Scene & Herd - I Used to Love H.E.R.

And she loved her too

I arrived at Lenny's relatively early last Friday night only to find the opening act packing up their gear. Apparently the bar had received some noise complaints the night before so they'd moved their slate of live performances to an earlier slot in the evening. This, of course, won't be an issue much longer as the popular club is moving around the beginning of June.

The Liverhearts took the stage next. They wore ponchos and hung a piñata from the ceiling in celebration of Cinco de Mayo. Visuals aside, the Liverhearts are not part of the Latin explosion. They perform a style of music somewhere between noise and math rock with atypical beats behind mechanical guitars and rhythmic, redundant vocals. It's different but it couldn't hold my attention. I spent the time reminiscing with Lenny's booking guy, Bean, about the many years I've spent hanging around the place.</
This particular night, I was there for the CD release show of the headliners, Brass Castle. They produce tunes that sound like only the most intense moments of hard rock all jammed back-to-back in a series of false starts, somehow expertly sewn together. As a two-piece, they're able to play harmonically or in contrast in a way that is anything but subtle. It's great for people who like the stripped-down sound of a two-piece, but find the White Stripes to be too conventional. Halfway through the set, the two musicians swap places, essentially creating two bands in one, though "they" share a similar sound. My only complaint is the purposefully sloppy vocals, screamed out as if they can't be bothered to make them as clear and intense as the accompanying music.</
After the live show, Lenny's turned into one of the smallest, yet most eclectic, dance clubs in town; intimate and trashy — everything I want in a dance club. Around 1 a.m. the place suddenly got crowded with pretty, yet grungy, people. Bean has planned a Last Days festival for the first weekend in June to celebrate the current location before they move so if the double-wide across from the graveyard in a bad part of town means as much to you as it has to me, I'll see you there that weekend.</
Saturday I received a press kit from Hustler magazine containing Atomic Vixens: Escape from the Valley of the Sluts, an adult video featuring "the first-ever licensed soundtrack compiled of unsigned artists discovered on the popular Web destination myspace.com." The idea that something owned by Fox would provide the soundtrack to something produced by Hustler was already enough to make me giggle. According to the press kit, the DVD will be available at video stores around the country including mainstream retailers such as Tower Records. With such distribution, I expected soft-core or pinup/tease material but when I put in the disc I was mildly surprised to find standard hard-core porn.

It starts off with some sci-fi story about terrorists taking over a moon base and threatening to level earthly cities with a laser unless they are granted control over all the earth's women. The only group that can save us is the Atomic Vixens, who are introduced in a series of vignettes featuring various sexual acts. The backstory is all but abandoned, only showing up as narration behind goofy comic book-style graphics connecting the scenes, and the film never reaches a climax — at least not in relation to the lunar terrorists.</
Some of the girls are pretty, but I found the cartoonish makeup and goofy sets to be a distraction to the action rather than spicing up otherwise typical porn. Director Ron Royste is quoted in the kit for Atomic Vixens as saying, "It took five straight weeks of listening to hundreds of bands, and finding 30 perfect songs, all from unsigned brilliant musicians!" Despite all those long hours of research, I can't recommend this disc for its musical qualities any more than its visual ones. There are a few fun, lounge-style tunes but they're mixed in with mediocre metal and pop in a haphazard way.</
So why do I mention this somewhat unremarkable video? Because it arrived minutes before I headed out the door to catch the Atlanta Feminist Women's Choir. And the contrast of watching porn full of imagery many feminists have rallied against just before I watched many feminists rallying together (in song) was too much to resist.</
Both the AFWC and the Atlanta Gay Men's Chorus are celebrating their 25th anniversaries this year. They appeared on stage together doing "Let's Be Gay," though I doubt Henry Russell meant it that way when he wrote it back in 1841. The men left the stage to the ladies who sang a variety of tunes, both spiritual and secular, popular and obscure.

The choir has a wonderful ability to layer sections atop each other to create an orchestra of female voice. I was particularly impressed with some of their a capella numbers, but "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" didn't work at all without Aretha's yearning, sultry delivery. On the other hand, their take on Eurythmics' "Sweet Dreams" was interesting and fun. Speaking of other hands, they had a guy on the side of the stage providing sign language for all the deaf chorale devotees in the audience. I'd say it was the exact other end of the entertainment spectrum of Atomic Vixens, but they both featured mostly lesbian casts so they do share something in common.</
Starved, I left at intermission and hit the Five Spot in L5P. They have surprisingly good sandwiches and other finger food. I woofed down a delicious smoked turkey sandwich before the jazz ensemble they'd threatened me with could appear on stage and spoil my appetite. The Jay Sharp Band, a trio this particular night, played noodly electric guitar backed up by bass and drums, fine background noise for ogling the lovely wait staff at the Five Spot, but not something I could actually enjoy paying close attention to. It's not you, jazz ... it's me. I'm just not that into you. You changed back when you started hanging around those bebop guys, and I just don't understand you any more.</

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