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 Athensrockshow.com 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.
GO SEE LOCAL MUSIC