Chicago indie troupe Maps And Atlases visited Bowling Green, KY, for the first time to headline the 11th annual Spring Music Festival for the college town’s campus radio station, WWHR Revolution 91.7 FM.
The lineup was organized by students. And as the event progressed, the predominantly student audience’s shift in expectation from known regional bands who opened the show to bands on the national level revitalized the scene, as the millenials got up and danced rather than lounging on the grass.
Royal Bangs from Knoxville, TN, really kicked things in. Singer/guitarist Ryan Schaefer adds a raspy edge with his voice to match his head-bobbing. The crowd reciprocated. The trio held themselves back from time to time during the set, via a dreamy blend that may have scaled their performance down. Attendees, however, noticed the sultry highs of their set when they did come through. Chris Rusk’s beats are unsullied. As he pounds the drums, he has the crowd captivated just as Schaefer yells, killing it with a guitar melody filled with mysterious chimes. With the hook holding, the band holds its audience with a bassline made for dancing. Not pigeon-holed into any specific genre, Royal Bangs is about the fun fearlessness of music and its college radio admirers’ similar adventurousness.
Maps And Atlases followed Royal Bangs with an hour-plus, crafty performance replete with an influx of catchy hooks. Still touring on their last album, Beware And Be Grateful (Barsuk, 2012), but their first time in Bowling Green, the dudes pushed themselves out of their comfort zone with less time scheduled for sound check, as leader Dave Davison had performed an acoustic set on-air for the college radio station earlier in the day. In either setting—on stage with the electric guitar and with his acoustic at the radio station—Davison’s satisfyingly unpredictable vocals, during Fever especially, hooked listeners in.
Soon attendees began to crowd surf, though some fans left before the last song to hang around their usual local bars. However, Maps And Atlases didn’t seem to notice as they continued on with the intimate set for fans of the unusual, vying to see them in a little family park in Kentucky.
Photos and words by Natasha Simmons.