Reviews \

Bravery, Man Man Cap Echo Fest

ATLANTA: Hip-hop locals Collective Efforts and RJD2 man the mic and bring the inaugural event to a close.

Rising early for day three (Oct. 14), an impressive mass ofcurious fans worked their way through the Echo’s information tent,which offered up a host of literature and face to face education fromregional environmental protection groups. Forestry protection, riverclean-up, sustainable energy and locally grown organic foods were allrepresented, and somewhat surprisingly, each table was cluttered withlines of enthusiastic potential volunteers. Next door, the true spiritof the Echo Project continued in the Echo Experience Tent, where,throughout the weekend, a variety of social and environmental seminarsdrew packed crowds for entertaining and informative presentations oneverything from “Biodiesel Basics” to “Social Change Through Music.”Clearly, the message of this festival had not been lost, and it washere that the lasting potential of the Echo Project was most clearlyrealized.

Emerginginto the dustbowl that had become the stage compound, it was time totrek across the grounds for more music. Under the soothing shade of thePontiac Tent, local hip-hop/soul revivalists Collective Effortswere greeted by a lively crowd, already grooving to the house musicplaying softly overhead. Delving into the set, the band, fronted bythree MC’s and backed by a solid cast of musicians, immediately drew awave of curious bystanders from the Spoon show in progress atthe adjoining Lunar Stage. Feeding off the crowd, Collective Effortsbounced around the stage, spewing a positive message of self-awarenessand sharing that only heightened the already brewing sense ofcamaraderie and togetherness that had become the hallmark of the EchoProject.

Dreamy synth riffs emanated from the stage while BenHameen, J-Mil and Bambu continued to inspire the crowd with rhymes like”So much in the world’s gone wrong, but everything else is right.”Meanwhile, a few dozen die hard dancers kicked up an almostimpenetrable dust cloud as the rest of the audience looked on incomfort from the back. With the set drawing to a close, the band took amoment to address the festival’s larger social message. “Any of ya’llfrom somewhere other than Atlanta,” Hammen queried to a roar ofapplause. “That’s what it’s all about. Getting people together throughmusic for a good cause.” We couldn’t have put it better ourselves.

Withthe festival drawing to a close, it was one final trek across thespacious grassy knoll to catch New York indie dance rockers the Braveryat the Eclipse Stage. Unfortunately the Bravery performed againstfestival favorites Umphrey’s McGee and the Roots, but the band took itwith a stride, amping up their stage antics despite the unfortunatescheduling. Though a little contrived, it was refreshing to see thewhirling microphones and band members stumbling to and fro for a crowdthat was barely pushing thirty deep. “Any requests?” frontman SamEndicott invited. “This is a very intimate show. Whatever you guyswant, you got it.” From there, the set became a veritable storytellerssession as Endicott paused to take requests after each song andprovided lengthy explanations as to what each was about. “This is asong about growing up and having to be responsible for shit and howmuch that sucks,” he so eloquently expressed before “No Brakes.”However, as the band prepared to undertake a poppy new track — whichfound lead guitarist Michael Zakarin on vocal duties — Endicott was ata loss for words. “I have no idea what this one is about.” And as theset wrapped up with a tribute to the Outsiders and a “good olefashioned fuck the government punk rock song,” it was apparent thatwhile not the most enlightening performance of the weekend, this wouldbe a set to remember. DANE SMITH

Astemps soared into the mid-80s, Sunday’s lineup was just as scorchinghot. 2:00 P.M. was a split decision for many but indie mavens Man Manwas basically buzzing amidst audiences all morning. The Philly fivesomefound themselves as a festival fave, garnering an unlikely large newlegion of listeners who were surprised and enlightened by their janglyVaudevillian va-va-voom. It was the kind of quirky bombast that recallstoday’s trendy taste for Balkan beats, alongside the free spirit offlower children and the persistence of punk. From the flightiness of”Feathers” to clickety clacks of “Van Helsing Boom Box,” many couldconcur Man Man was, in a word from fans around the fest, “awesome.”

At the very same time, RJD2rocked the Lunar Stage for a one-off outing with a trip-hop prestigeall his own. The moody, sepia-toned soul of the DJ’s latest album The Third Handadded an unexpected edge to the festival’s free spirited energy flow.The early moments of the set presented unorchestrated scratches throughthe speakers, evolving into a more erratic showing than expected. Bythe time the tiny technical difficulties subsided, RJD2 presented anembodiment of electronic hip-hop to be envious over. Providing thepower to move, the DJ’s integration of soul spin and bouncing beatsenraptured the audience. It was understated but intense, as RJD2 alwaystends to represent — but his showing in such a kind setting made thehour blossom as a welcome break from the closing day’s chaoticlineup.