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Olivia Tremor Control and Elf Power
Barbarella
70 North Orange Avenue, Orlando, FL
January 21, 1999

The early show was slated for 8:00 PM Thursday evening, but it didn’t get started until well after 9:00, because the Elf Power van broke down on the road to Orlando. Not a good way to begin a tour, but the undaunted Elf Power persevered. Ironically, this outside patio concert overlapped with Barbarella’s goth dance night inside the club. The happy-go-lucky music of Elf Power and Olivia Tremor Control seemingly clashed with the surly, Bauhaus-lovers, but the men and women in black mingled with scruffy indie-rockers without incident.

The fantasy comic book-influenced Elf Power opened with a cover of Thinking Fellers Union Local 282’s “Noble Experiment.” And midway through the set, they pulled out the Flaming Lips’ “Felt Good to Burn.” Their original songs, however, aren’t as catchy as their covers. Elf Power is another Athens, Georgia–based Elephant 6 collective who share band members, instruments, recording equipment, and musical advice with friends in other groups. They visited Orlando this last summer as the opening act for Neutral Milk Hotel. This evening, Elf Power shed their slightly embarrassed, indie-dork impression for a more self-assured, even aggressive sound. A much improved band, they dominated their instruments rather than hid behind them. The lead singer/guitarist even refrained from his long-winded song explanations involving imaginary trolls and secret castles.

Olivia Tremor Control was decked out in grunge-era flannel shirts, which I hear are all the rage in Athens right now. (Are we beginning to have early 1990s nostalgia already?) The group performed a handful of songs from 1996’s Dusk at Cubist Castle and the new double-album Black Foliage: Animation Music by the Olivia Tremor Control. I felt a bit privileged because Black Foliage won’t be released for another week or two, and I’ve already worn out my advance copy of the CD. Highlights from the new album included “A Familiar Noise Called ‘Train Director’” (with the psychedelic chorus of “With the blink of an eye, you get double meaning”), “A New Day,” and “I Have Been Floated.” Although the quartet didn’t have a brass section or video projectionist as promised by the singer/guitarist Bill Doss in an earlier interview, the bass player doubled on oboe. Unfortunately, the keyboards were low in the otherwise clean audio mix. Olivia Tremor Control complained of monitor troubles all night.

The Barbarella outdoor patio venue was a refreshing change from the Sapphire/House of Blues circuit that most small-to-medium sized bands take when performing in Orlando. The weather is perfect this time of year, and I’d like to see more national acts take this stage soon.

Originally published as “Athens Blend” on the Orlando Weekly website on January 26, 1999.