Atlas Sound + Broadcast: 17 October 2009 – The Black Cat, Washington D.C.

Saturday night was about as cold and rainy as they come here in Washington D.C. but that didn’t stop a few hundred kids from packing into the Black Cat for an evening of ethereal, psych-tinged rock. First up were Atlanta’s Selmanaires, who did double duty, serving as both opening act and backing band for Bradford Cox. As the Selmanaires, they ably warmed up the crowd with a set of energetic, Talking Heads-indebted dance rock.

Though they easily could have headlined, Birmingham, England’s Broadcast hit the stage next, serving up one half-set of protracted, ambient experiments followed by another half-set of recognizable songs. Trish Keenan, fittingly outfitted in a white robe, hovered wraith-like over a table crammed full of blinking electronics, her long, dark hair obscuring her face. A series of brightly colored projections behind the band provided most of the visual stimulus, as Keenan and James Cargill did their best to remain hidden in the shadows. Though the first half of the band’s set was captivating in its own right, the audience seemed to breathe a collective sigh of relief when the duo dusted off a few familiar numbers during the second half, including the obligatory “Black Cat.”

Finally, Atlas Sound took the stage. Despite the electronic underpinnings of many of the tracks on Cox’s latest full-length, the excellent Logos, live, the songs were rendered with a pronounced organic bent. Midway through the set, Cox played “Walkabout” and “Shelia,” the album’s two most immediate tracks, back-to-back, utilizing little more than a heavily delayed acoustic guitar, a loop station and the sound of his own voice. Thanks to the stripped-down setup and the Selmanaires’ capable backing (of particular note was the rhythm section, anchored by two percussionists), the songs took on stunning new shapes, sounding at once familiar and fresh. At the set’s close, Cox issued a few shout-outs–most notably to Animal Collective’s Brian “Geologist” Weitz, who DJed in between sets and waited in the wings during most of Cox’s performance–and then promptly decamped to trade mixtapes and stories with the kids in the front row.