Corndogorama: History on a stick

David Railey celebrates the past and present of Atlanta music

David Railey looks pleased when talking about the 100 bands lined up to play the Corndogorama music festival this year. "It's a musical roller coaster," he says. "It is the most diverse Corndogorama ever and I get surprised every time I think about how many different things are happening this year."

Not only has Railey staged a massive showing of Atlanta's emerging talent, he has assembled a glimpse of the city's past by lining up acts that influenced him when he himself was an emerging young artist.

What began as Railey's birthday party in 1996 has grown into a four-day celebration of Atlanta's independent music scene with an indoor/outdoor festival, and lots of corndogs. This year marks the 12th anniversary of Corndogorama, and the lineup is a mixed bag of indie rock, hip-hop, metal and electronic music, spread out over three stages at Lenny's in the Old Fourth Ward.

But Railey is particularly proud of the time capsule he has put together for Friday night. Bands from a bygone era will perform from 8:30-11:30 p.m., offering a glimpse of what Atlanta's late-'80s/early-'90s alternative rock scene was all about. Magnapop, James Hall (formerly of Mary My Hope) and Hollyfaith are all on the bill. These bands transcend the festival's typical, fresh-faced patrons and performers adding a bit of historical flavor to the Corndog.

On a personal level, booking these acts together brings Railey's musical endeavors full circle. "These bands inspired me to be a better musician," he says. Currently singing and playing guitar with the Khans (U.S.), Railey fronts the trio that's filled out by drummer Travis Denton and bass player Corinne Lee of Snowden. Unlike his recent singer/songwriter-oriented projects Day Mars Ray, Casionova and American Dream, the Khans harness a fuzzed-out indie-rock din of dark and jagged shoegazer sounds. The influence of bands such as Hollyfaith and Mary My Hope is subtle but undeniable.

"The energy they all displayed was so powerful that I had no choice but to work harder to be a better performer," he adds. "I remember thinking that if a local band can be as incredible as Mary My Hope then I have a lot of work to do."

Each of these bands, or at least their frontmen, has continued to play music in one form or another, with the exception of Hollyfaith. As a result the group's songs remain unchanged. Its sound captures a specific time and place, and witnessing it in the present is a jostling experience.

Watching the videos for Hollyfaith's "Bliss" and "Whatsamatta" on Youtube recalls an era that was awash in the deluge of grunge and the lo-fi recording boom. It was a time when underground music, fashion and culture were at a point of maximum saturation. Bands like Jane's Addiction and the Cult dominated the college charts.

Hollyfaith's songs are beacons from the era that straddled a line between retro-cool and not-yet-aged to perfection. But its sound landed the group on Sony/Epic and garnered a lot of fanfare.

"Atlanta was different back then," says Hollyfaith vocalist Rob Aldridge. "People went to see bands for entertainment. There wasn't the Internet at home. People paid $5 to see us or Mary My Hope and we could easily sell out the Cotton Club or the Roxy every time we played. It wasn't because we were such a great band, but because it was a great scene that had its own energy. Being in front of people makes better shows.

"Then we all got signed and went on tour and the scene ended. Our desire for success killed our backyard fun. Corndogorama is a great opportunity to see what Atlanta once had."

While being referred to as a "local legend" is flattering, says James Hall of Mary My Hope, he hesitates to accept the title. "We get credit for things we did and didn't do," Hall says. "I don't carry much weight with the younger crowd and I don't carry much weight with the older crowd; I just carry my own weight."

He adds that Mary My Hope was also a much different band that fit in with a different time, more so than anything he has done since. The big hair and goth-tinged shades of glam and hard-edged rock that defined Mary My Hope are a far cry from the sultry but refined pace of his recent material. "Mary My Hope had a little more Pink in its Floyd," he says.

While this year's festival doesn't boast heavy hitters like last year's headliner, metal behemoth Mastodon, there's a robust roster on deck. Zoroaster closes Corndogorama on Sunday night, while scores of other acts, including Snowden, Noot d' Noot, Wake Up Call (featuring Dinco D, formerly of Leaders of the New School), Anna Kramer & the Lost Cause and NEC keep the party going for four days.

From garage/punk wild men Thee Crucials to the electro-funk of Judi Chicago there's something for everyone on the bill.

For Railey, mashing up these vestiges of Atlanta's past with its present is an honor. "It's kind of a dream come true," he says. "These bands were a real influence on me. It took me years to even remotely pay it back, but I think this comes pretty close."

CL recommended Corndogorama performances

Thurs., June 26

Attractive Eighties Women. 10 p.m.

Thee Crucials. 11 p.m.

Fri., June 27

DJ Hot Tub. 5:55 p.m.

CX Kidtronik. 6:45 p.m.

DROPBOMBZ. 7:15 p.m.

Klever. 9:30 p.m.

Noot d' Noot. 10:50 p.m.

Judi Chicago. 11:20 p.m.

Dan Deacon. 11:45 p.m.

Sat., June 28

DJ Kemit. 5:35 p.m.

NEC. 7 p.m.

Subsonics. 8:30 p.m.

Gringo Star. 9 p.m.

Abandon the Earth Mission (featuring members of Macha). Midnight.

Sun., June 29

Brass Castle. 5:30 p.m.

Maserati. 9 p.m.

Zoroaster. 9:45 p.m.