Scene & Herd - Ahem - wasn't there, like,

a festival or something?

As you know, last weekend there were two huge events in town vying for the valuable leisure time of metro Atlantans. Rather than spend a short, unsatisfying amount of time at both, I decided to choose one and focus my time and attention on it.

So, the bad news first: I skipped last weekend's Southeast Leatherfest at the Radisson Northlake to spend more quality time at the Atlanta Harmonica Enthusiasts Meeting. It was Saturday at the Central Congregational United Church of Christ on Clairmont Road.

The meeting officially began with host Matthew going over some rules. The first rule of Atlanta Harmonica Enthusiasts Meeting is, "You do not talk about Fight Club."

Actually, the first rule of AHEM is that you have to want to play the harmonica. The second rule is that if the group needs money, it should earn it directly rather than try to get a sponsor. As Matthew explained, sponsors "might kinda change the tone of the group, or they might try to influence it." Another important rule is that there are no secrets allowed. If you play something and someone asks you how to play it, you have to tell them. The final rule is, "If someone says stop, goes limp, taps out, the fight is over." Actually, that rule also was from Fight Club.

The meeting promised a demonstration on the art of two-hole soloing, and boy, did it deliver. Before demonstrating, Matthew explained how two-hole soloing fits into his philosophy of harmonica playing. "I believe in getting to know each hole intimately, trying to learn every possible lick that you can do on the different holes. That's how I teach - to really pound the crap out of every hole."

Since important parts of my brain are stuck in adolescence, I was barely able to control my laughter when he said that. I'm so immature, in fact, that when I left the meeting, I repeatedly played back my recording of that segment of the meeting and just laughed and laughed.

I'd like to take my harmonica and go back, but now I'd just be too embarrassed.

Other Stuff: I also managed to go to a couple of music festivals last weekend. On Friday night, my rain jacket and I stopped by Music Midtown. My first trip was over to the CAR COMPANY/RADIO STATION/TV NETWORK classic rock stage to see Lou Reed. I'd never seen him before, but having been a fan for a while, I knew to expect him to be surly and aloof.He didn't disappoint.

While it's common for older artists to perform a greatest-hits type set when playing to more casual fans in a festival audience, Reed's hour-long set included just one song that most people knew ("Sweet Jane"), another song that some people knew ("White Light/White Heat") and 50 minutes of songs that almost nobody knew. One of those "songs that almost nobody knew," the title track from his 2000 album Ecstasy, was actually one of the highlights of the set, thanks to one of Reed's trademark, angry, atonal guitar solos. The song also was the set's lowlight. Reed's solo blew out his amp. Rather than ending the song or starting over, the band just played the song's groove for what seemed an eternity while Reed and two tech guys sorted out the problem. It's no wonder that I overheard this conversation snippet from the couple behind me: "Who's this?" "Lou Reed." "Let's go to the 99X stage."

Nevertheless, I enjoyed it.

Wandering around some, I went over the BEER COMPANY/RADIO STATION/CABLE MONOPOLY stage for the headliner, The White Stripes. In between acts, the stage had a giant screen displaying mobile phone text messages send to it by festival-goers. Most were declarations of love and friendship. One person posted "i love jen wilbanks." I tried to circumvent the screen's profanity blocker by posting "My Dixie Wrecked," but I guess I got blocked.

Even though they didn't sound as good as they did at Stone Mountain two years ago, the White Stripes were still fantastic. Even on an off night, and even while wearing a bizarre Bandito Mariachi get-up, Jack White is still the most charismatic, electrifying rock star around at the moment.

I spent Saturday night at the Georgia Dome for Vibe Musicfest. It was great fun, even if it was annoying that of the acts I saw, only Outkast's Big Boi had a real band. Faith Evans, T.I., B5, and Ludacris all performed to recorded backing tracks (it looked like B5 actually lip-synched their whole set).

The atmosphere around the Dome was festive. Walking around with a camera and a photo pass was great because people kept grabbing me and asking me to write down what they said. For example, Zozo, who drove down from D.C., wanted me to know that he was having a great time. His enthusiasm had its limits though. He stopped short of "giving it up" for Atlanta because doing so would have been disloyal to D.C. I understood.

Observations and thoughts about Music Midtown and Vibe Musicfest that I couldn't gracefully weave into my narrative: 1) Shortly before his band's MM set, I caught the amusing sight of Carlos D. from the band Interpol putzing around Sci-Trek asking several people to help him find catering. Based on his 6-foot, 150-pound frame, finding food on tour is a recurring problem for him. 2) Judging solely from the secondhand smoke that passed under my nose all weekend, Vibe Musicfest-goers have access to much better weed than Music Midtown-goers. 3) I saw Andre 3000 at VM hanging out near the dressing room by the media pen. Wearing country blue jeans, a white shirt, red suspenders and a red hat, he had a sort of "designer hayseed" look. 4) Ludacris is really expanding his lyrical boundaries. In 2005, Luda is "Pimpin' All Over The World." Just four years ago, however, his hoes were confined merely to different "Area Codes" around the U.S. That, dear readers, is progress.


For more about Andy's musical weekend, visit the Scene & Herd page at atlanta.creativeloafing.com.??

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