Monday, April 22, 2013

Locals Only

     I had a great discussion with a musician from a local band here in Atlanta this weekend.  We talked about the state of local music in the Atlanta/Athens area.  We discussed who was writing what about the subject, good or bad.  We discussed local music festivals and their willingness to bring in big bands for big bucks, which in turn screws over the local musicians.  This musician shared with me his thoughts on what should be the path for local businesses and local musicians and where those loyalties should lie.  We enjoyed local barbecue sandwiches while we talked, listening to the spring rain pound the roof in Little Five Points.  In this moment I realized how important the term local is to everything I buy, including my concert tickets. Now, ten plus years removed from my residency of L5P, I completely understand what those bumper stickers stood for and how much the local neighborhoods need local support as well as the musicians in them and the art they produce.  Oddly enough, the musical experiences I had planned for the weekend turned out to follow this discussion to the t and it pulled the blinders off my eyes for a lack of a better term.  Local music here in Georgia is full of musical peaches ripe with whiskey soaked voices and thundering guitars, loud enough to make any outlaw happy.
     After my superb barbecue lunch at Fox Bros. in Little Five Points, I headed to Athens.  Bloodkin was playing at the 40 Watt later that evening and I had a meeting with Nuci’s Space in a few hours.  On the ride, I listened to Bloodkin, shuffling from album to album.  I reminisced on my first experience with Athens, Georgia years ago and how much I loved living there.  I thought about all the friends I made there, working at Rafferty’s, and how simple life was then.  I was first introduced to Bloodkin and Widespread Panic in 1994, and those are days I hopefully will never forget.  I remember my roommate and me, listening to Can't Get High, over and over again.  We had both broke up with our girlfriends around that time and that song seemed to heal whatever pain we were feeling.  Now that I think about it, Bloodkin has quite few songs that have helped with my healing from wounds from others and of my own making. For years Rotgut and Quarter Tank of Gasoline were always two of my go to songs when life got heavy.  Now, the entire Baby, They Told Us We Would Rise Again album has conveniently, coincided with the last two years of my life, and in my opinion deserves every bit of four stars and might be the best album the band has ever put out. 
     I walked into the 40 Watt with my friend Daniel from Friday night around 10 pm and the Dashboard Saviors were well into their opening set.  I recognized the name of the band but I have no recollection of them from my time in Athens in the early nineties.  This is completely unfortunate for me.  These guys freaking rocked.  Now that I have a full on obsession for outlaw-alt country-punk-rock, these guys blew me away.  The lead singer’s southern twang permeated my ears while I watched their amazing drummer completely assault his drum kit as if it had just fucked his girlfriend.  His beats were fierce and eloquent all at the same time.  All I could think about was how am I just finding out about this band now that they are for all practical purposes defunct?  It was like falling in love with a woman in one night knowing you will never see her again. 
     While Bloodkin was taking the stage, Daniel pointed out to me the crowd was a who’s who of Athens musicians.  John Keane and Patterson Hood and a few other names were there to check out the music for the evening.  The fans that had assembled to see the show were older, definitely closer to Bloodkin’s age than the typical college crowd.  It had been years since I have seen the entire band play.  I caught an acoustic show of Danny’s a few years back in Boulder, Colorado.  It was exciting to hear that solid Athens sound I fell in love with so many years ago.  Danny quickly apologized for the state of his voice, clearly showing their age, in turn making me realize it has been almost 20 years since I first saw this band.  I was very happy to hear them play My Name is Alice, a song that I have had on repeat for the last six months or so.  Rotgut, Mercy Train to Bogart and Success Yourself were also highlights.  Those are three songs that I could hear every day and they would never get old. It was really fun to look around the crowd and see folks my age and older getting down and rocking out to a much older and wiser Bloodkin from what I had seen in my younger days.  I could hear the love for the Rolling Stones in Eric Carter’s voice when they closed with their rendition of Happy, and he nailed it.  They came back on after a short break and encored with Henry Parsons Died and Dylan’s New Pony.  Both, in my opinion, are painful songs about the south full of mystery and the dark.  These are subjects Bloodkin portrays strongly in their music, which is what makes me a fan.  All in all, I headed back to my hotel room after the show feeling completely full and satisfied with my night full of home grown rock n roll.  After all these years Bloodkin does not disappoint and still knows how to play that straight up rock n roll I love so much. 
     On a big side note, before entering the 40 Watt, Daniel insisted we stop into Flicker next door to catch a bit of Scott Low’s solo show.  He swore that I would like it and he was right.  Scott is a local Athens musician and the lead singer of the self-proclaimed folk-rock band Efren.  Scott’s whiskey drenched vocals immediately pulled me in while he sang about hard times and hard drinking, while stomping his boots to keep the time.  Today, I have listened to Efren’s latest release, Write a New Song two times over and I cannot wait to see them live.  They are dynamic and full of roots rock and the southern twang that moves my soul.  It will be exciting to see where these new southern rockers end up. 
     It is safe to say that “local” is the direction Locomotive is headed.  I have spent my time following bands in the big arenas and now it is time to rein it in a bit.  My two new favorite bands, The Higher Choir and Efren, neither which I have seen live yet, are the epitome of the music that I love.  Songs about hard living and hard rocking are what seem to wet my whistle today.  It makes me smile to be a part of this local music and enjoy it while I can before it catches fire. I am not forgetting about all those big national acts that I still love, just slowing down and redirecting my focus on the local gems that could use a spotlight or two. 


Sunday, April 7, 2013

6 Friends 3 Shows and a Nuci’s Space

      In lunch meeting I had on Thursday with a fellow music enthusiast and writer, we agreed on the way we saw and felt about music.  We discussed the feelings that we share at a live show of amazement, excitement, waiting for the spark to light the fire.  We went into great detail about how we share the constant quest for more music.  New, old, it does not matter.  I need and want all of it.  I know hundreds of music fans but only a few seem to have the calling to be completely engulfed in music’s bittersweet embrace.  Luckily, this weekend I was able to see five friends who share this obsession, see three shows in two days and meet with an organization that depends on the musically obsessed to help musicians in need.
     The weekend started with a collaboration meeting with a friend of mine that is about to graduate from the University of Georgia.  She is well connected in the music scene in Athens, and like I mentioned before is obsessed like me with rock n roll.  We shared our ideas and thoughts over burgers and coffee, watching the cold spring rain. We discussed some ideas and ways to help each other further our writing and such.  I was meeting her older sister later that evening for dinner and the Black Angels show at the Georgia Theatre.  My writer friend expressed that she was working the merch table for the impromptu acoustic Perpetual Groove show that evening and that she would try to get us in.  I had only seen PGroove a couple of times and was hopeful to get in since they were breaking up and playing their last show on Friday night in Athens.  The weekend was shaping up nicely; now it was time for a nap at the hotel.  The rest would be needed if I was to be running with these two sisters in a night full of rock n roll.
     Thankfully the rain stopped  my friend and I were able to grab a nice, dry, dinner before the music started.  After sharing a few small plates we headed to the Green Room to see about getting in to the Perpetual Groove acoustic show.  The band and my friends are very close as well as many of their fans, so as expected my friend was bombarded with hugs and joy immediately upon entering the super crowded bar.  The band was only going to play for an hour and so we were lucky to have gotten in.They were right at the halfway mark of their hour when we walked in.  I did not know the first two songs I heard, but I enjoyed them as I watched the band just a few feet away play their instruments.  After returning from a bathroom break I found the sisters, right as the band was finishing a cover of Modest Mouse’s Float On.  I love that song and the whole place was rocking.  It was fun to watch my friends smile even with heavy hearts as they watched their friends and favorite band play.  Finally the band played the only song I knew to wrap up the show. “It Starts Where It Ends,” is a song about the inevitable and moving forward, and is one that I have listened to over and over in the last year and a half of my own struggles.  The sisters next to me danced and sang along, crying, which brought tears to my eyes, reminding me why I listened to this song in the first place.  It was a sad but amazing feeling to be there with my friends loving the music that they loved and to be a part of that. 
     After the Perpetual Groove show we headed to the Nowhere Bar, where any self-respecting Widespread Panic fan goes before any show at the Georgia Theatre.  My friend Woody was in town from Denver for PGroove, and he met us there for a few drinks before we headed in to the Black Angels.  Woody is one of those friends that like me are completely obsessed with rock n roll.  It was great to see my friend even if for just a few minutes.  My friend Patricia finally showed up, and yes she is one of us, and we headed across the street to the Theatre.  There are not many feelings that equal walking into the rock show with three hot, amazing women.  Needless to say I was a very happy man.  We were all lucky enough to end up on in the VIP section for most of the show.  It was my first time seeing the Black Angels and I was blown away.  The band consisted of four guitar players, two of which also played keyboards and a woman on the drums. This was a lineup that I had never seen.  At some point everyone traded guitars, including the base during the show.  There must have been 50 pedals on stage, even ones on top of one of the organs.  The sound was loud, and full of reverb and distortion.  The band was tight and confident.  It was a sound I have never seen live before and I loved it.  It was dark and haunting, which to me are essential in rock n roll.  They played for an hour and a half straight, with the drums turned way up.  The woman on the drums beat her skins violently and passionately.  The psychedelic images on the back drop were fantastic, reminding me of the only time I saw Jeff Beck.  The back ground images bounced back and forth to the beat of the base line and strobe lights.  Yes, folks this was without a doubt a rock concert.  The cool part was it is music for smart people.  There were “Blog Dorks” everywhere dressed in black and bobbing their heads.  It was well worth the $45 I spent on three tickets and cannot wait to see them again in May.  However, seeing them will require some intense homework so I can know the songs I am hearing.  A must see in my opinion.  I cannot wait to see my poster in a frame!
     After a nice lunch downtown the next day with the rock n roll twins, I had yet another fantastic meeting which I will get to later, and headed to Atlanta for my first My Morning Jacket concert.  After four years of trying so hard to like this band, spending time putting an honest effort into listening to them, something finally clicked.  I was grocery shopping a few days before the show, listening to MMJ and something hit me deep inside.  It was that moment I had wanted for the last four years.  I have always wanted to like this band, yet something was keeping me from that jumping off point, but here I was, two days before seeing them live for the first time live.  Like seeing the Black Angels for the first time, I had no idea what to expect.  I was meeting two friends at Centennial Park for the show that were huge fans and the anticipation was killing me.  From the first guitar lick to the last, I was completely amazed.  I recognized a handful of songs, as I have been listening diligently.  I knew that if I could recognize as many songs as possible there would be a better chance of liking the show.  Well to be honest, that really did not matter.  I am rock n roll fan.  I love load guitars and musicians that know how to play them live.  Jim James’s light and high voice permeated downtown Atlanta along with the chest pounding guitars.  If I could feel the base guitar and drums bouncing off my chest fifty rows back.  Very rarely does that happen and the show sucks, especially an outdoor show.   So, I will admit, on record, that I was wrong.  My Morning Jacket is absofuckinglutely the real deal.  They were by far the best show I have seen in the last two or three years hands down and I have seen a lot.  It is perfect timing too, as my life has been changing and so has what I have been wanting to see live, this new love could not come at a better time.  I will not be missing another MMJ show within a 500 mile radius.  I cannot wait to see Jim James at the Shaky Knees Festival in a few weeks.  These guys are fairly young in their careers and it will be an exciting road to follow!
     Last but not least I want to share a bit about the meeting I had before I left Athens I mentioned in the paragraph above.  Nuci’s Space is a nonprofit organization in Athens, Georgia that helps to prevent suicide by providing obstacle free treatment for musicians suffering from depression and other such disorders as well as to assist in the emotional, physical and professional well-being of musicians.  Since, battling with my own health and addiction issues in the past, this is a group I have kept a close eye one. Back in January I was able to go to the Drive by Truckers Nuci’s Space benefit shows as well as the fundraiser at the space.  It was at that fundraiser where I was fortunate enough to have a local Athens musician share his story with me and how Nuci’s Space was pivotal in his recovery. As an aspiring writer, a recovering drug addict and alcoholic, and rock n roll fan I was immediately inspired to get involved with Nuci’s Space.  I know how hard my own struggles have been and understand what it means to be without insurance.  So, it makes sense to me to do whatever I can to help out fellow artists in their time of need in a city that I love any way I can.  I met with Nuci’s Director Bob Sleepy and Volunteer Coordinator Lesley Cobb on Friday to discuss how I can help.  We had a great discussion and hopefully we will be looking into several ways and means to help grow this organization and help create a better life for the musicians that make the music that we love so much.  Please stay tuned for further updates on Locomotives involvement with Nuci’s Space. 
    I am going to keep this closing short and sweet.  That was an amazing weekend.  It was a weekend full of friends, great music, beginnings and ends, and the promise of a better day.  I could not ask for more out of life.  The old saying is true; you get out of life what you put in.  That was completely evident this weekend,  I received everything I wanted and so much more.  I am blessed and forever grateful.

If you are interested in Nuci’s Space, visit their website