A year ago, Atlantis rose from the depths -- the old Atlantis punk rock venue, that is, in the form of the 9:30 Club. Since then, the 9:30 has featured many of the more imaginative shows in the area, from the Cramps to writer William S. Burroughs. Sunday night, to celebrate its first anniversary, the club presented two Washington groups, REM and Tiny Desk Unit.
REM is easily the best rock group in this city (not that much of a compliment, really, given the moribund nature of the local scene). The four musicians exuded a bouncy playfulness with sharp harmonic angles and geometric beats that constituted a kind of musical jungle gym. The raucous songs belied a tightness and sense of discipline that engaged the mind as well as the feet, and the group and a curious stage presence that pleased the eye, as well. REM is short on melodies, but it has enough visual and visceral hooks to ensnare a devoted following.
Discipline, however, continues to be a dirty word to Tiny Desk Unit. While the group has improved drastically -- with funky beats and a higher energy level -- the musicians have yet to rein in their less creative tendencies.