Live shot July 10 2003

Echo Lounge/The Earl, June 30: By virtue of having two venues (three counting the Village) a few blocks apart, East Atlanta can easily provide continuous live music on any given night. If only the venues timed their sets so you could actually hustle back and forth without missing much. Such was the prospect on this Monday night.

Untied States is second on a bill of four at the Echo. Playing the venue for the first time, the group is definitely feeling some growing pains. Guitarist Skip Engelbrecht bounds around the stage, obviously excited with all the extra room to roam. Multi-instrumentalist Colin Arnstein has to battle the PA system, his vocals lost amid Untied's unusually busy song structures. The band's sound is noise rock with discernable pop sensibilities — experimental without driving one to madness. Jim Earley does his "Animal" (gotta love the Muppets) impression, old songs are given new twists (mostly guitar solos) to keep them fresh, and the band pulls a totally punk-rock move, distributing two full boxes of its debut release for free.

Over at The Earl, it's Popad, a young group that breaks down a song as well as any band in Atlanta, its four members playing with precision as they mesh their parts. Minor cons stem from their rather obvious attempts at dynamics: Songs often start unassumingly with only one band member playing. Popad's real strength lies in its explosive full-band sound, although their stage presence has yet to take shape. Their bassist has a habit of facing away from the crowd, and the lead guitarist and drummer (CL intern Andrew Stewart) appear to be in the midst of some heavy neuroses.

Apache Cafe, July 5: Tonight's party is a farewell celebration for Sol Uprising and Scienz of Life, two Atlanta groups led by minor-mogul Lil' Sci that are relocating to L.A. along with Sci's production company, SolVizion Entertainment. Among a host of MCs gracing the stage is locally renowned Stahhr the Femcee, who delivers a short set marred either by the PA, her own over-zealousness or both. Though she did hype the crowd, her words were often inscrutable.

Of the two honored guests, Sol Uprising took the stage first. With DJ Jon Doe, of local act Prophetix, spinning, Lil' Sci and Stacy Epps took the stage to a small but active crowd. With lyrics about relationships and oppression, the group benefits from Epps' occasional croons, which provide a measure of harmony to the beats and rhymes.

Soon enough, Lil' Sci was back with ID 4 Windz, rhyming and rabble-rousing to an even smaller crowd. Puzzled, I couldn't help but wonder why the crowd was thinning for each successive act. Scienz's innumerable guests add to the mix, and by this point, it's more of a party than a show. D.R.E.S. tha Beatnik, the night's host, unleashes a furious flow that is forceful without being overbearing.

Scienz of Life is entertaining. But it wasn't a performance so much as a time to celebrate and self-promote; each number ended with the band plugging various websites. (Maybe Sci is just trying to make sure no one forgets about him?) As for the rest of Apache experience, it's memorable for the eclectic mix of people and the mini-merchandise mart behind the pool table. Two-dollar Pabst Blue Ribbons don't hurt either.

Roni Sarig's Sharp Notes column is on hiatus and will return in late August.