East Carson Street on Pittsburgh’s South Side is a zoo on any given weekend night. But the sidewalks were sparser this past Monday, July 17th, as I walked down them towards the Rex Theater. The occasion? Australia native indie rock sensations Atlas Genius were in town: part of a months-long, nationwide tour, and fresh from a two-show stint opening for Incubus. They were joined by Faulkner from Los Angeles and Nevada Color from right here in Pittsburgh. It was an exciting, energetic lineup. Shows on a Monday are tougher to rally a crowd for, but the people who came through were enthusiastic—and rightfully so.
Nevada Color’s set was a mix of old favorites and brand new songs. They also brought what I’ve yet to see them leave behind: fun, contagious energy. This isn’t always easily done (especially if the equipment of two other bands, plus five of your own members, fills up an otherwise spacious stage), but they pulled it off. The two new songs were the falsetto-heavy “Wild” and the driving “Fire Away,” which inspired an audience clap-along.
Before diving into two of their more well-known tracks, “Spotlight” and “Closer Now,” to end the set, singer Quinn Wirth made a special surprise announcement. Lead guitarist Adam Valen’s birthday was on the 18th, and both myself and another audience member had birthdays that very night. So he led the crowd in a rendition of “Happy Birthday” dedicated to all of us, punctuated by a squealing guitar note from Valen. It was a very cool gesture, that I appreciated a lot. Wirth then spent much of “Closer Now” offstage and in the crowd, singing to and hugging various audience members. All in all, they were their typical engaging, talented selves, which was a great way to kick things off.
Faulkner, too, was spirited, and committed to their slightly harder sound. Tempo-wise their set flowed well: from the deliberate and attacking “These Kids Nowadays,” to a slower midtempo track, to the fast, slightly silly “I’m Stoned,” to the heavy rallying cry of “Waters Are a Rising.” They also debuted a brand new song, the melodic, driving “Hot Streak,” which gave me a bit of an 80’s vibe, and mixed things up to good effect. They closed their set with their biggest hit to date, the anthemic “Revolutionary.” Before that, though, singer/guitarist Lucas Asher hyped up the crowd up with a repeated call-and-response chant of “Atlas! Genius!”, urging: “Let them hear ya!” By the end, several audience members were headbanging to the beat. Safe to say, Faulkner gave this set their all, and it showed.
Both anticipation and audience numbers grew as Atlas Genius’ set time approached. Before hearing about this show, I hadn’t listened to them much, but I dove into their discography once I knew that I’d be covering them. And I’m really glad I did. It was so fun to be able to dance and sing along (in between photo- and note-taking), and the band knew just how to work a crowd. Many clap-alongs (some prompted from onstage, others started by the concertgoers themselves); playful, genuine between-song banter; and the best, unexpected covers of “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” and “You Spin Me Round (Like A Record)” that I’ve ever heard—their performance had it all. To quote my to-the-point notes, it was “GOOD shit.”
As for their originals, they opened with the uptempo “If So,” closed with their smash hit “Trojans,” and in between offered a killer mix of tracks from their earlier releases (Through the Glass and When It Was Now) and their most recent album, 2015’s Inanimate Objects. I was glad to hear more of my newly-acquired favorites live, such as “Symptoms,” “Stockholm,” and the inspiring, very danceable “Molecules.” The contagious energy and rhythm of their sound was enhanced by both their skill and their obvious enjoyment of what they were doing. This spread to the crowd in a positive feedback loop—it was just plain fun.
Lead singer (and occasionally shredding guitarist) Keith Jeffery was engaging, both during and between numbers. At one point, he asked if anyone had been to the band’s home country, Australia. A couple of hands shot up, to which he replied, “You’ve been there? Oh, that’s great. I’m proud of you.” This was closely followed by, “We’ve heard rumors and legends about Pittsburgh…and now, finally…we’re here.” (Hopefully all good things, Keith.)
Towards the end of the night, he called the crowd “awesome” and revealed, tantalizingly, that Atlas Genius had been in the studio, with a new song coming out in the near future. “We’re not going to play it for you, though,” he smirked. But our brief disappointment was soon forgotten when they moved into the irresistibly catchy “Trojans” to close out their set.
As the crowd dispersed, some to the merch tables and others out into the warm July night, their chatter was animated, recharged in a way that only a great show can provide. That’s not a feeling you typically find on a Monday, but with this lineup, it was impossible not to.