Scene & Herd - Messiahs

Gay and Otherwise

The Atlanta Botanical Garden's third annual SunTrust Concerts in the Garden series kicked off last week. With headliners Rufus Wainwright, Aimee Mann, Nanci Griffith, Dr. John, John Hiatt and Lucinda Williams, the series is the answer to the question, "Dad, can we have Variety Playhouse outside tonight?"

The first show of the series, and the one I attended, was Rufus Wainwright's last Wednesday night. Wainwright is touring in support of his 2004 album, Want Two. With songs that are overflowing with gorgeous melodies, daring, inventive music, and lyrics that are hilarious, hyperliterate, richly detailed and heartbreaking (often within the same verse!), Want One and Want Two have prompted many critics and fellow musicians to start hailing Wainwright as the best living American songwriter. While that sort of superlative is endlessly debatable, I can say without hesitation that he's certainly one of the best and that nothing he did last Wednesday would disqualify him from the top spot.?<p?Wainwright took the stage wearing a rainbow shirt, brown vest and a floppy hat. As I was taking pics during the first couple of songs, I was trying to come up with a description of how silly his outfit was. Wainwright did the work for me, though, when he explained moments later that he picked up the ensemble in Little Five Points before the show and that he thought it made him look like a "failed '70s magician." He's right. It was as if Doug Henning and Gallagher teamed up and dressed him.

The bulk of Wainwright's set was pulled from the Want albums. Of those songs, the ones that got the loudest applause exemplify his genius and his appeal. "Vibrate" from Want One sets a repeated plea for a telephone call from a lover ("My phone's on vibrate for you") to the tune of bittersweet lullaby. The lilting, sing-along-y (though no one did) "Gay Messiah" imagines the appearance on Earth of a tube-socked gay savior and climaxes with a hilarious and filthy retooling of the John the Baptist/Salome story where the line "someone will demand my head" doesn't mean decapitation.??<p?>The last song before the encore was "Art Teacher," a suspenseful, baroque ballad sung from the not-typically-rock-n-roll perspective of a wealthy, middle-aged woman realizing the only true love she's ever felt was the unrequited love she had for her prep school art teacher. In four short, simple verses, Wainwright evokes enough images about this woman's life to make a feature film. Cole Porter would be envious.

Save Me: Speaking of messiahs, on Saturday afternoon I stopped by Six Flags to take in a couple hours of the Christian rock festival known as AtlantaFest. One of the organizers explained to me that AtlantaFest, along with other festivals like it around the country, is an attempt to present Christian faith in the way that young people weaned on pop culture will find appealing. The effort wasn't just evident in the music, but in the whole setup. It looked like a mini-Music Midtown, minus the beer and Hooters girls. My favorite part of the festival was the T-shirts. It appears that devoutly Christian kids need funny T-shirts just as much as the rest of us. There was one that read simply "Jesus Rocks"; one that read "I Mosh For Jesus"; another depicting a stigmata-marked hand that read "High Five If You Love Jesus"; and finally, my favorite, one that simply read "Homeschool Valedictorian."I actually only saw one band, a group called Building 429. Fronted by a pretty blond man wearing a T-shirt that read "Glory," the band's sound was Creed-lite. Each song somehow touched on the power of Jesus in the singer's life, but never in a creative way. Peruse the band's lyrics and every song is about loving Jesus, calling to Jesus, running to Jesus and not running away from Jesus.

If that wasn't enough, it seemed like every song began and ended with proclamations like, "We see Jesus all over you," and "It's good to be in the presence of God almighty." It didn't seem spiritual. It was just tediously literal.

Stop, Collaborate and Listen: On Saturday night, I stopped by Eyedrum for the Indie Craft Experience craft show and art sale. Despite the oppressive heat inside, the gallery was full of people checking out the crafts. There was great clothing (e.g., the super-cute Baby London baby clothes), funny accessories (I'm thinking primarily of the brassiere-turned-purse line known as Tit Totes) and even nourishment (if not for the awful heat, I might have bought tea from local tea merchant Certaintea).The evening's highlight was a runway fashion show, featuring many of the items that were being sold at the craft tables. One guy was in a caveman outfit. Stone-age retro, I suppose.

Kickball: On Sunday afternoon, the local nonprofit Animal Action Rescue held a fundraising kickball game at the field behind the Ormewood Park Presbyterian Church, which, you guessed it, is in Ormewood Park.AAR rescues abandoned pets and provides foster care for them while trying to find them permanent homes. A $20 donation bought participants some kickball, a BBQ party at Mary's, and the good feeling that comes with knowing you're helping to feed and shelter an animal without it peeing on your couch.

The game was originally touted to me by one of the organizers as "gays vs. lesbians kickball." But when I arrived, the competing teams were overwhelmingly female. Whether they were all lesbians or not, I don't know. It didn't exactly come up in conversation. I do know that the women were generally better at kickball than the men who played (myself included), and that one of the men on my team speculated aloud that gay men have a rough time with kickball because too many of them throw like girls - a problem he didn't seem to think lesbians have.


For more about Andy's obsession with Rufus Wainwright and gay kickball, visit Scene & Herd at atlanta.creativeloafing.com.

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