With a truck accident on Interstate 70 turning the Denver-based band’s drive to Las Vegas into an 18-hour odyssey that included sleeping in a Burger King parking lot, The Photo Atlas had plenty of pent-up energy to burn. Three straight dance-punk scorchers into the foursome’s set, singer/guitarist Alan Andrews finally exhaled, “We’re very happy to be out of the van.”
The Photo Atlas blistered the stage with their Gang of Four-meets-Fugazi style, rocking hard and fast enough for the guys to head-bang, but with enough rhythm to get the ladies in attendance bouncing around.
Andrews, resembling a young Trent Reznor with his black, side-swept hair and all-black ensemble of tank top and cutoffs, delivered his high-pitched, frantic vocals as if someone were threatening his freedom. He also channeled his inner Bono, engaging the crowd with some fervent hand-clapping during the first song, and later standing tall at the front of the stage to lead a fist-pumping “Hey!” chant.
Guitarist Bill Threlkeld’s rapid-fire, angular riffs only increased the songs’ anxious urgency, while Mark Hawkins attacked his bass with a ferocity that left him shaking out his right hand after a couple of songs. But it was birthday-celebrating drummer Joshua Taylor who kept the high-speed train on the tracks, pummeling his high-hat with lightning-speed precision, and flying recklessly around his kit without giving up the groove.
The band members left the stage exhausted and soaked in sweat following their 45-minute rhythmic assault—a cathartic release before they climbed back into the van and headed to the next night’s show. ★★★☆☆