Kool Kat of the Week: Joel Burkhart Plans on Doing Something With It; AM Gold Throws a CD Release Party at the Star Bar

Posted on: Sep 27th, 2012 By:

AM Gold at Oakland Cemetary. Photo credit: David Batterman.

By Torchy Taboo
Contributing Writer

My radio was my best friend from grade school all through college. I knew every word to every song and spent my teen years trying to stretch my tiny hands across the frets to eke out “Smoke on the Water” like the rest of my artsy friends. An Atlanta band has emerged called AM Gold that speaks to the growed-up heart looking for that “me and my radio” feeling. They will celebrate the release of their first CD, PLANNING ON DOING SOMETHING WITH IT, this Friday September 28 at the Star Bar with Higher Choir and My Rebel Episode.  A dream-team of an outfit, they’re fronted by this week’s Kool Kat guitarist Joel Burkhart, who was good enough to give ATLRetro the back-story on growing up in the glory days of AM radio, his past bands and Star Bar shenanigans.

Torchy/ATLRetro: Tell me about AM Gold.

Joel Burkhart: AM Gold started as a dream. Several nights in a row I had this dream of a band playing on the top of a hill. There was sunlight behind them so all I could see were the long shadows of the band cascading down the hill. The golden rays of the sun eclipsing any details other then the shadows of the people playing. The sound was a chorus of voices, not heavenly like a choir but more earthly and gritty. I heard them singing these lines:

“These are the songs we like to sing
Makes us forget most everything
This is the way that I want to feel
Soft as love and strong as steel.”

After the third or fourth night of this dream, I picked up the guitar and wrote that song. Then I started putting together the band. I knew it would possibly be the last band I ever put together so it had to be amazing. It had to have great players but this time it also had to have great singers. This was going to be all about the words and the melodies. If I wanted them to shine I had to get the right people to be in the chorus.

I have played with Jim [Stacy], Eric [Young] and Jeff [Langston] for years and knew what they were capable of. Jim Stacy has been a lead singer/frontman for many years with Greasepaint, LaBrea Stompers and Little Women and sings with me in The Downers. He was first on the list, but I asked him last because I didn’t think he’d want to be in another band with me. Jeff plays with me in Bully but has also fronted his own bands (Ledfoot Messiah, Ritual, Flathead Fuel) for years. He is quite possibly the best male vocalist in Atlanta that no one knows about. Eric has been my drummer through Mulberry Street, Bully, The Downer Brothers and now AM Gold. Along the way he started singing back-ups and is one of the best singing drummers around. He also makes playing drums look as easy as breathing. Musically I have never played with a better drummer. I have a hard time imagining my songs with anyone else playing drums on them.

When it came time to complete the rhythm section, there has always been a combination that I wanted to hear together. I had Eric and now I was lucky enough to get Blake [Parris] to say yes also. Blake is this town’s hidden treasure. Someday someone who can pay him properly for his services is going to come and take him on the road and we won’t ever see him again. Blake is an amazing bass player and singer – probably one of the best -but he can play almost anything: electric guitar, acoustic guitar, lead, rhythm, banjo, lap steel, pedal steel, keys… I really bet that you could give him a trombone, and in 15 minutes he would have a proper part written for a song. There is nothing that I can play or sing that won’t be made significantly better with Blake. He could just sit onstage with anyone and make then sound better. Seriously.

The final piece to the puzzel was a keyboard player. The only person that even crossed my mind was Jett [Bryant]. While he is not one given to the art of practice, he is one of the best damn singers in the game of rock and roll. He knocked’em dead in the Rock City Dropouts and kills it every night with Bigfoot. With AM Gold, he is pitch perfect and brings the pretty. I am sure that this is the most professional band I have ever played with. Practices and rehearsals are exciting and fun. We always have fun playing shows and hell, on top of all of that, we like each other. We all genuinely like being in the same room and shooting the shit. When the 6 of us are playing and singing together it is magic. There is no other word for it.

Joel, where are you from? Did you grow up listening to AM radio?

Joel: I am originally from Detroit. Lived there until the age of 5. Lived in farm country – Tecumseh,MI – for a few years before moving to Brighton, Michigan. I spent the 1980s as a mall rat in the suburbs. I moved to Atlanta when I turned 19 [in 1989].

Totally grew up listening to AM radio early on in Detroit – WJBK, WXYZ and CKLW. Later listened to commercial FM Radio – WRIF, WLLZ – and the college stations from University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan University.

Joel Burkhart. Photo Credit: John McNicholas.

Do you write much aside from lyrics and when did you first start writing songs?

You know, I used to write all the time. I have notebooks and notebooks of stuff. Poems, short stories, essays, laundry lists – actual and metaphysical – good, bad, everything,  As I have gotten older, I write less but the quality seems to be higher. I think that comes with being married and having kids, but also realizing who I am and what I want to say. When I do put pen to paper these days, there is probably a song there.

I started writing songs pretty late, I think. I was in my mid-teens when I first learned enough chords to have two different parts to a song. Unfortunately the first one sounds a lot like “Under The Milky Way Tonight” by The Church and the second one sounds a lot like “Boys Don’t Cry” by The Cure. It really wasn’t until a few years ago that I started to think I was writing my own songs that sounded like me. I think that’s part of the process: writing and writing and writing until you find your own voice.

Who were your earliest musical influences that stuck with you?

I think like most kids you listen to what is around you at the time, and my earliest influences were from my relatives. Whether it was my cousins listening to Elvis, Chicago, Kiss or Steve Miller; my grandfather listening to hits from the ’40s and ’50s; my grandmother playing WWII ballads on her Wurlitzer; or my uncle’s Rare Earth, Kansas and Yes records, it all influenced me. Some of the best memories I have are driving around singing “Afternoon Delight” [Starland Vocal Band] or “What’s Going On” [Marvin Gaye] along with my mother. Detroit radio was some of the best in the country in the ’70s, and my mother, in particular, was pretty influential in my early years. She loved music and loved singing; whether it was rock, soul or country, she listened to it all. Our record collection had Neil Diamond, Neil Sedaka, Paul Williams, Barbra Streisand and the Bee Gees. Another big record that stuck with me was Tom T. Hall record SONGS OF FOX HOLLOW – For Children of All Ages. My grandmother gave that to me. I wore that thing out.

Who’d you listen to that makes you ask, “What was I thinking?  and how’d you ‘take their sad song ‘n make it betta’? Even the questionable influences of childhood can positively shape budding creativity, right?

When I was a young child, we had one of those small Imperial portable record players and I would go from room to room when my parents had parties putting on my “show.” I would carry my record player, my yardstick – which doubled as microphone and guitar – and my favorite record, Helen Reddy’s “I Am Woman” b\w “Delta Dawn.” I would sing through side one, take my break and then sing through side two. Man, I could rock that shit.

While there was some questionable hair metal that I listened to in the ’80s – TnT, Krokus, Helix anyone? – I can’t really disavow it in good conscience. They are all colors in my crayon box so to speak. Some people are great at painting with one color; I’m not. All of the music that I have listened to tends to find its place in the songs that I write for my different bands.

Before the Star Bar sound booth days, what was your worst day job, and did I hear the residue of that angst in your band Bully?

I did death scene clean up for almost two years. It was miserable work, didn’t pay very well, boss was a dick. That was very influential in the Bully songwriting process. “Quitter,” “Spit,” “I Don’t Feel Well,” “2nd Drawer Down.” All from that period of time. I’d come home pissed off and beat, fire up the bong, hit the Jaeger and let it all out. Thankfully my work life is less stressful now, but I think that was what life is supposed to be like in your 20s, living hard and carefree.

What was it like working sound at the Star Bar? Favor us with a story of your days in the booth.

So much to tell – Jim Stacy and I once spent 30 minutes trying to get a G string on Hasil Adkins’ guitar while a nearly sold-out house waited impatiently. He had a box of old guitar strings he carried with him, every one of them old and rusty. Just looking at the box gave me tetanus. For some reason, none of them were the right one.

Once we had a kid who was trying to promote some shows – this particular one with Har Mar Superstar – have a breakdown on stage. He started calling out the booker of the club, the owners, the bartenders and finally me. He told the room filled with people I had stolen his guitar and amplifier – which I believe he had left in a friend’s car or sold for meth – and that he wasn’t a “fat, jaded motherfucker” like me. I, for sure, took the brunt of it, I guess because he was on stage staring right at me. I think most everyone thought I was going to kill his mic (or him), but I just let him keep going until he tuckered himself out. He ended up going to a mental hospital a week or so later. Pretty weird.

But I also had some great, amazing memories there. The Ex-Husbands blowing everyone away with an out of left field, dead-on cover of “War Pigs” [Black Sabbath], followed by “Beating around the Bush” by AC\DC.

I remember that!

Alejandro Escovedo bringing over 200 people to complete silence with the breathtaking-ness of his songs; The Drive-By Truckers playing an Atlantis Music Conference and just weeping over the song “Heathens,” knowing things would never be the same for them after that night. That stage is magic.

AM Gold. Photo credit: David Batterman.

As I was on the road last year, I heard a lot of BS about how listening to Johnny Cash was a hipster trait and therefore passe. What would you say to that labeling?

One of the bonuses of being older is that I don’t know if it’s hipster or not. I’ve been listening [to Cash] since the ’70s when I was a kid and never stopped. I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon.

With The Downer Bros, you and Jim Stacy pay homage to some of Johnny Cash’s most, for the lack of a better word,  “fierce” recordings. You recently rattled the walls at the 12th Annual Cash Bash at the Star Bar [Sept. 22]. How’d the idea for the Downer Bros come about?

Like most of our great ideas, it started off with drinking. During the rockabilly\country revival in the 1990s, there were a lot of bands that would throw in a Johnny Cash or George Jones [song] and do it in whatever style they played. There was no one really doing the slower, lost love, murder ballad stuff, and definitely no one doing it stripped down and acoustic. Jim and I loved that kind of stuff. So when we were waiting for bands to show up or when the night was over, we would play songs, just me and him. Acoustic guitar, harmonica and our two voices, harmonizing and trading songs. It was magic. The name came from trying to describe the music to our good friend Andy McDaniel. He asked what kind of music we were doing and we said “country music, but you know, the ‘downer’ stuff.” It stuck.

I’ve been paying attention and coming to see your bands for a bit now. Do I detect a progression of a happier and more fulfilled man through your musical timeline, having made so many people weep openly, inviting us to be healed and happy – or am I waxing fanciful?

I think there is a definite evolution. Mulberry Street was me getting my feet wet playing and performing but quickly became a little darker then I thought it would become. With Bully, I totally embraced that darkness and anger. When you are more or less penniless, living from day to day, broken-hearted and feeling alone, it is hard to find the light. The Downer Brothers are similar to Bully in that there is some frustration and  loneliness, but instead of being loud and in your face and angry, it was quiet and more thought-out and reserved.

AM Gold it is next logical extension of the realization that there is goodness all around you. Goodness in the things you do, the places you go and the people you meet. The trick, I think, is being open to it, being willing to let it chase away the darkness that has comforted you for so long. Don’t get me wrong, there is still a meanness out there, thriving and consuming, but you have the choice. You can live in fear with the darkness or live in the happiness of the light. Mostly now I choose the light. Some days it is really hard work to find it, but I think it is worth the struggle.

As a performer, what show stands out in your memory?

Probably one of the highlights for me personally was playing in Greasepaint and opening for Tenacious D. It was a sold-out crowd at The Tabernacle here in Atlanta. For AM Gold, it has to be playing The Dogwood Festival earlier this year. A few thousand people on a beautiful day in Piedmont Park. Nobody knew who we were or our songs, but they seemed to really appreciated them and we had a great response.

Honestly though every show is great in its own way. Any time I get to get on stage with my friends and we get to play our original songs, the ones we have practiced a hundred times, the ones we put our time and effort into writing and arranging and performing. That’s a good day.

Worst gig ever has to be the Chili Cook-Off at Stone Mountain last year.  It was the first time in over 20 years I set foot on stage for the sole purpose of making money by playing covers. While we had fun playing our Steve Miller Greatest Hits set at the Star Bar a couple months earlier, when it came to doing those songs again, there was no love for them. While I admire people that can get on stage and play three or four sets of somebody else’s material and are able to support a family doing it, I am not cut from that same cloth. I suppose that’s why I am not able to support a family doing that.

I’ve been the annoying fan begging for CDs forever. What was the AM Gold studio experience, was it documented on film and when will PLANNING ON DOING SOMETHING WITH IT be available? Joshin’, but seriously does being recorded affect your perspective? And by the way, thanks and eager to hear both the Bully and AM Gold disks!

The recording process was really fantastic. We recorded with a great guy named Jimmy Ether at his studio called Headphone Treats. For this recording we were all in the same room, playing together. We set up in the morning, recorded seven songs, and were pretty much done that night. We came back a couple times and overdubbed a few guitar parts, percussion and some vocals, but for the most part, what you hear is what we did that first day. It is a really great way to record. All of the recordings I have ever done previously were all with the drummer in his own room and the guitar amps in their own rooms and the rest of the band usually in the control room listening back through small, tiny speakers. It has always been frustrating for me. I like being able to feel the kick drum and bass, feeling the air move in the room with the music, the rise and fall of the conversation we are all having with one another through our instruments. There is no replacing it.

As for the Bully stuff, we’ve got over 40 songs that had very limited – me handing a homemade CDR to someone – release. I’m hoping to change that later this year. I think we are going to put out three EPs, each having five to seven studio cuts and two to three live recordings. I’m not really sure. We also started re-recording some Bully stuff a couple of years ago that has yet to see the light of day. When your bass player is in one of the biggest metal bands in the world, it gets hard to get everyone together in the same room and on the same page, but hopefully while Troy [Sanders] is home for a little bit between records, we can get some Bully time out of him.

What aspirations does the band muse about for the foreseeable future? Just sheerly hypothetically speaking, what’s next for you creatively?

The thing about us being in our 40s and doing this is that we don’t have the free time and lack of obligations that being 20 something has. Jett [Bryant, keyboards] has Bigfoot and a budding movie career [he was the star of DEAR GOD! NO! and is going to be in the follow up], Blake [Parrish, bass] and Eric [Young, percussion] are both in several bands and are in high demand as players, Jeff [Langston, guitars] has Ledfoot Messiah (they are doing the Kiss Kruise later this year) and he is in DRACULA: THE ROCK OPERA (ED note: Watch out for a Retro Review soon) at 7 Stages and Jim [Stacy, harmonica] has the Starlight Six Drive-In and Palookaville to run, as well as a successful TV show and the possibility of a opening a restaurant fairly soon.

And me, I’m not getting any younger. The thought of getting in a van and blowing with the wind down the road trying to find my rock and roll fortunes has long passed me by. The music I write and play isn’t fashionable. I have no hipster cred; my waist size has expanded. I’m not much to look at;  my head is shaped funny. At the end of the day I’m a 43-year-old IT nerd scraping by at a job I don’t care about, working for people who don’t care about me so I can earn money which is spent before I get it so I can keep a roof over my family’s heads and food and clothes in and on our bodies. I have a beautiful wife and family and a life like most people: spectacularly wonderful and exceedingly average. It just depends on what day of the week and how close we are to the next paycheck. Sometimes we have a little more than others, sometimes a little less. In my mind I’m doing all of this for them, hoping for the big pay-off someday. Rational Joel knows that is probably never going to happen.

But still, I have this need to make this music. I tell these stories and dream these dreams. That’s all good music really is. Stories and dreams. I’m going to keep writing and playing every chance I get for whoever will listen. When I have new stories, I write new songs. When I have new dreams, I write new songs.

It’s what I do, I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon.

Look for me up front and center.

AM Gold. Photo credit: David Batterman.

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Dreaming of THE HIDDEN MAN in Paradise Gardens: 7 Stages Explores the Enigmatic 1980s Friendship of Howard Finster and Robert Sherer

Posted on: Mar 8th, 2012 By:

Two of Georgia’s best-known artists, Howard Finster, the architect of Paradise Garden, REM/Talking Heads album covers and “Picasso of folk artists,”  and nihilistic punk painter Robert Sherer, also internationally acclaimed but known for his depictions of the male nude, seem like they would be unlikely friends. This unusual relationship between two of Georgia’s arguably greatest artists is the subject of THE HIDDEN MAN, the latest play performed by the always intriguing 7 Stages company, which opens Thursday March 8 (opening night celebration on Sat. March 10; details at story end) and runs through March 25. The play, which is a joint University of Georgia production and premiered a couple of weeks ago in Athens, drew criticism from Finster’s daughter, Beverly Finster-Guinn, who disputes that her devout Southern Baptist preacher father would be friends with a producer of “porn.”

ATLRetro recently caught up with Del Hamilton, 7 Stages’ Artistic Director, to find out more about the play, the controversy and a special sneak preview of more music from the rescheduled DRACULA: THE ROCK OPERA.

ATLRetro: How did THE HIDDEN MAN come about?

Del Hamilton: Russell Blackman, one of the co-authors, approached me several years ago with his rock and roll play about Finster. I told him I did not think it was ready for a production process and introduced him to Pamela Turner, and they decided to make this new play based on the partly fictional account of when Howard Finster and Robert Sherer met in the early ’80s. They are each arguably among Georgia’s most important visual artists, so this is an important story for that alone.

What drew you to it as a 7 Stages production and made you decide you wanted to direct it?

Even in these so-called enlightened times we live in, it’s still an incredible mystery to me that some people find fault with others based simply on what may be perceived as sexual inclination. This play directly addresses that significant cultural issue. How does a rabid anti-gay preacher look at a young, possibly atheist student? What do they see when they are with one another? How does Howard learn to forgive Robert for not being the person he wants him to be? When a person “hears” the call to be an artist, is it God? Is it an internal voice urging personal freedom?

How did Sherer and Finster meet and how much time did they spend together?

Don’t know how they met, although I heard stories, but can’t confirm. I believe they spent two summers together, more or less. Robert would travel to Paradise Gardens and stay over there for weeks at a time, helping Howard work on his art, being an apprentice.

What about your favorite aspect/scene?

I was hoping to create something beautiful – to look at, and to think about. I think there are many gorgeous scenes, even given our limited space and resources. I love the way scenes can be surprising and unexpected. I love the scene in the tub when the guys wash off the words SIN and LUST with Ivory Snow. And I love the shock of shooting the Tower of  Sodomy.

Paradise Gardens is a really unique location. What have you done at 7 Stages to recreate it?

Nothing.Paradise Gardens is a kind of sacred space, and we would not wish to do anything to disturb that, or to even try to recreate it. It’s truly unique, and dedicated to the full glory of God, something I don’t embrace intellectually. But I do respect that others hold this location with such high respect that it would be wrong to make it somehow secular by diminishing its beauty and stature. On the other hand, our scene designer has come up with a design that combines naive and sophisticated art concepts. The play is like a dream; in fact, it is a dream, alternating between the punk scene of Atlanta and Howard’s spiritual retreat in Summerville. As in dreams, locations, events, people get conflated, so we’re not sure if we are in dreams or reality from scene to scene. Sometimes the city and country locations are simultaneous.

A recent picture of Robert Sherer, Associate Professor of Art, Kennesaw State University. Photo courtesy of 7 Stages.

Was Robert Sherer involved in the production, and what does he think about it?

It’s partly his story, partly made up. He had nothing to do with the production, although he did lend early support to the writers, agreeing to interviews, and this formed the basis of the play. And he has stood up for 7 Stages as we were attacked by the religious folk who disagree that we should be allowed to do this play. In addition to being a great artist, Robert is one of the kindest, most sincere persons I have ever met.

Were you surprised at the derogatory response of Beverly Finster-Guinn?

Sure, especially the things she is saying that defame Robert. His reputation is on the line. He had nothing to do with the play, yet she is attacking him. She ought to go after 7 Stages and UGA, and in fact she tried this. But I guess she feels Robert is more vulnerable and an easier target. But my theatre has been marched on by the Klan, so it takes quite a lot to surprise me.

What was the reaction to the performances at UGA?

Well-received. I would say very positive reactions.

What do you hope audiences will walk away from THE HIDDEN MAN with?

That artists have to fight for a place in their culture. The fight involves personal goal assessment and a zest for life, including discovering ways to open doors to the imagination. Sometimes it’s drugs, sometimes it’s God, sometimes it’s how two artists interact that causes inspiration. If two distinct people such as Robert and Howard can be together, can’t others do it also? Can’t countries? Why can’t we all get along? How do artists find themselves, and the spark of inspiration? How are artists nurtured, and who does that in our society?

Rob Thompson as Count Dracula for HAUS VON DRACUL, the first act of DRACULA: A ROCK OPERA, performed at 7 Stages earlier this year.

Finally, many of our readers were disappointed to hear of the postponement of Rob Thompson‘s DRACULA: THE ROCK OPERA. How is the fundraising campaign for it going and when do you anticipate it will be ready to perform?

I am revealing here – you are first to know – that we will present songs from the second part of the show at the end of this month in a special concert-style presentation [date and time TBA] . The composers have now finished writing all the songs, and we have made a good cd of all songs from act 1. I love this music, and the second act is even better than the first act. And we are starting to organize the auditions and designs for a September Opening. So, lots of activity. WE ARE ALSO SEEKING PRODUCERS WHO WANT TO HELP US BY CONTRIBUTING MONEY; AND THEN THEY GET TO ATTEND REHEARSALS, SPECIAL EVENTS AND OPENING NIGHT. PLEASE TELL YOUR READERS.

I also add that we postponed DRACULA so we could do some needed facility renovation— a new roof, HVAC system and new bathrooms. It all came together and we decided to delay so we could do it better given more time, and raise enough money to pay people better than we often do. And we hope it won’t rain inside anymore.

Join 7 Stages for their Opening Night celebration of THE HIDDEN MAN Saturday, March 10. The festivities start at 7 p.m., and the evening will include food, wine and music by The Lamantations. Mix and mingle with the cast, playwright and Robert Sherer.


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Kool Kat of the Week: Rebecca Deshon On Living THE HOOPING LIFE

Posted on: Feb 21st, 2012 By:

Rebecca DeShon of HoopEssence. Photo credit: Stephanie Anderson.

Hula hoops made of willow, grapevines and stiff grasses date back all the way to prehistoric times, but most people today probably think of them as the girls’ must-have plastic toy manufactured by Wham-O starting in the late 1950s. The quintessential toy, however, has made a comeback in recent years into hoop dance, and if you missed this twisting trend, you can catch up at the Atlanta premiere of the acclaimed documentary THE HOOPING LIFE (2010) at 7 Stages in Little Five Points on Friday Feb. 24 (doors at 8 p.m.; show at 9 p.m.).

THE HOOPING LIFE not only delves into hula hoop history but also tells eight extraordinary stories of hoop enthusiasts who have embraced it as an art form, a teacher’s aid and even an instrument of redemption. The screening will be accompanied by live performances including a spectacular aerial number by Emerald Dove (Hot Toddies Flaming Cabaret); hoop dance by Maria Valentin aka Riahoopaleena all the way from New York City; stunts by Luna Trix Hoops Performance & Fire Arts of Columbia, SC; hoops and juggling by James Abele; and acts by Gesche Anneliesa of Musee du Coeur and  Ashly Connor of Imperial Opa Circus.

The entire night’s festivities have been organized by this week’s Kool Kat Rebecca DeShon, proprietress of HoopEssence, Atlanta’s own Hoop Dance performance company and school. ATLRetro recently caught up with Rebecca, to find out more about THE HOOPING LIFE, as well as how she got into hooping, how hooping has transformed her life and what it’s like to live la vida hoop dance.

ATLRetro: Hula hoops seemed to be less popular for a while, but now are enjoying a Renaissance of sorts not just with girls but grown-ups, too. Why do you think it’s back in vogue?

Rebecca DeShon: Hoop dance and hula hooping have really exploded into so many scenes. What was once thought of as just a fad in the underground club scene has really blossomed into a tool for dance, self expression, fitness, meditation and so much more. In my opinion, we are only just beginning to see this full immersion of society in hula hooping. Some hoopers like to call it a “Revolution,” if you will. I think part of the reason it is becoming so much more popular is the development of hand-crafted hula hoops which open up hooping to people of all ages and fitness levels. Besides, it just feels like a lot of fun, which is more than you can say about a lot of other fitness routines. Who doesn’t want that?

For the uninitiated, what’s the difference between hula-hooping and hoop dance

Modern hoop dance has come such a long way since the stereotypical image most people think of from hula hooping in the ‘50s. People are now completely expressing themselves in dance both inside the hoop and using the hoop as a prop to tell a story through dance. We are repurposing an object that was only to be flung around the waist in endless rotation or simply rolled on the ground into what is now a vast array of styles and forms of hooping or hoop dance. Today we see hoopers not just simply flinging dozens of hoops around their waist like you see in the circus, but truly dancing in and with the hula hoop as a dance partner. It is now such an extraordinary companion for artistic self expression.

Hoop dance just means that we are actually dancing with our hoops and at times incorporating many different “tricks.”  Hooping has expanded so far between styles that we are actually seeing entire “genres” of hoop dance styles. It is an incredible art form! With the proper hand-crafted hoop, patience, practice and determination, I know that anyone can be a hoop dancer. I, for one, have no professional dance training, so I can assure you that you don’t have to be a “dancer” to become a hoop dancer.

I understand fans from all of the Southeast are coming to Atlanta for the screening. What’s so special about THE HOOPING LIFE as a movie?

We are thrilled to report that we have fans and performers coming from all over the US for this event! They are coming from as far away as CA, NYC and Texas! Chicago, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Florida, Alabama and all over the state of GA. THE HOOPING LIFE is a feature-length film that has been six years in the making. It is a labor of love in the form of a documentary film which has not been released for public screenings until Jan 2012. We have been waiting for this event for so long and are so super thrilled to see its final release. THE HOOPING LIFE documentary is important not just for hoopers but for those who don’t know its amazing life-changing benefits. The film has been shot all over the world by the hoopers themselves. This film covers eight story lines from eight very different aspects of just how dynamic hooping can be. It is the first film of its kind!

Will any of the filmmakers be there?

Currently the filmmakers are super busy working on the music video for “Hooping Life”, the original music by Basement Jaxx which was created just for this amazing film. While nothing has been set in stone, we have heard rumors of interest in them making the trip. Honestly, with an event like this, you really just never know who might show up! Surprise guests will be there and you just need to be present to see exactly who!

Rebecca DeShon hoop dances with fire at Hellbilly Family Reunion (Elliott Street Pub 2011). Photo credit: Erick Jara.

What else is happening Friday night at 7 Stages in addition to the screening?

We have a spectacular evening of entertainment planned for our guests!! Doors open at 8 with live entertainment right from the start! We will have hooping gifts, hoops and merchandise for your shopping pleasure, a “red carpet” photo session for guests, HUGE prize giveaways, a carnival-like atmosphere with jugglers/stilt walkers/hoopers and that is just the pre-show!! At 9 p.m., the stage shows begin with live performers for your pleasure Maria Valentin from NYC, Lunatrix Performance & Circus Arts (SC), Ashly Connor (Imperial Opa Circus), Emerald Dove on aerial silks (Hot Toddies Flaming Cabaret), Gesche Annelesia (Musee du Coeur) and many more performances. After the live performances, we have the Atlanta Premiere of THE HOOPING LIFE film. Directly following the film, we will invite all guests to come up on stage and give the hoop a twirl themselves for a huge hooper dance party. We also have visuals being projected on the screen from start to finish. This is going to be an incredible evening like no other in Atlanta.

How did you first discover that you loved to hula hoop?

I was actually gifted my first ever adult hand-crafted hula hoop in 2008 from a friend, Beki Bear, as a going away gift before embarking on a journey to New York for a while. That first northern winter, I found myself stuck indoors buried under snow and very cold with nothing but my hula hoop. I picked up my hoop, began playing with it and really found myself embracing it. I was so surprised at how much I was enjoying playing with the hoop. I felt great about learning a new skill and have always loved dancing so I was hooked right away, head over heels. I began searching online, hungry to learn more about hooping. At the time there were very few resources to learn from and, unless you lived in California or were willing to travel many miles, not many instructors around. I found a great resource called Hooping.org which I like to call “the holy grail of Hooping.” You can find endless information about hooping from this site. I didn’t realize then that I would use the hoop as a tool for self-empowerment or use it to help others to do the same.

How did you start performing professionally and what’s your favorite gig so far?

I guess you could say I just stumbled into performing during my hooping development. As a hoop dancer beginning my journey inRochester,NY, performing came pretty naturally for me. Hoop dance was so unique that people couldn’t help but stop and watch. I love what I do and want to inspire others to try it out and experience the joy, so performing just came with the part. My first gig was just a couple of months after beginning my hoop dance journey. I got to perform as part of My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult at Water Street Music Hall in Rochester, NY. At first I was terrified, but I really enjoyed the crowd’s response and the adrenaline rush of performing so after that first gig I was instantly hooked. I have been blessed with a lot of really fun gigs.

Rebecca DeShon performs at The High for College Night with Dance Truck. Photo Credit: Matt Gilbert.

Many of my gigs are corporate events, which gives me the opportunity to perform in some really exciting venues. Last year I was hired to perform at The Georgia Aquarium dressed up as a mermaid. I also loved hooping at The High Museum of Art a couple weeks ago for College Night. Next month I am particularly looking forward to a gig at Chateau Elan for Verizon Wireless (we are conducting an LED Circus of sorts). I also participate in a lot of smaller gigs in club style settings as well as my work with charity organizations such as East Atlanta Kids Club, Atlanta Streets Alive and Atlanta Women’s Foundation.

On March 3, I will be performing and doing class demos for Atlanta Dance Marathon at Zoo Atlanta – which is a benefit for Atlanta Children’s Network Hospitals. I really love community-based work and feel hooping can be used as a tool for outreach on so many levels. It is simply a joy to share what I do! I dedicate a lot of time and energy into my practice, sometimes at the cost of sleep. It brings me so much joy to share the experience of hooping that I really find it is worth the effort.

You’ve said that hula hooping has changed your life. Can you talk just a bit about how and what is it about hula-hooping that you personally find so special?

Hooping or hoop dance has changed my life in dramatic ways and I continue to grow daily through what I learn inside the hoop. Initially I saw the physical benefits of hooping right away. My body is more fit and trim with great muscle tone – all from what I once thought of as just a simple child’s toy. Later, I noticed my stress being melted away from hooping, anxiety being relieved, and, of course, exercising produces endorphins that helped to naturally chase away any blues or depression.

Rebecca DeShon. Body paint & photo by Stephanie Anderson (Neon Armour).

Hooping gives me a great feeling of accomplishment, even when I am not performing for others. It is nice to feel good about yourself and what you are doing. Hooping has led me to make some of the most incredible friends and expanded into what is today a global community of hoop dancers. My life suddenly had direction and purpose once I began hooping. I found myself thinking and living more positively and healthier. The list goes on and on… I could speak for days about how hooping has changed my life: from the most simple things to complexities even I find hard to believe at times. Hoop dance has literally caused a chain reaction of positivity and prosperity in my life.

The hoop has a way of changing your attitude. Once you get the hang of hooping and get past the initial learning curve – this only takes a few minutes with the proper hoop and instruction – it is so unbelievably difficult to not be happy and giggle while hooping. You will find that if you are in the presence of hoopers, we are generally pretty happy and positive. I feel most of us work hard to spread that love to others. I am so fortunate to have found an outlet in hooping that lets me get past the miseries and frustrations that life puts in our way, and focus that energy towards something positive for myself and for those around me.

How did hula hooping grow from a hobby into you founding Hoopessence? 

Hooping began as a hobby that I discovered I just couldn’t keep to myself. I wanted to share the love and joy with everyone I met. So I learned how to hand-craft hoops and began teaching everyone who would listen. I found it is not hard to get others excited about hooping once they see you hoop and hear/see the magical benefits of it all; they want to try it too. I found that hooping and sharing the benefits was a calling for me. I became a certified hoop dance instructor within my first year of hooping and since then have built my own teaching style.

Now, my own HoopEssence teacher trainings are in the works. I just want to share the love with as many people as possible. So it comes pretty easy for me. Turning any hobby into a business is very challenging however. What you once did for fun can feel forced and unnatural once you try to earn a living from your hobby. It is a very delicate balance. I love what I do so much that I am willing to work hard and make sacrifices to do what I do. I am also really fortunate to be married to an amazingly supportive man who assists in any way he can with my business. He is constantly empowering me to excel and grow. For that I am thankful. If it was just me on my own, I’m not sure could not make a living from hooping; a business needs the support of a great team.

Rebecca DeShon. Photo credit: Stephanie Anderson.

What types of classes do you offer at HoopEssence?

I offer classes in all things hoop at HoopEssence. Beginner basics, intermediate hooping, specialty hooping classes (i.e. minis, isolations, multiple hoops), workshops, hoop crafting workshops, private lessons, dancing in and out of your hoop, children classes and community jams. You name it, I hoop it! If you are just getting into hooping, I teach you all the basics of this great hobby in my Hooping 101 Series. Hooping 101 is four Sunday classes from 1-2:30pm with my next series starting March 4. You may find all the info about my next Hooping 101 series here.

I am also teaching intermediate and advance hoop dance classes at various locations throughout the Metro Atlanta area. You may find all the information and more through my website www.hoopessence.com. I am always looking out for new venues and private lesson students as well. If you would like to book a lesson or want to see hoop dance in your neighborhood, drop me a line and say hello. I am always here to help. With the upcoming spring and summer months, I have a lot of free outdoor events (called Hoop Jams) where I bring hoops, tunes and people can come join in on the fun with no obligations.

Any secrets to buying a great hula hoop?

A great hula hoop is a hand-crafted adult hula hoop. The hoops that you find in the dollar store just don’t cut it and can leave you feeling hopeless as a hooper. You can find hoops of all sizes and all the colors of the rainbow through my website  www.hoopessence.com/products-page. I hand-craft each hoop and fancy myself as somewhat of a “hoop sizing expert”. If you find yourself in the market for a new hoop or are just simply curious to what its all about, please feel free to call or drop a line with your questions. I would be more than happy to assist you in choosing. It can be a bit overwhelming for the beginner with all the options available from sizes, weight, colors, material, LED and even fire hoops. Check out my website and also be sure to sign up for my email newsletter where I send out coupons for deep discounts on all things hoop!

Tickets for THE HOOPING LIFE are just $15 when purchased online in advance before midnight on Feb. 21.  Any remaining tickets will be available at the door only for $20 each, but be warned, at press time, there were only 50 seats left so we highly recommend purchasing in advance here.

Find HoopEssence on Facebook and Twitter.

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Kool Kat of the Week: Madeline Brumby Battles the Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse, Scares at the Spookshow and Braves Bikers ‘n’ Bigfoot in DEAR GOD NO!

Posted on: Oct 12th, 2011 By:

As Halloween creeps close and THE WALKING DEAD returns to TV next Sunday, Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse (AZA) arises for its own second season with new sets and a new storyline at Safety Wolf, the vast paintball combat complex off Moreland Avenue, just south of I-285 (open Thurs.-Sun. nights through Oct. 31). Set in and around a two-story abandoned motel, this approximately 100,000-square-foot attraction was nightmared up by the maniacal minds of local horror Renaissance man/make-up artist Shane Morton (Silver Scream Spookshow, Gargantua, etc.) and Jonny Rej (Plaza Theatre). Not just your traditional walk-through haunts with jump-out monsters, AZA delivers a total immersion “experience” with a distinct plotline that lands visitors right in the middle of the zombie plague, interacting along the way with a variety of human characters from scientists and bureaucrats at the Center for Disease Development (CDD) (but can you trust them?) to commandos fighting the zombies with automatic weaponry (reminiscent of last year’s Mack and Johnson) to a twisted carnival of human scum who thrive in the chaos, reminiscent of John Carpenter’s ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK.  It’s sometimes hard to know who to trust but if someone says “run,” let’s just say you can be sure zombies are around and if you don’t, you may get bitten and infected with the plague yourself or worse eaten for your brains!

To get the scary scoop, ATLRetro caught up with Madeline Brumby, a brunette with a machine gun who is no mere scream queen but a key cast-member and also this year’s pinup girl for the “hero” side of the AZA. But that’s not the only place you can see this monster-loving maiden this October. She’ll also be acting in the 5th Anniversary Silver Scream Spookshow this Saturday Oct. 15 at the Plaza Theatre – and you know Prof. Morte and Co. will be pulling out all the tricks and treats given that it’s their Halloween show and the movie is a rare 35mm print of the Vincent Price/Lon Chaney Jr. (not to mention H.P. Lovecraft) 1963 classic HAUNTED PALACE (Read our Retro Review here). Then she’ll be taking to the streets for this Sunday’s Zombie Walk Atlanta, organized by Luke Godfrey (Splatter Cinema, Chamber of Horrors) and cosponsored by AZA, and again with the AZA group at the Little 5 Points Halloween Parade on Sat. Oct. 22. Finally Madeline also will be up on the Plaza’s big screen later this month (Oct. 22-27) as one of the stars of DEAR GOD NO!, a hard-edged/no-holds-barred homage to ‘70s grindhouse features about a hellraising motorcycle gang, a mad scientist and a sasquatch on the rampage. Yeah, the name makes total sense when you see the movie!

All of this sounds like horror heaven to us, so we had to make Madeline Kool Kat of the Week

AZA 2011 T-short design by Dave Cook.

ATLRetro: This year’s AZA has the same basic concept but a totally new pathway and set of characters—loved the R.I.P. Mack and Johnson graffiti on the back wall. Without giving too much away, what’s new and different?

Madeline Brumby: We are all extremely excited about the new format. Of course, I’m sad to see Mack and Johnson go, but this year’s show is the sequel to the Mack and Johnson story. The versatility of the AZA to create and continue an apocalyptic scenario is really what gives the unique feel to the experience this year. And for years to come!

One of the cool things about AZA is every character seems to have a back story. Who do you play, and what’s yours?

Definitely! We had a patron come through the other night who was totally impressed that we had “real” actors with “real” stories. I’m a resistance paramilitary character. My troopers and I are rebels fighting for the survival of the uninfected and the destruction of the Center for Disease Development.

Some of the zombies have pretty intense make-up—i.e. they’re not freshly dead. How long does it take the zombies to get into make-up and how many make-up artists are on the team?

As much as we try to make the apocalypse real, the AZA is still a show. With not much light, our zombies have to be highly detailed for a spine-chilling scare. The process is down to a fine science—taking about 7 minutes per zombie. We have a team of about eight artists, myself included, headed by Shane Morton. First they are outfitted and receive a prosthetic. Once the prosthetic is dry, they are base-coated, detailed with additional colors, blood-splattered and hungry for BRAINS!

What zombie movies and books were most influential in planning AZA, and did a certain TV show set in Atlanta and featuring the CDC influence AZA at all in this year’s planning?

Haha! That’s funny. Last night Shane and I watched THE WALKING DEAD for the first time, and I thought it was pretty weak. CGI blood is a NO-NO! Our blood gags are far more realistic and they’re LIVE! And I’m pretty sure we were using the CDC gimmick first(?) as our show opened before the first episode aired. As far as most influential, WORLD WAR Z, I AM LEGEND [Ed. note: original Richard Matheson novel, not Will Smith move], LAST MAN STANDING and ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK provide the main inspirations.

Were you involved in any of the planning and construction? What can you tell us about that – how does AZA come together and who are some of the key behind-the-scenes masterminds, whom readers might not know about?

I’ve been out on builds from January to October and helped with some big scares in the courtyard. The primary innovators are Jonny Rej (co-owner of the Plaza Theatre) and Shane, with the major help of Dusty Booze in the construction department.

What’s a cool piece of trivia about AZA that isn’t widely known?


Professor Morte (Shane Morton) and Madeline Brumby in Silver Scream Spookshow.

Can you share any history about the AZA site? It was an abandoned motel, wasn’t it?

It used to be one of the busiest trucks stops ofAtlanta. At some point the owners ran into financial trouble and it shut down. Pirates ransacked the place and absconded with all the copper! When the property was purchased by Safety Wolf, I think they found EIGHT dead bodies during clean-up in the motel.  Shane and Jonny sure found some scary stuff when they were cleaning…

In addition to the main AZA experience, there’s a photo op, the opportunity to shoot zombies with paintball weaponry and some tasty food vendors, aren’t there? What might readers want to know in advance about what else is going on?

What better way to remember your apocalyptic experience than a photo with a zombie and a weapon of choice! The Zombie Shoot is even better this year and don’t let your taste buds miss out on Jim Stacy‘s famous Palookaville eats! His pickle is amazing! (insert joke here)

You’ve also become a regular in the Silver Scream Spookshow. Can you give us a little sneak peek into this week’s stage show and what makes HAUNTED PALACE such a special treat?

We definitely have some comedy gold in store for this week’s show! It’s the 5th year anniversary, so we’ve got some of the older characters like Persephone (Plaza co-owner Gayle Rej) and some of the new ones like Quozzy mixing it up for a spooktacular monster mash with more onstage illusions than ever. The score of HAUNTED PALACE is what makes the movie special to me, so I’m excited to see and HEAR it in the wonderful Plaza Theatre.

Will AZA be in the L5P Halloween Parade this year? Just zombies or how does one decorate an undead float?

We’ll be there! Undead and Alive! I think the only “float” we’ll have is a blood-splattered car.

You’re also starring in DEAR GOD NO!, an over-the-top neo-‘70s exploitation film featuring tons of local talent and playing at the Plaza Oct. 22-27. Can you tell us a little bit about that movie and the part you play?

Jimmy Bickert‘s DEAR GOD NO! is the ultimate grindhouse film. It is disturbing, offensive, hilarious, horrifying and amazing. You can’t even call it a tribute. It was shot on super 16mm film and all the effects are practical. I play Edna Marco who is the daughter of the mad scientist that has created something terrible. She transforms from submissive to empowered. Developing her went beyond all expectations. I channeled some deep dark emotions into my character and it has definitely been one of my proudest roles.

DEAR GOD NO! pushed a lot of boundaries and isn’t for everyone. What advice do you have for who should see it, especially the gals?

Take it for the art that it is and expect to be offended.

You also are acting as one of Dracula’s wives in Rob Thompson’s highly anticipated DRACULA: THE ROCK OPERA, which premieres next April at 7 Stages. Do you have anything you’d like to share about that role and experience?

Well, it’s definitely a musical that isn’t lame. My poor brother didn’t realize that Dracula’s wives were semi-nude and felt a little weird seeing that much of his sister. Haha! But, I don’t think it bothered anybody else too much. From musicians, score, and performers, the show is oozing talent and potential. I hope we do play in Prague this summer.

Any other acting roles or creative endeavors that you’d like to share with ATLRetro readers?

I hear there’s going to be a sequel to DEAR GOD NO! Hopefully we start shooting in the Spring.

Finally, you lived in England and have a science degree from Georgia Tech. Not that it wouldn’t be our dream/nightmare job, but how did you end up being a B-monster attraction/spookshow/movie actress?

Life’s a journey, right?

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Vintage Vacation: Road Trips from Hell with Blast-Off Burlesque, Part 3: Barbilicious Gets Lost in Texas

Posted on: Sep 10th, 2011 By:

Barbilicious performs with LUST. Photo courtesy of Barbilicious.

With Blast-Off Burlesque’s World Tour about to take off this weekend at 7 Stages (if you haven’t bought tickets yet, book ‘em here! Only two more shows on Sat at 7:30 p.m. & 10:30 p.m.), we asked those gorgeous gals and guys about their craziest real-life travel experiences. And did they have some stories to tell—from wicked weather to dodgy directions.

In the third of this three-part series, Barbilicious was having a great time on tour with her band LUST until she headed to a rather unusual gig in Canyon, Texas…

Road Trips with my band LUST have always brought surprises, victories, defeats, and just plain weirdness. We used to take an annual West Coast Tour and go from Atlanta to the West Coast and back. A big loop that rolls down to New Orleans, then up through TX, NM, AZ and CA. Texas is a HUGE state, so in between Houston, Dallas, Austin and our favorite El Paso, there are little entertainment-starved places like Canyon, TX.

Canyon is a beautiful place located in Central TX, and cold as hell in February. After a wonderful show in Lubbock, TX, where we played for a couple of Black Metal dudes and their girlfriends in a room in a house, and had a grand tour of Buddy Holly‘s high school gym, we are looking forward to what Canyon would bring. Of course, we are pretty much broke, gas is expensive, and we need to get to the next place, so anywhere to play is always going to be better than not playing, right?

Dickie Van Dyke & Barbilicious. Photo credit: Derek Jackson.

Where’s the gig? It’s a little ambiguous, but we do have a phone number. After some phone tagging and crackly connections, we get directions. This was before smart phones and Google maps, so we get to pull out the ole’ paper one. Why that seems to be right in the middle of a State Park. Another call, wait don’t go there, go here instead. Why, that seems to be another State Park. It’s getting dark, and really cold, it’s 28 degrees, and yes, we’re playing in a State Park. Illegally.

There is more confusion, what gazebo will we be playing at? We need one with an outlet. There are no lights, the park is closed, it’s fucking freezing. After winding around the park, we finally pull up to a gazebo, where our headlights catch glimpse of a young punker pacing back and forth, all bundled up, and waiting for us to arrive.

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Vintage Vacation: Road Trips from Hell with Blast-Off Burlesque: World Tour Guest Star Jim Stacy Goes Fishing

Posted on: Sep 9th, 2011 By:

Frequent Blast-Off Burlesque Guest Star Jim Stacy whips up a seafood boil at Drive Invasion 2006. He also manages the Starlight Drive-In, owns the Palookaville corn dog food truck and stars in the PBS series GET DELICIOUS.

With Blast-Off Burlesque’s World Tour about to take off this weekend at 7 Stages (if you haven’t bought tickets yet, book ‘em here! Fri at 9 p.m., and Sat at 7:30 p.m. & 10:30 p.m.), we asked those gorgeous gals and guys about their craziest real-life travel experiences. And did they have some stories to tell—from wicked weather to dodgy directions.

In the second of this three-part series, guest star and regular show contributor Jim Stacy (GET DELICIOUS!, Palookaville, AM Gold, Starlight Drive-In, etc) goes fishing in Florida with his dad. Let’s just say the weather started getting rough and the tiny ship was tossed. If not for the courage of the fearless crew…

I was about 9 years old and my family had gone to Daytona Beach, Florida for vacation. My Father and I decided to go Deep Sea Fishing, a ritual for he and I to this day. As we got further out and started catching fish the Captain came down and said a tropical storm was coming in but should pass to the south of us. We moved a few miles further out just to make sure the storm was well away from us and continued to fish our asses off.

The storm approached land where my Mother and siblings were safe in the Beach House awaiting a fish dinner. The storm had other ideas. It bounces off the shallows and comes at a beeline back towards us.

The Captain stows all gear as green and black asshole clouds bank up on us and we run. Skeedaddle as fast as the 40-foot cabin forward fishing boat will go. The storm gets us. We hunker in the Galley as we race at a 70° up the face of a wave, to crest it, race back down and have another wave smash over the bridge.

Jim Stacy plays with the Wizard of Oz, pictured here with real Munchkin Karl Stover, Blast-Off Burlesque & other Plaza friends. Photo Credit: ATLRetro..

So the waves smash out all the Galley windows and smash the coolers full of Lunch and Dinner. A steady tide of glass, broken wood, styrofoam, ice, fish and gear wash around my ankles as I see my new Chuck Taylor’s get deeper and deeper in the storm water.

We end up being 9 hours late getting back. My frantic Mother and brothers and sister are standing at the dock.

We lost all the fish.


Coming Soon: Vintage Vacation: Road Trips from Hell with Blast-Off Burlesque, Part 3: Barbilicious Gets Lost in Texas.

Read Part 1: Blizzard in North Carolina here.

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Vintage Vacation: Road Trips from Hell with Blast-Off Burlesque, Part 1: Blizzard in North Carolina

Posted on: Sep 8th, 2011 By:

With Blast-Off Burlesque’s World Tour about to take off this weekend at 7 Stages (if you haven’t bought tickets yet, book ‘em here,! Fri at 9 p.m., and Sat at 7:30 p.m. & 10:30 p.m.), we asked those gorgeous gals and guys about their craziest real-life travel experiences. And did they have some stories to tell—from wicked weather to dodgy directions.

In the first of this three-part series, the entire Blast-Off gang braves a blizzard but our intrepid entertainers know the show must go on…

In January 2009, Blast-Off was heading to Asheville to put on two nights of a “best of” show at North Carolina Stage Company. We were psyched about it, because it was the first time we’d really taken the show on the road, rather than traveling to guest in other folks’ shows.

As the date approached, we kept an eye on the weather. It was January, after all. And as luck would have it, a snow – and ice – storm synched up with our travel plans. We were planning on heading up in two groups, one on Thursday evening and one Friday. The storm had a similar plan of attack.

Sadie Hawkins. Photo courtesy of Sadie Hawkins.

Barbilicious and Dickie Van Dyke were first to make the journey from Atlanta to North Carolina. They made it just ahead of the storm. Sadie Hawkins had been in Washington, DC for her day job. It was snowing there, too, and she was playing the weather delay game with Delta. Finally, a flight got through, and she made it home just as Atlanta’s weather started to get exciting. She was scheduled to drive up to Asheville with her partner – and Blast-Off’s sound man – Bryant. The goings were slow, but they made it up there in the wee hours.

Now, when team Blast-Off goes to Asheville, we stay in a cabin in the woods. Seriously. Disastrid’s mother has a rustic place at the base of a mountain, off of a curvy road and next to a babbling creek. It’s remote enough that there’s no cell service. It has power and water – and a landline phone.

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Weekend Update, Aug 5-7, 2011

Posted on: Aug 5th, 2011 By:

Friday, August 5

All-time great wrestling promoter Jerry Jarrett will be at the Plaza Theatre to meet and greet, sign his recent book and introduce 7:30 p.m. screenings of MEMPHIS HEAT: THE TRUE STORY OF MEMPHIS WRASSLIN’ tonight, Saturday and Sunday. The new documentary tells the wild and wooly tale of mid-South wrestling, from the ‘50s carnival days of Sputnik Monroe and Billy Wicks to the raucous ‘70s and ‘80s with the rise of Jerry Lawler, Jimmy Hart and promoter Jarrett. Can’t make the 7:30 p.m. screening? It’s also on at 9:30 p.m. all three nights. Read an interview with Jarret by ATLRetro friend and Wrestling with Pop Culture blogger Jonathan Williams in this week’s Creative Loafing here.

Dracula's lovely brides take more than a few bites out of Jonathan Harker (Chris Love) in DRACULA:THE ROCK OPERA at 7 Stages.

Last February Atlantans had the marvelous macabre opportunity to get a sneak peek at HAUS VON DRACUL, the first act of DRACULA: THE ROCK OPERA, conceived by and starring Rob Thompson; performed by local talents such as Chris Love as Jonathan Harker and the Little Five Points Rockstar Orchestra; and featuring make-up and sets by Shane Morte of Silver Scream Spookshow fame. To refresh your memory, read ATLRetro’s feature on Love here and our review of the production at 7 Stages here. For just $15, you can support some of Atlanta’s top alternative talent in prepping this show for its world premiere next April, as well as scream to some one-of-a-kind performances tonight during Black Metal Burlesque: A Hell Raising Fundraiser at 7 Stages. A pre-party starts at 9 a.m., with show at 10 a.m. featuring performers from the show, the Little Five PointsRock Orchestra, The Chameleon Queen, body suspension by Loki Shane DeFrieceMacabre Puppets‘ Chris Brown (Scarlett’s Web) as Rotzo the Clown, and much more from body-painting to a raffle. For a scary sneak preview, check out our interview with Kool Kat of the Week actor/stuntman Justin Welborn here.

New York’s Felix and the Cats swing down to Fat Matt’s. Canadian rocker Bryan Adams takes audiences back to the ’80s in his Bare Bones Tour to Frederick Brown Jr. Amphitheater in Peachtree City. Rock further back to the ’70s with Revival: An Allman Brothers Experience with Lefty Williams and Benji Shanks at Vinyl at Center Stage. Catch an IMAX movie and listen to cool jazz and sexy soul by vocalist Sarah Belladae at Fernbank Museum of Natural History’s Martinis and IMAX.

Saturday August 6

Catch an opening reception for August and Everything After: A URBNPOP art show, a solo art show featuring the wonderfully quirky pop culture-inspired works of artist Chris Hamer at Rev Coffee (1680-B Spring Road, Smyrna, 30080) from 8 to 10 p.m. Read ATLRetro’s Kool Kat profile of Chris here.

Travel back to the late ’70s/early ’80s at Deja vu Discotheque – The Dance Party of the Decade, a reunion party for The Limelight, Atlanta’s Studio 54, at Center Stage tonight. In addition to grooving to favorite dance music of the era by original Limelight DJs, attendees will be treated to a recreation of the club’s spectacular Moving Lightshow and many other over-the-top experiences reminiscent of the legendary venue. Read our sneak preview with memories of the original Limelight from Scott Cloud and KP Hendry here. Doors open for VIPs at 8 p.m, general admission at 9 p.m., and a silent auction benefits the Starlight Children’s Foundation of Georgia. Tickets are available here.

Billie Holliday sings the blues in STRANGE FRUIT.

Explore the dark side of the South via the soundtrack of the haunting Billie Holliday song in STRANGE FRUIT, a documentary directed by Joel Katz that weaves together jazz geneaology, biography, performance footage and the history of lynching, in the latest entry in the High Museum of Art‘s Radcliffe Bailey Film SeriesTheophis “Thee” Smith, associate professor of religion at Emory, will lead a discussion following the 8 p.m. screening at the Woodruff Arts Center.

Ghost Riders Car Club headlines a very special Retro honky tonk evening at Star Bar with Anna Kramer & the Lost CauseAndy Vaughn & the Driveline, and New Orleans’ Dirty Bourbon River Show. If you missed ATLRetro’s Kool Kat interview with GRCC’s Spike Fullerton, here’s a link. It’s a trilogy of rockin’ country ’70s-inspired fun when Gasoline BrosLo Country and AM Gold invade VinylSteely Dan is at Classic Chastain. Maretta’s Dry White Toast plays funk rock at Fat Matt’s Rib ShackFelix & the Cats swing over to Northside Tavern. And of course, DJ Romeo Cologne transforms the sensationally seedy Clermont Lounge into a ’70s disco/funk inferno late into the wee hours.

Sunday August 7

Interstate plays blues “dunch” between 1 and 4 PM at The Earl. One of the best alternative bands with its roots in the ’80s, The Goo Goo Dolls, play with Michelle Branch at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre. And ’70s rockets Steely Dan are at Classic Chastain. And don’t forget Jerry Jarrett and MEMPHIS HEAT at The Plaza! See Friday for details.

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Kool Kat of the Week: Raising Hell with Justin Welborn at Friday’s BLACK METAL BURLESQUE Fundraiser for DRACULA: THE ROCK OPERA at 7 Stages

Posted on: Aug 4th, 2011 By:

Last February, composer/musician Rob Thompson and The Little 5 Points Rockstar Orchestra drove a stake into our preconceptions of rock opera as a dead-and-buried art form and put the bite back into vampire lore at 7 Stages with HAUS VON DRACUL, PART 1. If you’ve been stuck in your coffin and missed hearing about it, check out ATLRetro’s interview with actor Chris Love, who injected hard rockin’ passion into the often-staid role of Jonathan Harker, and our review here.

Now Rob and the rest of that crazed and creative team are hard at work on the terrifying second act of what’s now titled DRACULA: THE ROCK OPERA which will have its premiere run at 7 Stages from April 19-May 13, 2012. However, as anyone in the arts knows, even a labor of creative love needs some cold hard cash to make it to the stage. So raise the curtain on BLACK METAL BURLESQUE, a one-of-a-kind fundraiser this Friday at 7 Stages featuring not just cast members and the Little 5 Points Rockstar but other notorious local talent such as The Chameleon Queen, Loki Shane DeFriece (Prentice Suspensions), Macabre Puppets’ Chris Brown (Dad’s Garage’s SCARLETT’S WEB), , set designer/make-up artist Shane Morton (Silver Scream Spookshow), and many more. Tickets are just $15 and the show is at 10 p.m., but a pre-show party kicks off at 9 p.m. and continues after the show.

Dracula's lovely brides take more than a few bites out of Jonathan Harker (Chris Love) in last February's performance of HAUS VON DRACUL at 7 Stages.

For a sneak preview of this sexy, surreal and sinister evening, we turned to actor and stunt artist Justin Welborn, one of the mad masterminds behind the fearsome festivities and no stranger to the world of horror. In addition to performing at most of Atlanta’s theaters, he directed Sensurround Stagings’ production of Clive Barker’s THE HISTORY

Justin Welborn in THE SIGNAL. Magnolia Pictures, 2007.

OF THE DEVIL, is a founding member of Black Knight Stunts, and starred in the independent horror movie THE SIGNAL, which screened at Sundance in 2007. More scary screen credits include THE FINAL DESTINATION (2009), DANCE OF THE DEAD (2008), and THE CRAZIES (2010). Oh, and Justin does yoga, drinks Jamesons and his favorite movie is COOL HAND LUKE (1967).

How did you get involved in DRACULA: THE ROCK OPERA and what’s your role?

I am assisting Del Hamilton (Artistic Director of 7 Stages) with the direction and artistic production design of DRACULA. It’s strange how I got started with this whole three ring circus, i,e. The Little 5 Points Rock Star Orchestra. I’ve worked with, for and at 7 Stages for many years, and I’d seen the Rock Star guys and gals do their Iron Maiden show and their Pink Floyd Tribute, and always had an amazing time. I knew they had done JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR and HAIR, and so when Heidi Howard (Education Director/Production Manager, 7 Stages) asked me to come in and help coordinate the stunt work and violence in their 666 CHRISTMAS WITH THE DEVIL show, I was more than excited to help. I found the whole Devil crew to be very eager, slightly disorganized and maybe a little drunk. I loved it. And the show’s finale was like nothing I’d ever seen at an Atlanta theater in 12 years! Just mad!

The Krampus float in last year's L5P Halloween Parade.

I came in again the next year for A KRAMPUS CHRISTMAS and ended up spending more time directing for real, rather than just stunts. The more I gave, the more they gave back. We began to figure out how this theater world and their music world could mesh and synthesize into something new and fun for everyone. So when I was asked to help with DRACULA, I jumped at the chance for another go! I didn’t know what I’d be doing for sure, but right from the start, I began directing and troubleshooting in a kind of cooperative effort to make the best show possible. I wasn’t in charge, but at a certain point I was given—by unspoken agreement more or less—great license to help create and direct the show. I was really quite honored at how much trust they put into me.

The first act, titled HAUS VON DRACUL, premiered at 7 Stages last February. Is the second act’s script and music completed or at what stage is at now?
The second act is still in development but is coming along swimmingly. Rob Thompson, the creative mind before and behind our vampire opera, has been working on this project for almost two years, and as I understand it, is approaching a completed score. I think we’re still trying to figure out what we want to do with the end. We are using Bram Stoker’s book as our cornerstone, but translating that into music and a stunning visual stage show takes some real ingenuity.

Considering it’s a rock musical about a vampire, Black Metal Burlesque sounds like the perfect theme for a fundraiser. Any story behind how the idea came about?
Rob told me one night at Java Lords that he wanted to do a fundraiser based on Venom’s BLACK METAL album that would include burlesque girls and live suspension acts. Then he described a few possible numbers. So I took what he said, weighed some options and the favors I had left in town, and decided if not now, when? I wanted to keep the DRACULA buzz rolling, and help support a theater I believe in. Plus the excitement from the group only intensifies every time we up our game and really keep challenging ourselves with what we can do artistically when we work together. It’s very exciting to see these artists working toward a common goal with people they normally wouldn’t get a chance to perform around.

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This Week in Retro Atlanta, Aug. 1-7, 2011

Posted on: Aug 2nd, 2011 By:

Monday August 1

From 3 PM on, savor tropical sounds and libations, as well as a Polynesian dinner during Mai Tai Monday at Smith’s Olde BarKingsized and Tongo Hiti lead singer Big Mike Geier is Monday night’s celebrity bartender at Sister Louisa’s Church of the Living Room and Ping Pong ParlorNorthside Tavern hosts its weekly Blues Jam.

Tuesday August 2

Grab your horn and head to Twain’s in Decatur for a Joe Gransden jazz jam session starting at 9 PM. Crosstown All Stars play Southern rock and blues at Fat Matt’s Rib Shack. Notorious DJ Romeo Cologne spins ‘70s funk and disco at 10 High in Virginia-Highland. Catch Tues. Retro in the Metro nights at Midtown’s Deadwood Saloon, featuring video mixes of ’80s, ’90s and 2Ks hits.

Wednesday  August 3

Tennessee Tease Burlesque Invades the Cult Movie! combines two great Retro traditions on one stage at The Shelter. Doors are at 9, show at 10, and tickets are $10 to see this sexy troupe from Memphis which features titillating dancers, vocalists, comedians and fire performers.

The Beach BoysBrian Wilson sings solo at Classic Chastain tonight. Spend An Evening with Dolly Parton at Verizon Amphitheatre at Encore Park. MOTO, aka Masters of the Obvious, plays punk New Orleans style at Star Bar with Barreracudas and self-described “Cooter” rockers Tornado Town. It’s a soulful night when Ruby Velle Trio takes the stage at Eddie’s Attic. Get ready to rumba, cha-cha and jitterbug at the weekly Swing Night at Graveyard Tavern. Frankie’s Blues Mission bring the blues to Fat Matt’s Rib Shack and Danny “Mudcat” Dudeck blues it down at Northside Tavern respectively. Dance to ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s hits during Retro in the Metro Wednesdays presented by Godiva Vodka, at Pub 71 in Brookhaven. 

Thursday  August 4

Whiskey Belt.

It’s another honky tonk night at Star Bar with Whiskey Belt. Dirty Bourbon River Show fuses roots, blues, jazz, zydeco and more into something they call New Orleans gypsy folk circus rock at Twain’s. Frankie’s Blues Mission is at The Five Spot. Go Retro-Polynesian to Tongo Hiti’s luxurious live lounge sounds, as well as some trippy takes on iconic pop songs, just about every Thursday night at Trader Vic’s. Party ‘70s style with DJ Romeo Cologne at Aurum LoungeBreeze Kings and Chickenshack bring on the blues respectively at Northside Tavern and Fat Matt’s Rib Shack.Bluegrass Thursday at Red Light Cafe features alt-bluegrass Judge Talford Band.

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