Appliance Smashing Party

I was famous in Cobb County for my graduation party.

Hanfest was – and by all known accounts still is – the largest graduation party in county history, so I understood the spotlight a good party could shine on a host and his host committee before I ever attended the nation’s oldest state chartered public university in Athens. The spotlight has benefits.

We, my three roommates and I, lived in an old rundown grey tarpaper house simply called Chase. In Athens, GA, party houses are affectionately entitled after the streets they are on, and Chase was nothing if not a party house. Chase eventually became synonymous with a row of several houses that shared a common gravel backyard, but back then it was primarily just us: Neilma, Weiss, Boggs and me.

Over a year before, Rogers had brought me by Chase after my first day of classes at UGA and introduced me to his roommates. It turned out I’d met one of them on a previous visit to the Classic City, the former Washington DC diplomat brat Chris Boggs – still to this day one of my closest friends.

For a year, I bounced around from Nantahala to Boulevard, to back home in Marietta with an overdrawn bank account, maxed out Discover card and a myriad of minor health issues stemming from a freshman year of college noteworthy mainly for an abundance of excesses.

Two months in Marietta was more than enough to recover and return in time to collect my financial aid and start back at work with the Tate Student Center Set-Up Crew. Consistently depressed and seeking, Rogers decided he’d had enough of the roommate wars at Chase and moved out, following the lead of his longtime Statesboro friend Kevin. Two rooms had recently opened up at Chase. Mookie had claimed one and I eagerly claimed the other. Boggs and Mookie and I had a mostly good time as roomies, until the collections agents were after the Mookster so hard for his rampant purchases that he figured it best to flee the scene and change addresses.

My good buddy from Marietta, Dave Weiss, was new in town and needed a place to stay, so he took over for Mook. And his friend Neilma desperately wanted in on our fun, so he moved into a large closet behind the yellow couch in the living room. Had to knock to be let out.

That part of town, you see, what is now called the Historic Boulevard District, was full of houses with revolving doors. Roommates moved in. Roommates moved out. Rent was cheap and every situation was temporary.

Resultant, the appliances were everywhere. You weren’t sure if the old toaster worked or where it came from, but you knew it must belong to one of your roommates, so you let it be. Then a funny thing occurred to me. I was watching a video by the Art of Noise called Close (to the Edit), an old favorite where they smash up pianos musically with power tools. Great stuff. We could gather and smash some crap for fun, make a theme party of it.

So we spread the word around the neighborhood and gathered stuff. Lots and lots of stuff. Washers, dryers, toasters, microwaves, a whole wall of broken television sets. And we cleaned our house and went out and recruited an assortment of friends and casual acquaintances and hot girls to join in or at least watch, and later perhaps sleep over.

And the Butthole Surfers was heavily cranking through my open bedroom window as the melee ensued. A freak in safety goggles pushed a broken lawnmower through the crowd of exhibitionists destroying the old appliances. An empty keg found its way into the TV screens. I was kicking my thrift store wingtips into this and that hunk of junk until there was nothing left but rubble. Rubble. We smashed it all into tiny bits of rubble. It was pure poetry.

Spectacle: Of Montreal and Janelle Monae

I was in rewrite of my memoir and working as a late night server at Cafe’ Intermezzo on Peachtree Street in Atlanta when first I saw her. Her image immediately captivated me: pompadoured hair I adored and a cool cardigan framing her perfect pixie face.

A few weeks later, I waited on her and her entourage, including Nate “Rocket” Wonder – the man of sound behind her veritable wall of sound. We shared our stories of forays into art, of our efforts to bloom in an ATL that boomed around us.

Many years earlier, as I waited for takeout at The Grit restaurant in Athens, GA, I overheard Kevin Barnes speaking of his band, Of Montreal. The name struck my fancy, and I vowed to give them a listen and did.

A few years later while visiting a friend in Athens, I became acquainted with Of Montreal bassist Davey Pierce due to a collective affinity for scooter/moped crews and was inspired to dig further into their vast repertoire of recordings.

In Atlanta on November 6, 2010, my fandom of both acts culminated in a live show in Little Five Points that confirmed Georgia’s artistic musicality. Variety Playhouse was the venue, and never has that name been more fitting.

Janelle’s sharp looks and frenetic dance moves accentuated rather than overshadowed her music: an invented modern neo-soul meets songbird eclecticism that seemingly explains the rich American history of black music, while searching for the future. Even those unfamiliar with her in the audience recognized her rhythmic power and were awed by her singular voice – Janelle can really sing. Backed by tight musicians, she wound up the taut set with the stripped down single “Many Moons” and the romping hit “Tightrope,” as I tipped to the dance hook.

Deserving of an encore, there was one, a “La-La-La” singalong performed from stage to floor, reminiscent of the party energy of The B-52’s “Rock Lobster.” As Janelle’s rocking band crescendoed, she departed and the lights came on. I gave a shout out to Nate Wonder on the intermission and met some cute Chattanooga college kids in the big city South for the show.

The spectacle reached greater proportion as the headline act took the stage, seven musicians accompanying the lanky, fey, practically pansexual Kevin Barnes. The set started with the new album’s debut single “Coquet Coquette”, followed by an old fav of mine, “Suffer for Fashion.”

(Photo by: Han Vance)

Multi-costumed dancers, incredible video montage and the unbridled bouncing energy of Mr. Barnes pushed the show into the stratosphere. I was more overstimulated than a cokehead, more tripped out than an acid head, full of punch drunk love – as lifted as a sober man can be.

The theater only intensified as the band played good songs old and new. Kevin is a character on the level of Bowie or Prince, and he lives to push the envelope. At one point, his face broadcast from a giant cardboard TV set aliens assembled to watch. At another, he encouraged two feuding skeletons to kiss and makeup.

As the dream of a set ended, feathers filled the air, propelled from an alien’s head. I thought to myself: Earth is a pretty far out planet.

The band returned – beers in hand – to satiate the raucous crowd, while Kevin popped bubbly. I wondered what they could possibly do next. A Michael Jackson medley met and exceeded my encore expectations, especially as Janelle and the rest of the Wondaland Arts Society joined the fray, with my mate Nate on sticks, resplendent in his signature look of perfect dreads and a tux.

This lovely art was created here; Georgia as epicenter of modern music.

Seven Atlanta Favorites:

1. Deepdene Park – The last of the Olmstead Linear Parks to be finished, it offers a duality of coin to the other parks in this chain, which are pastoral in park type and on the opposite side of Ponce de Leon Avenue. Deepdene is walking through the woods, and in the Deep South of The ATL that is a truly gorgeous thing. Frederick Law Olmstead designed Central Park in NYC and Piedmont Park in Atlanta. Olmstead Linear Parks was incomplete at the time of Frederick’s passing. However, his descendants and strong neighborhood and community support ensured that the task saw completion. This is what an Atlanta park can be at its best.

2. Flux (in Castleberry Hill) – Rock out to this most important of all ATL art neighborhoods, all done up in light, for one night per year. Previously entitled Le Flash, Jami and I vow not to miss this annual event.

3. HAWKS games – See and be seen amongst the Atlanta elite in the floor seats; catch a drink at the Absolut bar and Headliners. Then watch 6th-man-of-the-year-Jamal Crawford score at will off the bench, Joe Johnson be unstoppable on offense, Josh Smith (“J-Smoove”) soar and dunk and swat, Marvin for “3” and steady vet Mike Bibby running the floor. Throw in a Za Za for good measure – he is from the country of Georgia and also owns wine and food spot Eno (Midtown on Peachtree Street), now called Eno by Za Za. The Playoffs Are Coming. Take MARTA directly to the arena, 2nd stop on the westbound trains from Five Point’s Station. My girl is into it too.

4. COLLEGE FOOTBALL – From watching the SEC Championship Game live to sitting at home and watching on our TV sets, Atlanta is the undeniable world headquarters of American College Football and a short drive to ATHENS, home of the Georgia Dawgs and my alma mater, UGA, the oldest public college in the USA. My fellow alum girlfriend is really getting into it.

5. FOOD – Atlanta has become a major foodie restaurant scene – and I love to eat out, with my girl, of course.

6. LongBoarding Freedom Trail – Thank you, President Carter and MLK Jr. – You built this road and trail with your words. When I’m flying free on the trail, I feel so alive and awake and in love with life in Atlanta, y’all.

7. Pub Crawls on Ponce – See my boy Ed at El Bar for a shake-shake-shake after a few pops at Righteous Room, maybe a grilled cheese with sprouts and a side for $5 at the Righteous and a PBR with lime or mixed adult beverage while I play Joy division on the jukebox. After El Bar gets too crowded to dance, The Local and Bookhouse Pub can both be good hangs. Friends is probably the best gay hangout for straight people to gain education via jukeboxation. MJQ is still a great Wednesday dance spot for the best DJs. Dugans has great wings if you want them. And the Clermont Lounge is still open, although they finally closed the Clermont Hotel itself to the public. Still hungry as I walk home after maybe skipping those wings? The Majestic has been open 24-hours a day since 1929.

(Photo by: Han Vance)

No Marr Drama

SO, LAST NIGHT HAD TO BE THE CRAZIEST FRIDAY NIGHT EVER IN THE HISTORY OF THE SUBURBS. FIRST, I ATE MUSHROOMS. NO, NOT THOSE ‘SHROOMS – PORTOBELLO WITH SPINACH AND CHEESE. THEN I SMOKED ME SOME MINI CIGARS UNTIL MY THROAT HURT AND I WAS DIZZY. THEN, I WAS REPEATED TO THE INSTRUCTIONS FOR PROPER HOUSESITTING WHILE THE FOLKS ARE AWAY AT HILTON HEAD. THEN, I SAW MY SISTER’S NEW THRIFT STORE CLOTHES. THEN, I WATCHED A THE SMITHS CONCERT FROM 1984 IN GERMANY. MORRISSEY DANCES WITH HIS ARM OVER HIS FACE AND SIDEWAYS LEG KICKS UNTIL HE NEARLY TOPPLES, ALL ONE HUNDRED AND FORTY POUNDS OF HIM. ANY GOOD SMITHS’ SONG HAS AN EXTENDED PERIOD OF HIM WHINING IN SOUND RATHER THAN WORD, AND THEY HAVE NO BAD SONGS. SIS HEARD HIS WHIMPER AND VENTURED AWAY FROM PACKING TO JOIN ME IN MOM’S LIVING ROOM. IN 1984, THEY DID NOT HAVE ENOUGH MATERIAL FOR THREE ENCORES, SO THEY PLAYED MANY OF THE SAME (GREAT) SONGS TWICE. THE GERMANS CLAPPED. JOHNNY MARR IS THE GREATEST RYTHM GUITAR PLAYER OF ALL-TIME, BUILDING A SUBTLE WALL OF SOUND THAT WOULD STAND TO BE NOTICED IN ANY BAND WITHOUT THE DRAMA QUEEN AS FRONTMAN…AND OH WHAT A QUEEN HE IS. GREAT HAIR AND WORDS AND THAT VOICE. PLUS, HE HAD FLOWERS IN HIS POCKET. IN POETIC TERMS, THE QUEEN IS DEAD. BUT SHOEGAZING SHALL HALF-LIVE ON IN ETERNITY, I CRY. I LOVED IT WAY TOO MUCH. THEN, I HAD A BEER WITH A NEIGHBOR AND WENT HOME TO MY ART LAIR AND WENT TO SLEEP…ALONE… I WAS NOT HAPPY AND I WAS NOT SAD. AND THE SUMMER NIGHT: CRAZY I TELL YA.