ATL Collective’s greatest hits

Atlanta’s ongoing album-performance project uncovered

Frustrated by a general lack of cohesion in the Atlanta music scene and decreasing interest in full-length albums, David Berkeley and Micah Dalton formed the ATL Collective in 2009, hoping to spark a sense of collaboration among local and national acts, and pay tribute to classic works. Aided in the early days by photographer Andy Lee and songwriter Tyler Lyle, the pair began curating shows covering classic albums from start to finish. Between 15-30 artists perform at each show, which often also include themed food and drink offerings such as red velvet cupcakes for The Velvet Underground & Nico.

The Collective has staged shows spotlighting albums as diverse as Tom Waits’ Rain Dogs, Michael Jackson’s Thriller, the Beatles’ Revolver, and the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds at venues ranging from the Earl to the Goat Farm.

Dalton works with Rhiannon Clark and the Collective’s music director Matt Lipkins to choose curators to select albums and the lineups to do them justice. Berkeley, who currently resides in New Mexico, and Dalton took a few minutes to revisit the Collective’s landmark shows and discuss the project’s appeal.

Paul Simon’s Graceland, August 2010

The Collective enlisted local producer and performer Will Robertson to help with arrangements for the vocal choir. “I think this was the first album where we elevated the music to the appropriate level,” Berkeley says.

“Since we were basically a glorified house party potluck, there were moments where the line between fan and performer was blurry,” Dalton adds. “On this show, the A/C went out. It was August, and you had a room full of people singing and dancing and sweating. It was really something.”

This show was one of the first performances “where I knew we had something really special,” Berkeley says. “Something that had the potential to grow and blossom and catch fire.”

Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On, September 2011

During the Collective’s long residency at Eddie’s Attic from February 2011 to July 2012, its shows were mixed by Shalom Aberle, who often replicated the stereo imaging and classic after-effects of some of the albums, including What’s Going On. By this point, the Collective had formed a “house band” to back its performers and add a layer of consistency to its events.

“This show in particular was when we were fully introduced to Adron and Chantae Cann, two of the most signature voices in the South,” Dalton says.

Bob Dylan’s Nashville Skyline, November 2012

The Collective brought a bunch of haystacks into Elliott Street Pub to form a second stage for unplugged performances. “We would go from electric to acoustic from song-to-song and, without meaning to, sort of mirrored Dylan’s personal evolution from, or conflict between, acoustic to electric,” Dalton says. The featured act, Nashville’s Escondido, was “willing to keep it loose, which helped shape the evening into something really special.”

Johnny Cash’s Live at Folsom Prison, May 2013

Berkeley cooked up a pot of refried beans and asked the Flying Biscuit to donate some grits — both of which were served on cardboard. “We forgot, or ran out of, spoons,” he recalls. “So people were actually slopping the food up off the cardboard with their hands. Total prison scene. And the energy for that show was incredible. You can hear the audience of prisoners often on that recording, and we asked our audience to get into the role. They certainly did.”

Paul McCartney’s Ram, January 2014

“Our multimedia guru David Feldman was well on board by this record,” Dalton says. “Our productions were becoming more and more complete. We took pictures of fans smiling and then projected them onto a screen during the song ‘Smile Away.’ It was fantastic. David is leading the charge to integrate other media pieces to retell these stories. That’s the direction we’re moving toward.”