by Josh Gross
In the space of a single year, Boise band Atomic Mama has gone from non-existence, to drawing club-capacity crowds. It pulled off a tour, made it into the soundtrack of a local short film and even scored some out-of-town accolades.
On Jan. 20 at The Linen Building, the band got around to releasing its debut recording: Bodies in the Sun. And for a band that's had a steady trajectory upward—both in draw and presence—truth be told, it was not its best performance.
When Atomic Mama hit the stage to a packed house, instead of grabbing the audience immediately with one of its signature consciousness-bending psychedelic electro-epics, the band led with a series of far less engaging bluesy rock songs with half the punch and none of the mind-blowing. The audience danced and cheered. But they cheered twice as loud when those songs were exhausted and Atomic mother Daniel Kerr said, "I guess we're going to go electro now."
And when the band switched gears to its electro material, Kerr and company appeared to be thrown by a series of a problems with the monitor mix onstage. On top of that—both in the electro material and the bluesy songs—the overall pace and intensity lagged, likely from the recent addition of drummer Stephen Gere of The Brett Netson Band. Gere played with Atomic Mama for a gig in December, then rejoined it for a week of intense rehearsals before the EP release. The live drums helped fill the sound out fantastically, and Gere's beats were spot-on. But it lacked the pace and tightness that comes from a full year of rehearsals and performances, instead of just a full week.
No band is without their off nights, both from sound problems and shuffling members, but Friday was "Atomic Mama's night," the timing was truly unfortunate.
That said, did the crowd care one bit? Nope. They shouted "one more song" like it was the chorus to an '80s rock anthem. The band conceded defeat and gave them one more. Everyone left with wide-mouthed grins and a copy of the EP.