Scene & Herd - It's spring (aka festival season)

Art, beer, music and portable toilets

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Photo credit: Andisheh Nouraee

Last Thursday night, I went to Variety Playhouse in Little Five Points to see Stereolab. I've never met any of the members, nor do I particularly want to, but I feel close to them because the band and its music always seem to pop up at important times in my life. For example, Stereolab is the first band that I (22 at the time) ever bought a ticket to see without first liking the music. Until Stereolab, I thought rock shows were things you saw at arenas.

Even more important, several years ago I snuck a Russian-made, plastic camera into one of the group's Variety Playhouse gigs and walked out with my first decent live music photos. For more examples, wait for my unwritten autobiography, A Life Less Lived.

Where was I? Oh, yeah, the band. Stereolab's music is a mishmash of varied influences such as '70s Krautrock, the Beach Boys, the Velvet Underground and '50s bachelor pad music, all held together by an emotionally unavailable French woman singing childishly simple melodies and lyrics about philosophy and politics, often in French. While Britney Spears' fans have been and will remain unmoved, enough new college students keep discovering Stereolab each year that the band can still fill up clubs and theaters around the country with little promotion.

The show started with "Diagonals," from 1997's Dots And Loops CD, which I recognized, and then proceeded with more than an hour of music I didn't recognize, except for a tune called "Good Is Me." The only reason I know that is because I wrote down some of the lyrics and Googled them when I got home. The band's sound was a little denser than it has been in the past. When keyboardist/ backing vocalist Mary Hansen died (hit by a car while riding her bike), they replaced her with an instrumentalist who doesn't sing much. So all of those lovely "la-la-la" bits that brought some light and air into Stereolab's sound are gone for the time being.

OhNo: On Sunday, I gave up a chance to check out the end of the Tour de Georgia and the opportunity for a supremely tasteless photo of the winner with the caption, "I'd give my left nut to win this race," and instead went to Roswell for its biannual Art Walk.

I concentrated my Art Walking along the nice strip of shops and galleries that somebody wants us to call SoCa because they think it sounds sophisticated when, in fact, it just sounds BmpKin.

It's too bad, because the shops and galleries are nice. Iridium Gallery's stuff was a little restaurant decor-ish for my taste, but it's a nice gallery. I quite liked a lot of Ford Smith's landscape work (at Ford Smith Gallery), particularly "Bare Forest," a stark and frosty woods scene. He's one of Art Business News magazine's "15 artists to watch." I watched him.

Festival time: Walking in circles. Drinking beer. Using portable toilets. Buying hand-carved $90 wood salad bowls. Drinking more beer. Why, it's festival season, of course! Last weekend, I went to two. On Saturday, I went to the Inman Park Festival. For one weekend each year, Inman Park dwellers close off their own streets and invite vendors, artists, musicians and a parade to trap them in their own driveway.

Other than Hawaiian-flavored Italian ice (how's that for ethnic diversity?) and some chance meetings with nice people, my favorite part of the festival was Saturday's parade. Everyone seemed to enjoy it — except the people driving motor vehicles. Almost without exception, people in the parade with a steering wheel in front of them looked sad, sullen and even grumpy. The saddest of the bunch were the people driving cars from tour sponsor Royal Automotive Group. I'm sure that parading Buicks at 2 miles per hour in front of people who aren't going to buy one, probably ever, isn't fun when you'd rather be home or at the dealership making money, but sulking through parades is definitely bad form.

They should have acted more like the Klingons. Yes, there were Klingons in the parade. They weren't causing trouble or threatening democracy or anything like that. They smiled, waved, growled and yelled out things like, "Today is a day to celebrate. Tomorrow we may all die!"

Believe it or not, that wasn't even the parade's most memorable line. That prize goes to the marchers from Trees Atlanta who fired up the crowd with this inventive chant: "What do we plant? Trees! Where do we plant them? Atlanta!"

The Taste of Marietta festival at Marietta Square on Sunday was a little more laid back. There were no parades, and in place of sullen Buick drivers, there were gorgeous classic cars with smiling owners taking up one whole side of the square. The gems included a '66 Corvette, a '61 Impala convertible (with 2.5-inch exhaust manifold!) and a 1931 Ford Model A. The man displaying the car, Arnold Whittaker, gave the car to his wife for their 53rd anniversary. He explained that one of the most enjoyable things about owning and driving classic cars is that everybody waves, says hello, or honks their horns when he passes by.

So what exactly is the taste of Marietta? Chili's? T.G.I. Fridays? Taco Mac? Dave & Buster's? The answer is no, no, yes, yes. There were a couple of chains, but there was also a mix of Latino, Asian and old-fashioned barbecue restaurants reflective of Cobb's mixed ethnic makeup. One of the booths was Beetle's BBQ, made prominent by a VW-turned-cooker adjacent to the booth and women yelling out something about how "swine is divine."

A tangent: Why is it that pigs are always depicted by barbecue or rib joint logos as cheerfully suicidal? The Beetle's logo is a bow-tied pig happily driving a VW — presumably the same VW used by the restaurant to smoke meat. The implication is that the pig is so eager to be eaten that he's driving himself to the restaurant. "Here I am, guys. Who wants to kill me and slather me with delicious sauce?"