Scene & Herd - Honoring the fallen
And celebrating the living
Memorial Day weekend offered more entertainment choices than an army of journalists could possibly cover: art festivals, jazz festivals, movies, backyard barbecues and more. But as a longtime reviewer of local music, there were two events I could not miss.
I kicked off the weekend on Thursday at the Star Bar for Bubbapalooza 15. Things started early with Jim Stacy and Joel Burkhart (as the Downer Brothers) doing some classic country and crooner covers in strange and interesting ways. A series of country and honky-tonk flavored acts followed; from JJ and the Hustlers to Anna Kramer — who performed a set that ranged from country ballads to '60s garage — to Cletis and His City Cousins. But it was the headlining act, Unknown Hinson, who made the night. Somehow I had missed Hinson over the years, and after seeing this show, I regret it. He performs as an undead country and western troubadour, complete with glued-on sideburns, blacked-out teeth, and a Lurch-like manservant. But once you get past the novelty act, you can't help but notice the guy is one hell of a guitar player. He ventured from the expected rockabilly into electric blues and Southern rock, and even tossed in a Beatles moment. People were still talking about his blazing version of Hendrix's "Manic Depression" the next night.</
Friday found me at the Atlanta Brewing Company for a party celebrating the DVD release of Stomp! Shout! Scream!, "a beach party rock and roll monster movie" in the milieu of classic '60s drive-in fare. More than half the crowd ignored the film to socialize over ABC's fine brews, despite the presence of local burlesque ladies Dames Aflame dancing along to some of the musical numbers in the flick. Catfight! provided tunes for the soundtrack and performed live after the movie. I got a bit teary-eyed as guitarist Jennifer Kraft rattled off a list of venues and bands that had been important to the group, and their fans, in its 11-year career. Friday was the band's final performance as the lovely ladies-turned-MILFs have moved on with their lives. It was a Catfight! performance a decade ago that inspired me to build my website, though less as muses than "I need to remember to see this band again but I've seen so many bands I can't remember who's who. Maybe I should write this shit down." Catfight! was never a great band, but it was always a fun band and it will be sorely missed.</
Saturday I was back at Bubbapalooza. This was my 10th Bubba, so I have witnessed it transform from all rootsy retro-rockabilly and country (a la Thursday's lineup), to an eclectic mix of more modern, harder sounds showcased during the rest of the weekend. Things kicked off with the A-Sides playing jangly, stripped-down boogie-based rock with Elvis-influenced (Costello, that is) vocals.
Chet Weise of the Immortal Lee County Killers showed us his solo blues chops, complete with stomping feet. He was followed by Brass Castle, who sang a tune with a chorus that asked, "Who pumped it the fuck up?" I had to answer, "You did!"</
Steadlur stepped on stage with that new style of hair that makes me giggle and betrays my age, that sort of swirly mop-top look with one layer bleached blond over or under another layer of black. Skinny, tight jeans with studded belts completed the almost uniform look, somehow reminding me of Jet Scream from "The Jetsons." We had ample time to study their look because they seemed to take forever setting up their gear. When they finally got going, they produced uptempo pop-punk like the stuff you hear on 99X. Not bad, really, just not distinct, at least in the four or five tunes they did before the guitarist broke a string. He stood there looking helpless for a minute while the drummer said, "Dude, just get another guitar." But the guitarist apparently wasn't interested in continuing. He unplugged and walked off the stage. The other two members giggled, said "Thank you" to the crowd and followed. The small crowd willing to show up while the sun was still out laughed out loud. As the band moved their gear outside, rumor had it they had already broken up. Apparently, I just missed the fist fight in the parking lot between members. As MC Ted Weldon noted, "That's rock 'n' roll right there, brother!"</
The sun went down and the vampires came out in time to catch the Needles. Maybe it's the harmonic guitar work or some certain chords they use, but somehow it reminded me of Skynrd and all their Southern rock cousins, except the Needles are much faster, louder and ... screamier. "They aren't fucking around," I had to say to the guy next to me. Their original tunes were plenty good, but then they had to throw in a Fear cover on top of it all.</
Speaking of covers, Das Assjugend are a Turbonegro cover band — meaning they're a Village People tribute act from Norway with an Alice Cooper impersonator as lead singer doing hard/heavy stuff that you may have heard if you've ever watched "Viva La Bam" on MTV. There were several hardcore fans in the crowd who apparently adore the act because of the simple, catchy choruses.
Star Bar staffers performed as Little Women, doing pumped-up covers of tunes made famous by women (from Cher to Bananarama), proving that any song can be a hard, heavy, and/or punky tune with enough tempo and gusto.</
The grande finale was provided by one of the original California punk acts: the Dickies. They achieved a small level of fame for their punked-up covers of tunes like the theme from "The Banana Splits." But they brought plenty of original tunes, as well as costumes and puppets to spice up the act. The Dickies are both musically and visually energetic to the point of frantic with piercing vocals a la Jello Biafra. They inspired a small but friendly mosh pit that included fans old enough to remember the band's early days and people who may not have even been born when the group started. They performed a single encore and called it a night.</
After such an action-packed weekend, I needed the extra day just to restore liver function. Ouch.</