Their reaction, however, when 8-Track Gorilla took the stage was not quite as spirited. As the Gorilla sang along to very lo-fi, 8-track rumblings from the Rolling Stones, Bread and some obscure disco numbers, some were hip to the gimmick, but many just stared like deer caught in headlights. The numerous on- and off-stage distractions didn't really help the Gorilla's cause. A lizardman sat in on drums behind the Gorilla and a carnival-inspired backdrop bearing the cryptic phrase, "Why? Alive." and featuring the likeness of the Gorilla holding a damsel in distress laid out behind them. A trapeze artist was swinging and singing along in the audience area, while several young ladies danced around with large stuffed animals. The audience eventually warmed to the freak show and was suitably primed for the night's main event.
Drummer Ballard Leeseman opened the Rock*A*Teens set with some thick, heavy beats, reminding their Atlanta faithful that even at their most melodic, this is a band where the rhythm section takes center stage. With a sound caught somewhere between Roy Orbison, the Jam and Nick Cave's Birthday Party, the quartet stomped into their set with energy to spare. As the CD release party for their fifth album, Sweet Bird Of Youth, it was no surprise that the show leaned heavily on that material.
Despite having traded one of their three guitars for a bass, the Rock*A*Teens still spew unbridled waves of reverb. Lead singer Chris Lopez, shrugging off some of the crowd's harassment for appearing less than unfettered in his gray sweater, switched easily between guitar and organ, and the 8-Track Gorilla's carnival banner only added to the effect of the Rock*A*Teens' dark carousel songs of lost loves and last hopes.
When finished, the Rock*A*Teens left the stage as if they had won some kind of award. Maybe it was just the way the packed room at the Earl made them feel.