Sharp Notes July 01 2004

Corndogs & shameless nostalgia

In a veritable display of trooper-dom, I attended all three days of Corndogorama. I took in tunes, took in beer, took in scintillating conversation, and even took in a corndog or two — eventually discovering that my body is mercilessly corndog-intolerant.

It was fitting that my last weekend working for the Loaf — What? You didn’t know? — was spent at Corndog. Last year’s festivities at the David Railey-curated mania were some of my fondest memories of covering Atlanta music.

It was the first time I had seen bands like the Subsonics, American Dream and Paper Lions. If you know me, you know that the Paper Lions performance made me an instant fan. So perhaps it is fitting that just as I am leaving, Paper Lions has decided to split. I caught them in New York City twice, saw them play nearly 11 sets in the last six months and lived with them at South by Southwest. And as tired as I was when I got back to work after that weekend, I had nothing on the band members, who had apparently just had enough.

I also saw A Fir-Ju Well for the first time at Corndog 2003, though at 4:15 a.m., it was three songs and out for me. I have since made up for it, taking in four performances. The combustible energy, free-flow dynamic and otherworldliness of the band is remarkable, and its work ethic is unparalleled.

Except maybe by Brooks Meeks and the Close. Meeks and I went to high school together, and though we didn’t know one another — unless he picked on me and I repressed it, him being a mighty senior and me being a pee-on freshman — he is by far the nicest person in the scene. Even though the Close was already a great band when I first saw it open for Spoon in 2002, the songwriting is better, the band tighter. I am finally used to the disrobing of bassist Dustan Nigro. In fact, I almost look forward to it.

I also had to say goodbye to Untied States. The noise imperialists have suddenly swelled to five members, and, crammed on the tiny side stage on Saturday, they were the only band I saw in the right corner to match the sound and intensity of the main stagers. They drop a new album in July, so keep an eye out.

Corndog was also a day of realizations. For instance, the two best pop groups in the area — Luigi and the Whigs — both have left-handed drummers. Also, they are both unsigned — hint, hint.

The Whigs, who, along with the Lions, could have lured me into groupie status, were phenomenal Saturday night. So phenomenal that in my inebriated state, I may have offered to pay for the recording of a full-length. But I guess if you can’t remember saying it, you never did.

Watching them among all this other talent reminded me of the titanic struggle between them and another powerful local trio: the smoother and smokier Telegram at last year’s Open Mic Madness, which — shameless plug alert! — is going on at Smith’s Olde Bar again this year, Aug. 16-21 ( That night, the Madness ended with the majestic near-psychedelia of the Whigs just nudging the swaggering pop of Telegram aside.

There were so many triumphant moments related to Atlanta music during my yearlong tenure: OutKast’s victories at the Grammys, Danger Mouse’s seamless Grey Album, Usher’s ubiquity, Dave Chappelle’s aping of Lil Jon, the Hiss threatening to put Atlanta on the map for rock. Looking forward, albums by Sleepy Brown, Cee-Lo and Goodie Mob are out to show the world that OutKast is part of a family. In conjunction with Kennesaw native and underground phenom MF Doom, they should reveal our town’s innovative hip-hop roots.

What I enjoy the best about all these exciting happenings is that the Vibes section has not been caught totally unaware on any of them. In fact, in many cases, we had first knowledge.

And so, I leave the city that has held me captive for 15 years of my life knowing that it is not the culturally vapid town that so many “cities on the rise” become. On the surface, it may seem overly concerned with luring corporations, it may not have the best public transportation, and it may be given to a little sprawl here or there, but there is a vibrant community of concerned artists from the Apache to Echo Lounge keeping everything real. And that will give me something to come back to.

That, and my self-destructive urge for corndogs.