I’ll be straight. I was an ex-Ataris fan. I heard their songs at the right time, but in time Kris Roe’s lyrics were quickly overcame by other writers and performers, and my disappointment in So Long, Astoria didn’t help either.
Fast forward to Janurary 16, 2004, when I find out that an Ataris show I went to in 2003 had finally been released as a live CD. Kris Roe has been quoted many times as saying they’d never do a live CD, but they did anyway. Perhaps to hide this from their fans, Live At The Metro was released exclusively on the internet, where speculation greatly added to its luster. Was it well produced? Did it sound okay? Did it have a decent tracklisting? Who cares? I WAS AT THE SHOW!!
When I saw the tracklisting, I was disappointed. "Teenage Riot," one of my favorite Ataris' songs, which had been done very well that night, was not included. Come to see it, only 12 of the group’s songs from that concert had been recorded, when there were at least 15. However, seven acoustic tracks were included, not from the show, but the after-party acoustic show, which Greg Graffin was rumored to have appeared at.
That’s a total of 19 tracks. Five are covers. More than a quarter of the songs contained in the disk aren’t even originals. Speaking of things contained, the “cover art” championed on the website is a red herring. Live At The Metro comes in a glorified version of a CD sleeve, not a jewel case.
Enough about what the CD isn’t, as it's actually a pretty good representation of the group performing live. Sure, there’s nothing quite like seeing Kris ask for an audience member to play guitar on "San Dimas..." every night, but that’s a limitation of the medium, not the artist.
Of note, which does cut into the enjoyment in the record, Kris asks for audience participation, and then proceeds to sing and not let the crowd’s voices be heard. The few times you do hear the crowd, we sound loud and unified, just how it sounded at the show. Suffice to say, our voices make an impression.
For the last couple songs, some of the later choruses are missing, most likely due to Kris’ predilection for stage dives, and the audience is busy floating him as opposed to singing, but again, that’s part of the milieu of an Ataris show.
What’s not part of the experience is Kris and presumably the guitarist sitting down and doing storytelling-type acoustic songs, even adding on the end, “I don’t feel too much like Dave Mathews…” As per usual, Kris bares his soul to the audience, putting light to some of the hidden messages in his songs, but keeps a level of humor consistent throughout, most notably in the explanation of "Fast Times At Dropout High:" "My parents sat me down when I was 13, they said we have some things to tell you, and I thought ‘Oh shit, they found my porno mags.'" The other guitarist wittily replies: “Some things haven’t changed, Kris.”
The name of the site hawking the CD, www.atarisbootleg.com, does sound a little shady, thus giving me a reason to wonder. When I saw it was mixed by Lou Giordano (Millencolin, Ataris, Taking Back Sunday), I relaxed a little bit.
Mixing wise, it sounds just as clear as a live CD should sound. There’s polish, but not too much. I hesitate to call it grit, but it’s a good balance between live and polish.
It’s a real, honest to goodness live CD, except you can’t find it in stores. If you’re a hardcore Ataris fan, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t have this. If you like the group, and live CDs are your thing, this is for you. If you’ve never been to a show, but are a fan, it's for you. But if you’re a casual fan, skip it. I can’t say it hit me like Blue Skies…, but it did make me dig out my Ataris CDs I hadn’t listened to in awhile, which may be the best thing one can say about a live CD.
In any case, here’s the track list in electric or acoustic form, and the original artist in quotes in the case of the covers:
- Unopened Letter to the World (electric)
- 1/15/96 (electric)
- IOU One Galaxy (electric)
- So Long, Astoria (electric)
- Between You and Me (electric)
- Your Boyfriend Sucks (electric)
- Song #13 (electric)
- All You Can Ever Learn is What You Already Know (electric)
- Someday (electric, Sludgeworth)
- The Saddest Song (electric)
- Boys of Summer (electric, Don Henley)
- Astro Zombies (electric, Misfits)
- 1/15/96 (acoustic)
- My Hotel Year (acoustic)
- Hero Dies in This One (acoustic)
- Fast Times at Dropout High (acoustic)
- A New England (acoustic, Billy Bragg)
- What’s So Funny About Peace, Love and Understanding (acoustic, Elvis Costello)
- San Dimas High School Football Rules (acoustic)