Algiers at Rickshaw Stop: Step out of your comfort zone into post-punk bliss

Photo of Algiers
Christian Högstedt/Courtesy

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With musical influences from post-punk, industrial, gospel and Southern gothic literature and described as “dystopian soul,” Atlanta rock band Algiers may be a little out of some listeners’ comfort zones. But discovering a new genre — or rather, an artist that combines genres to form one of its own — comes with the opportunity to find new musical favorites. In the end, it would be difficult not to appreciate the sheer amount of talent present on a stage occupied by a band of multi-instrumentalists. Pair that skill with lots of passion, fire and smooth dancing, and you have Algiers’ concert at Rickshaw Stop.

Algiers was officially formed in 2012 by Franklin James Fisher (lead vocals, guitar, piano, Rhodes piano, cello, percussion, sampling), Ryan Mahan (bass, synthesizers, piano, percussion, drum programming, backing vocals) and Lee Tesche (guitar, loops, percussion, saxophone, backing vocals). Matt Tong (drums, percussion, backing vocal) joined the band a few years later, but was substituted on Algiers’ latest tour by Dante Foley as Tong took paternity leave. If that sounds like a lot of instruments, it is — and Algiers had no problem displaying their competency in playing them all live.

One of the first things you’ll notice about Algiers is its electrifying, mystical stage presence. Every member on stage radiates confidence, which they should; once the band members begin playing, it is impossible not to be impressed by their collective talent. Fisher particularly shines — his voice is powerful and emotional, delivering it all with smooth effortlessness while jumping back and forth between second instruments. Throughout the show, Fisher played the guitar, keys, tambourine and more, once in a while interspersing the music with glimpses of dancing. Fisher seemed to have rhythm in every fiber of his body, not once missing a beat amid his complex multitasking and improvisations.

The rest of the band is just as talented, each filling up their corner of the stage with distinct personalities. Foley brought great energy to the band, keeping the band moving with complicated, punchy drumming. Tesche’s performance reflected a lot of Algiers’ unconventional playing habits; he was seen at times playing the guitar with a bow, and toward the end of the show, the saxophone. In addition to playing some fantastic basslines, the synth and accompanying Fisher’s singing with backup vocals, Mahan often complemented the band’s playing with experimental dance. Algiers was always fun to watch in action, and its members were true performers who knew how to put on a show.

Some notable performances of the evening included “The Underside of Power,” “Hour of the Furnaces” and “Black Eunuch.” Fisher’s voice was particularly robust and vibrant in “The Underside of Power,” paired with equally full instrumentals and ethereal, choral backup vocals. “Hour of the Furnaces,” which Fisher explained was inspired by hearing a pastor say, “Don’t follow your friends into hell,” had a captivating, snappy synth part and demonstrated thoughtful lyricism. “Black Eunuch” was one of the most exciting performances of the night, beginning with a simple clapping beat and the entire band singing in unison. The song was an impressive, memorable display of some of Algiers’ key musical elements: booming, soulful vocals and experimental rhythms. If somehow the band’s musical and creative proficiency weren’t clear enough before, “Black Eunuch” made it obvious.

It would be incredibly difficult to find a live performance that would exude as much talent as Algiers’ did, and few artists would appear so engrossed in their performance and so obviously overwhelmed with love for doing it. Algiers’ set was full-energy and fast-paced throughout the evening, starting and finishing strong. The band also had amazing stage presence and performed with forceful attitude — in addition to the band’s movement and dancing, Fisher often jumped off the stage to sing in the crowd, immersing himself with fascinated listeners.

Algiers has developed its own voice, and its music is not like what you’d hear on the radio, but its individuality, musical mastery and incredible artistry deserve appreciation and a chance for it to show audiences what it’s all about. Regardless of what it plays or how it’s played, Algiers is a stunning example of musicianship at its finest.

Contact Joy Diamond at [email protected].