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Scene & Herd - ¡Viva La Raza!

y el Espía tambien

Have you always dreamed of experiencing the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of a hot day on a crowded street in a Central or South American city without the hassle of actually leaving metropolitan Atlanta? Me neither.

If, however, you answered in the affirmative, then last Sunday's Festival Peachtree Latino at Underground Atlanta was your dream come true.

A celebration of the multitude of peoples and cultures that fit under the giant umbrella* labeled "Latino," Festival Peachtree Latino reminded me of the afternoon 10 years ago that I spent wandering around San José, Costa Rica, in search of an optometrist (I lost my contact lenses during my vacation). Just like in San José that day, Underground was packed with families, the smell of frying food filled the air, a thumping musical beat was constantly audible, and no matter where you looked, you could always see at least one sign advertising Coca-Cola.

The focal point of the festival was, naturally, its large stage. While I was there in the late afternoon, I saw lots of half-live/half-pre-recorded musical acts, a performance that I think was comedy (a goofy guy kept talking and the crowd kept laughing), and lots of audience members getting dragged up on stage. At one point, a clown had a little girl on stage and he asked her who she liked more, Mickey or Minnie Mouse. She replied, "Chocolate!"

Lining Underground's outdoor walkways were dozens of booths offering cooked food, tropical fruit juice, apparel in the colors of Latin American flags, and framed Scarface posters. My favorite funny booth was the one labeled Bimbo. From what I could gather, Bimbo is sort of a Mexican Frito-Lay or Nabisco. The website doesn't explain why the company is called Bimbo (revenge for the Chevy Nova, perhaps), but it does explain that "The Bimbo brand has been the favorite of young and old, generation after generation."

My other favorite booth was the one (wo)manned by teacher/activist/grad student/neighbor-of-mine Dell Perry. Dell was at the festival gathering support for her effort to start a dual-language (Spanish and English) charter school in metro Atlanta.

One the festival's most interesting sights (to me, anyway) was the large number of people in animal outfits. There were quite a few giant animal people on stage at various points during the afternoon, as well as two giant chickens walking among the festival-goers. The first one I saw was a bespectacled hen advertising Knorr-brand bouillion products. The second was a rooster named Churchie. Dressed as a cowboy, Churchie is the smiling mascot of Church's Chicken. I tried to interview Churchie, but his responses were evasive. First, I asked him if, as a chicken himself, he really wanted me to eat other chickens. He didn't answer, but instead just smiled and held up his four-finger hand. I then asked if he'd be willing to fight the Knorr hen. I got another empty smile, a semi-thumbs-up, then he walked away.

Festival Peachtree Latino was not the city's only festival last weekend. There was the Osun Festival, the Atlanta Jewish Dance Festival, the Atlanta Underground Film Festival, Chattahoochee River's Summer Festival, and the other one I went to, the Grant Park Summer Shade Festival.

I strolled through it around noon on Saturday. The festival seemed a lot bigger to me this year, with booths lined along much more of the park's shaded walking paths. Booths of note included Katherine W. Linn's fantastic linocut prints of classic Atlanta sights like the Plaza Theatre's neon sign, Harold's Barbecue, and the Hotel Roxy. I've only been here since 1997, but for some reason I'm actually nostalgic for an old Atlanta I never actually experienced.

By the way, did anyone else notice the sno-cones being sold by a couple whose sign read S&M Enterprises. I wonder if they're a subsidiary of Bimbo.

Under Highland: Last Friday night, I spent about three hours under the Dark Horse Tavern at 10 High where I saw three, count 'em three, performances for the low, low price of $7. (That's just $2.33 per band. Take that, Clark Howard!)

Performer No. 1 was Nashville's Stephen Simmons. Backed by a rock-solid band, Simmons sang soulful songs about religion, sin, love and drinking in a lived-in, raspy voice. The kids call it alt-country.

Performer No. 2 was a band called Eden. I can't describe Eden's music to you because I was too busy jotting down notes about the appearance and mannerisms of the band's singer. Sporting a vaguely African-patterned skull cap, eyeliner, a braided goatee, an ironic T-shirt and low-riding leather pants, he combined the worst elements of five different "looks" to easily become, I'm not exaggerating, the silliest looking man I've ever seen on a stage. Seriously, WTF?

Performer No. 3 was Spy. Spy is an amazing rock band. For reasons I don't quite understand, it's fallen under the radar of most local critics, even though it blows pretty much every one of Atlanta's music critics' favorites off the stage. I've seen Spy probably eight times in the past three years and each time it gets better. Spy's Steve Albini-produced debut album, Apocalypse High, is available as a free download on the website, spytheband.com. If you download it and don't like it, I'll personally refund your money.

Trivial Pursuits: On Wednesday of last week, I played bar trivia at Central City Tavern with a couple of friends. Along with companionship, beer and winning, my favorite part of the whole evening was hearing the amusing team names based on current events (all-time faves include "How Deep Is Your Grave?" after Maurice Gibb's death, and "Welcome to Underground Atlanta, Maynard Jackson" after his death). The latest addition to the canon came courtesy of my friend Pete, who, inspired by the Rev. Pat Robertson's fatwa against Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, named our team "Who Would Jesus Assassinate?"

And we won.

(*The giant umbrella is a metaphor, not an actual umbrella.)

andisheh@creativeloafing.com

For more of Andisheh's musings, visit Scene & Herd at atlanta.creativeloafing.com.



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