Fri. Nov. 4
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Even among like minds, Andrew Rieger, the founder and leader of Elf Power, is one of Athens, Georgia’s great rock historians. He’s been to more shows than you have. He knows more anecdotes and trivia than you do. At one point, rumor had it that Rieger kept his rock knowledge in a stack of spiral-bound notebooks; when I mention it to him, he insists he knows not of what I speak.
For a man so well-versed in rock’s past, Rieger remains constantly plugged into its present. For a rock combo such as Elf Power, keeping it real implies steady change. From the punky do-it-yourself psych-pop of the early days through the long-playing grandiosity of 2000’s The Winter Is Coming and the inspired yet unpretentious covers album Nothing’s Going To Happen, to “Never Believe” (2004’s catchiest ditty about impending doom, off the streamlined finger-snapper Walking With The Beggar Boys), it’s been quite the ride.
Rieger has remained one of the band’s few constants amid an ever-shuffling membership. “Elf Power has had a different lineup on every album,” he says, not without moss-free pride. “It’s a constantly evolving organism.”
In its steady pursuit of the new, Elf Power has outlasted its erstwhile contemporaries from the Elephant 6 neo-psych scene, of which it was a core affiliate. The Power maintains its headquarters in Athens (where E6 flourished before the century’s turn), and continues to draw from that town’s deep pool of musical talent. Local fixture John Fernandes (of The Olivia Tremor Control and The Circulatory System) and cellist-at-large Heather McIntosh will play on the next record. Josh Lott (ex -Paper Lions) recently replaced longtime drummer Aaron Weiglin. Bassist Bryan “The Late B.P. Helium” Poole, who left the band in 2000 but remained an Athens denizen, is now back in the fold. Besides Rieger, Laura Carter is the most prominent holdover. Aside from her duties in Elf Power, she also runs the Athens entity Orange Twin. (It’s a record label! It’s a music venue, which has hosted local bands, New Zealand out-pop legends Tall Dwarfs, cryptic Midwestern folkie Will Oldham and more! It’s a “compound,” for which the bylaws can be found at orangetwin.com!)
This month’s touring lineup finds Derek Almstead (of Summer Hymns and Of Montreal) standing in on bass and newcomer Jimmy Hughes on guitar.
Reiger describes the band’s forthcoming “latest masterwork” as “folkier and more orchestrated than past efforts,” but assures us it “still rocks like a madman.”
Recently, the original Olivia Tremor Control (essentially defunct since 2000) reunited, and has played shows with Elf Power. It figures, since Elephant 6 brought surreal experimentalism to the mainstream long before The Wire and Arthur hatched “New Weird America” and such idiosyncratic acts as Animal Collective took over Tower Records’ listening stations. The time is ripe for resurgence. Don’t call it ’90s nostalgia, though. On Elf Power’s message board, posters still complain that the band doesn’t hit enough all-ages venues.
Few bands relish a good tour like the Power. After they cut a quick swath through the Southeast, the band heads westward. Their righteous chemistry and unpredictable covers are not to bemissed.
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