Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Highland bars, good grub and southern tunes, a successful weekend in a city that I am starting to not hate

Things have been sleepily stagnate in the Queen City of late and worthwhile shows appear on the marquees about as often as national Holidays hit the calendar so I jumped at the opportunity for a road trip to see some friends, grab drinks and catch the Whigs. I just kinda was wishing it wasn’t going to all take place in the ATL…or as it’s been dubbed of late, the A.

For years I’ve had a repulsive inclination towards the big city down 85 from my home and in reflection it has been about 95% due to the absurdity of traffic and logistics of maneuvering throughout the city itself. 3% of it had been a burnout on the bars of Buckhead and the other 2% was due to the fact that just don’t like Atlanta.

After my 4runner ran me to my exit off 85 in bragging time I spent the next half hour tracking down the house I was meeting my dinner crew at. Fumbling down some of the most illogical and twisted aligned streets in the contingent 48 and doing all could to make sense of some Lumberjack’s directions, I was fast thinking that I was on verge of another less that stellar attempt to make Atlanta more than it’s really worth.

Shower, beer, a few laughs and table overflowing with Sushi and we headed to Neighbors for a pitcher of some Pale Ale, in spite of the Lumberjack. Cool, dry air cloaking my full belly as I washed down some chilled brew – I was in good company and good spirits. After Neighbors we ditched the married/in serious relationship anchors and saddled up at the Dark Horse for some veteran drinking and awkward pickup attempts.

Once the barkeep informed us we could no longer purchase carbombs we jumped cab and found home…not before some epic phone transactions occurred however.

Beasley, be sure you rebook that reservation to Heaven, last one got a little messy.

Gato Bizco, freakin’ Awesomeco. Eat there, soon. Down McLeandon across from that other breakfast place near Fellini’s. Hipstertastic in everyway, but the food was on spot.

Saturday afternoon spent sippin beer, talking about old cars, old stories and catchin’ up with old friends. As the evening approached we trekked to L5P for the Halloween Parade/Freakfest. Knockabout frivolity and emo dreamscapes in proud demonstration ambling and rolling about the most ‘openly open’ and quirky neighborhood the South has to offer aside from Asheville…and I stood amongst the crowd not trying to make sense of the chaos. Freaks have a way and bless ‘em for it, but that shit is just crazy by any standard. All bias aside the wackos did serve a purpose, bringing people together and having fun with kids.

Parade done, off for a grilled sandwich and cold brew at Manuel’s, another must eat. Then Mike and I meet Matt at the show…loose Lumberjack somehow.

The Whigs and Jason Isbell 10-20-07 Variety Playhouse, Atlanta, GA

The Whigs rock. Rock hard. Rock Often.

This was my fourth Whigs gig and the largest venue I’d seen them in. Although the intensity of a tighter venue lends itself to a band like this, Julian and Parker controlled a presence on stage before the Atlanta faithful and filled the house with the size of their sound. They ripped through several of the new tracks and I was impressed with the power and comfort they possess on these tracks despite the short amount a of road ware. I dig Parker’s voice and the southern/punk rasp with poppy guitar riffs and fuzz, giving The Whigs a nice dimension, but without a doubt Julian owns the stage.

Julian doesn’t play the drums; he thrashes them into a bloodied pulp and leaves them for the stagehands to deal with. Hair whipping and thunder echoing, the audience gets a sense of frustration from the drumming as if the man at the helm is deeply searching for a way to smash down even harder without reprieve…from where I was standing its not possible. If Bonham were alive he would be proud to see such a display. But don’t let any of this hit you the wrong way. Theirs is a heavy and fast performance but done so with no signs of sloppy or careless play. The band sounds crisp, full of eagerness and on the verge.

The new material bars no real evolution from Fat Lip, not that it was needed, just noted. I found that to be refreshing. In an eat or be eaten scene most young bands miss the mark on a next album, trying to reach a new sound or angle on who they are. This often spells B-U-S-T. In my ‘without a listen to the album yet’ album prediction, its far from a letdown.

However on the letdown note I am mixed on the new addition to the band (bass, keys, vocals and guitar). For the most part he doesn’t draw much attention to himself (despite a stupid red cap that I wanted to knock off) but when he does he seems shaky to me. A few of the tracks feature important moments from the keys, I came focused for these moments. They don’t have the zest they once did. The notes are hit, but something’s missing. Perhaps that’s what happens when someone is forced to master notes they didn’t write…they’ll never own them. That doesn’t make them bad, just different…once these guys decide on the permanent replacement these parts could use some personal attention from the newcomer, give them some life and personality again. This was most noted in Half the World Away, my top of Whigs tracks. The crucial moment here to me has always been the way the guitar solo claws its way into fade, reverbing off everyone’s chest and ringing in the ears. Bring that back!

Never one to waste time on stage, The Whigs closed, thanked the crowd and exited. They’re even powerful and full of speed leaving the stage.

I enjoyed the shit out of this gig.

Up next...

Jason Isbell. I’ll be brief here. I have enjoyed Drive By Truckers albums, think the material is astounding at times, but I have never enjoyed the live aspect. Too many guitars, too little distinction in sounds. It’s an alt-country wash. I expected more from Jason. He left DBT to explore and define his own material. What’s different? I’ve heard rave reviews on the album and some folks I was with enjoyed it so I won’t bash it; just say it wasn’t for me.

I’ll give his album a listen…that may be it.

Wrapped the night up with a crazy Halloween party on its way out, or rather across the street to Blind Willie’s for even more Alt Country rock and some hilarious antics from some heavily inebriated fellas. From there cruised down to the Local to find the Lumberjack for a follow up try to escort some ladies to Clermont Lounge…bouncer was not having us.

Sunday was lazy and hazy. Lot of anxiety and uncertainty waiting forever for a ho-hum artery clog at Flying Biscuit, followed by a successful bike rescue back in L5P and a few aimless hours in record stores and people watching.

I’ll admit, Atlanta didn’t suck this go around…it may having something yet.

Back soon?

1 comment:

Matthew Pickle said...

First, I am assuming that the Lumberjack you are referring to is our engaged friend JB. Am I correct?

Second, all this new music sounds really cool, unfortunately it is unavailable in Baghdad. Mind sending me a sampler?