting, we’re used to playing them live before we recorded them. A lot of these songs we just kind of went into the studio and just did ‘em and uh, we haven’t had a chance to play them live yet… so it’s interesting playing a lot of these songs for the first time.” Maps & Atlases will be touring America until late July.