The Earl's greatest hits
Twelve years of indie rock history in the heart of East Atlanta Village
In the dozen years since the Earl opened in East Atlanta Village on a once desolate block, the cozy indie rock venue and restaurant has emerged as a beacon, lighting the path for what has become one of Atlanta's most eclectic bar districts.
Best know for its legacy of the some of best soundmen in the city — from Curt Wells to Jonathan Rhum — more incredible shows have unfolded on the Earl's gritty one-step stage than most can recall. From the Hot Snakes' thunderous assault to the Mighty Hannibal's day of reckoning, the following is a roundup of a few of the greatest rock 'n' roll moments that have gone down at the Earl.
1) Hot Snake, Nov. 17, 2004: When Hot Snakes played Atlanta on the heels of releasing its third album, Audit In Progress, everyone in the room knew that a killer show was in store, but nobody realized just how profound it would be. Featuring members of Drive Like Jehu and Rocket From the Crypt, the group unleashed a searing blast of white-hot guitars, pummeling repetition and four-on-the-floor energy that, to this day, resonates as one of the greatest shows the Earl has hosted.
2) The Mighty Hannibal with Black Lips, January 12, 2007: Before Atlanta soul legend James Shaw, aka the Mighty Hannibal, began his first hometown show in 25 years, he received a proclamation from the City of Atlanta declaring it Mighty Hannibal Day. During the presentation, an entourage of civil rights activists, including Willie Ricks (aka Mukasa Dada), gathered behind the mic, along with Hannibal's backing band for the night, Black Lips. Then a half-blind Hannibal proceeded to tear into a set of fiery soul gooves, with the Black Lips playing like never before. Boy, did they look nervous.
3) David Cross, Nov. 17, 2000: By the time comedian David Cross hit the stage for a secret show, word had started to spread that the star of HBO's "Mr. Show" and hometown hero turned underdog celebrity was back in town. Due to perform a stand-up set between local pop darlings Ultrababyfat and a Cows off-shoot called the Heroine Sheiks. Cross was in town filming scenes for the film Run Ronnie Run, so his set was supposed to be a quick, middle-slot filler. But when noise-rock band the Heroine Sheiks failed to show, Cross put in overtime and became the star of the show.
4) Mudhoney, June 11, 2008: While gallivanting around the country in celebration of its 20th album, The Lucky Ones, old-school Seattle rockers Mudhoney played a liberating set of sweat-soaked primitivism. It was two decades after the group paved the way for Nirvana, Pearl Jam and everyone else who flew the grunge flag in the '90s. But after 20 years in the trenches, Mark Arm and the rest of the band's vitality was still impeccable.
5) Jay Reatard, Dec. 3, 2009: Rising punk star Jay Reatard played songs from what would become his final album, Watch Me Fall. With a new group in tow, the chemistry and maturity on display elevated his whiplash tantrums to deeper levels than ever before. It felt like the beginning of a new era for Jay, but just more than a month later, on January 13, he was found dead in his Memphis home.
6) Ronnie Spector, Dec. 10, 2005: When classic girl-group icon Ronnie Spector of the Ronettes paid a visit to the Earl to sing her heart out for a Stomp & Stammer Christmas party, she started her set with a disclaimer: "All these rap artists, they shout, 'Put your hands in the air like you just don't care!' If I hear that again I think I'll puke. When I do a concert and people put their hands in the air, they're doing it on their own." Spector proceeded to deliver a timeless set that proved her pipes could still smash through Phil Spector's Wall of Sound the same way they did in 1963, when she belted out "Be My Baby" for the first time.
7) Nikki Sudden with Deerhunter, May 22, 2004: Deerhunter opened for Glass Candy and Nikki Sudden, the former singer and guitarist for British post-punk icons Swell Maps. At the end of the set, Sudden joined Deerhunter for a rendition of Swell Maps' third single, and one of their most memorable numbers, "Let's Build a Car." Sudden claimed it was the first time he'd ever played that song in the States.
8) The Red Krayola, April 21, 2000: When Texas proto-psych visionaries the Red Krayola headlined WREK's annual fundraiser, the advertised lineup boasted vocalist/guitarist Mayo Thompson, drummer George Hurley (Minutemen) and guitarist David Grubbs (Gastr del Sol). But by the time the show finally got underway, hours after the scheduled show time, Hurley was missing, and Grubbs was stuck at the airport. With Tom Watson of Missingmen playing drums and guitar, he and Thompson started the show. But after a few minutes, Grubbs dashed through the back door frazzled and panting, grabbed his guitar and joined in. The crowd had almost turned riotous, but the band channeled the tension into one train wreck of a legendary show.
9) Suicide, Jan. 18, 2003: When the gruesome twosome of Martin Rev and Alan Vega ventured away from New York to bless East Atlanta with an evening of synth-driven art funk, it was part of a legendary comeback after a long silence. The group was touring in support of American Supreme, its first album in more than a decade after inventing the electronic pop sound that went on to dominate '80s radio. But when the duo whipped out a few hissing beatscapes from its glory years, the collision in the room of antique cheese and legitimate musical mythology became palpable.10) Vampire Weekend, March 9, 2008: Just one day after Vampire Weekend appeared on "Saturday Night Live," the Afro-pop-championing indie darlings of the Ivy League played a sold-out show with the Walkmen. The sell-out crowd was ecstatic — a total contrast to Vampire Weekend's show at the Earl eight months prior, when the band opened for ATL space-funk collective Noot d' Noot to a bare-bones crowd of 50.</p?