On Oct. 28, indie rock band Mamalarky took to the stage of 529 in the East Atlanta Village (EAV) for an energetic show. On the night of the show, concertgoers and EAV locals communed at a skinny bar for cheap drinks. Behind, a doorway opened to a large black room with a small stage and adjacent bar. After the openers — Atlanta Space Quartet, an aptly-named group sporting a viola and a vibraphone player; and Safari Williams, a bantering jazz-rock band — Mamalarky took the stage.
The band set the pace of the show with the rhythmic chugging of guitar and drum from their latest release, “Meadow.” Twinkling synth melodies cascaded along to the beat, and during halftime breaks, the audience swooned to moans of ecstasy from lead singer Livvy Bennet, who sported a shroud of glowing blonde hair and a winning smile. In one discordant break, she sang “The same things that we walk past every day find new things to say.”
“Meadow” is a call for the re-exploration of familiar places as much as it is a romantic ode to the euphoria of enjoying outdoor spaces. With the shock and constraints of the pandemic seeming to wear off, there is much wisdom to be drawn from both sentiments. The song is a reminder of the joys of appreciating nature and exploring beyond our usual haunts.
Throughout Mamalarky’s performance, Bennett’s peppy charm embellished the melancholy mood of her lyrics. Accompanied by the trance-inducing precision of keyboardist Michael Hunter, who seamlessly transitioned between energetic solos and starry choruses, Bennet’s twanging guitar licks yo-yo from off-beat tension to comforting refrain. With the backing pulse of the rhythm section, Noor Kahn (bassist) and Dylan Hill (drums), Mamalarky turns to a colorful orchestra of indie rock riffs and conversational instrumentation, diverging and coming back together with skillful control.
Although Mamalarky’s style is distinct, their sound is not consistent. This leaves some tracks on their discography noticeably stronger than others. Their debut self-titled album is packed with poetic verses and sticky choruses laid over dreamy instrumentation. Yet songs like “Big Trouble,” drowned in effects and competing instrumentation, seem to throw off the arc of a quirky indie rock album. The novel arrangement of each song instead gives the impression of misplaced puzzle pieces. While this makes for a charming mosaic, it lacks a cohesiveness that might otherwise grip listeners.
Alongside local acts such as Faye Webster and Lunar Vacation, Mamalarky is a forceful addition to Atlanta’s growing indie scene. In a city awash with commercial pseudo-cultural outfits, Mamalarky is a holdout for authenticity. Hole-in-the-wall bars like 529, among others, are the hotbed for this artistic discovery. The musical undercurrents of Atlanta are a foil for the South’s historical tradition and present an opportunity to redefine the city’s beat.
A vibrant arts community enriches this city and deserves to be engaged with. Celebrate the nooks and crannies of Atlanta and you might rediscover a city you thought you knew.