Dave Davison plops onto his knees to tune his guitar, putting him at eye level with a cluster of fans pressed against the stage’s protective perimeter of speakers. “Who do you like, the Cubs or the Sox?” an eager onlooker half shouts at Davison, the impressively bearded frontman of Chicago-based Maps and Atlases. “Well, that’s a good question,” he responds, continuing with an explanation that involves a geographical background of his parents, as he shifts his gaze between guitar strings and the subtly encroaching fan. Next to him on stage Shiraz Dada stands with his back to the crowd, a bass strap bisecting the lettered warning on his black t-shirt: “We’re not happy, until you’re not happy.”
But if Dada and the rest of Maps and Atlases try to displease the audience, they fail miserably. The four-piece could easily spoil their delicate layers of jingles and clicks, but the opener “Living Decorations” (see Foundwaves’ video below) proves them incapable of cluttering the details. Davison meshes leathery vocals atop pristine stairways of scales, wandering away from the mic during instrumental breaks that hint at what’s to come.
Amid cymbals that chatter like cicadas in “Every Place is a House,” Erin Elders sips from his beer while continuing to finger dexterous rosettes on his guitar. Drummer Chris Hainey slams rhythms with uncanny force and precision before giving his kit a break to clap out the rhythm for the audience. When the syncopated beats prove too complicated for the crowd, a jumble of claps intensifies the multi-dimensional number.
Maps and Atlases play one of their simpler tunes, “The Glamorous Glowing,” then announce that the next will be their last. The announcement is met with a spirited resistance and Davison, through his woolly beard, appeases the fans by inviting them out front for a few more songs. People turn to their neighbors to confirm that what they heard wasn’t a playful bluff – like Dada’s t-shirt – or product of a wishful imagination. But sure enough, the band drags their gear out onto the strip of sidewalk between Mass. Ave and Central Convenience, indulging the swarm of onlookers with an acoustic encore. And for those who waited, we are anything but “not happy.”