Kool Kat of the Week: A Man of Style and Song: New Orleans Jon Serves Up a Swingin’ Soundtrack at Meehan’s Roaring ’20s Gourmet Dinner

Posted on: Jul 30th, 2013 By:

Johnny Pines, aka New Orleans Jon. Photo credit: No Rest Photography.

Johnny Pine, aka New Orleans Jon, has a well-earned reputation as the swankiest burlesque MC in Atlanta from his perfect pompadour to his after-eight moustache and signature soul patch, his Rat Pack-ready suits, shiny ties and dress shoes, not to mention a penchant for attracting a bevy of vintage vixens wherever he wanders. He’s also an ace crooner  of swing, lounge and jazz, and it’s that persona that he’ll be showing off this Thursday Aug. 1 at the latest in Meehan’s Public House Sandy Springs themed supper clubs, a Roaring ’20s Gourmet Dinner. (See our ATLRetro feature on Chef Val Domingo’s Elvis Beer Dinner here.)

New Orleans Jon began his burlesque career as the original MC for the now-retired Big City Burlesque & Vaudeville and also hosted one of the first cabaret shows at DragonCon. Recently, he has had two sold-out solo performances in Alpharetta and also hosted and performed at AnachroCon in February and MC’d the Free Range Burlesque Show at The Southern Fried Burlesque Fest in March. He also serves as MC and part of the Directorship of the vintage performance collaboration known as Musee du Coeur, but you’re likely to find him crooning and cocktailing at just about any burlesque, swing, vintage, cosplay or rockabilly event in Atlanta.

In other words, New Orleans Jon is just about the bee’s knees when it comes to Kool Kats in this city, so ATLRetro was delighted to have the opportunity to find out more about his lounge legacy, as well as his plans for the Roaring ’20s Gourmet Dinner and beyond.

ATLRetro: How did you get the name New Orleans Jon?

 

Johnny Pines: I got the name New Orleans Jon in 1999 when I moved to Atlanta after I graduated from Loyola University in New Orleans. New friends would say, “Jon’s coming out with us tonight!” “Jon who?” “Ya know, New Orleans Jon.” The name stuck and has been my stage name ever since. I thought about changing it, but that’s how Atlanta knows me.


Can you share any secrets about maintaining the perfect pompadour?

My hair is one of my best trademarks. They aren’t any secrets about maintaining it; I roll out of bed looking like this. Don’t everybody?

The flirty side of New Orleans Jon with Colette Alesi, aka Dahlia Danger. Photo credit: Dim Horizon Studio.

You are certainly a man of Retro style. Where do you shop, and what’s your favorite find or accessory?

My favorite retro find is my signature yellow smoking jacket. When I really wanna knock ’em dead that’s what I wear. I don’t really ever share with people where I find my duds, but lately my best connection has been Nathaniel Self. He knows my style and size, and when he finds something he knows I’d like he gets it for me. You can always find him alongside Jezebel Blue. She makes all of my custom accessories.


How did you get into MCing burlesque and what’s your favorite show as an MC so far and why?

I’ve been a retro/swing kid since 1997. I got into emceeing and burlesque when I was put in touch with the original production of Big City Burlesque through Evil Sarah. The director and I met, and he showed me a drawing of the character he wanted me to play, and I then showed him a picture of me at a club. And although he and I had never met, the drawing and I matched to a T. I got the gig, and 12 years later I’m still doing my thing.

Johnny Pines, aka New Orleans Jon. Photo credit: No Rest Photography

My favorite show so far is the Free Range Burlesque Show at this year’s Southern Fried Burlesque Fest. I got to share the stage with some true legends and amazing performers from all over the country and worldwide. I was humbled and honored to have been asked to do the show, and it was the best performance I ever gave as an MC. That whole weekend was career-changing for me.


What’s the secret origin story behind Musee du Coeur, and what’s its unique niche in the world of Atlanta burlesque? 

Musee du Coeur is a collaborative project in which each performer eats, sleeps and breathes our craft and history. We aren’t just a burlesque troupe. We are more of a vintage performance group. We’ve carved out our own niche because we have our hands in all types of art. We are musicians, artists, seamstresses, flyers, magicians, dances, singers, carnies, historians and the list goes on and on. We all bring something different to the group.


You seem to have a real joie de vivre and sense of adventure. What’s the craziest adventure you’ve had in the world of burlesque?

The craziest adventure I’ve had in the world of burlesque took place at this year’s Southern Fried Burlesque Fest. After Saturday night’s show, the reigning King and Queen of American Burlesque From The Burlesque Hall of Fame, THE Canadian Burlesque Legend, we’ll call her Judy, a certain journalist we know, and I went to a gentlemen’s club together. We had a blast! The dancers could get enough of Judy. It was a dream come true for me!

The Roaring ‘20s gourmet dinner at Meehan’s Thursday night sure looks delicious. Meehan’s has done a bunch of rock-themed dinners, too. Were you at all involved with the menu planning, and what can diners expect when it comes to the total experience – food, ambiance and entertainment? 

The planning of the menu was a collaboration between Chef Brian O’Rourke [of Meehan’s Public House Vinings] and Chef  Val Domingo [of Meehan’s Public House Sandy Springs]. The food at Meehan’s surpasses any expectations you may have of eating at a pub of any kind. The atmosphere is quite quaint and comfortable with an amazing staff. Since this theme is so different from what they’ve done in the past, they asked me to do my stuff. I’m what’s called a crooner. I sing Jazz Standards dating from the 1920s to the 1950s. I cover them all. Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Dean Martin, Tony Bennett and so many more. I truly LOVE what I do. I hope the guests enjoy it as much as I do.


The invitation says reservations are required. Is there any standing room, too, to hear you perform?

Reservations are truly recommended and spaces are almost filled. I strongly suggest that people call ahead for availability.

Is it true you’ve also launched a burlesque ladies night out on Tuesdays? What’s that about?

The ladies night out isn’t really a burlesque event. Anyone can come out. It’s at Atlantic Seafood Co. in Alpharetta. They do a ladies night  starting at 4 p.m. featuring me and my buddy Monroe behind the bar, and live music, by George Martini, starts at 7:30.


You’re always so busy hosting and crooning. What’s next for New Orleans Jon?

After The show at Mehann’s, I begin preparing for DragonCon here in Atlanta. I’m MCing the Pool Side Pin-Up Party at the Sheraton Atlanta, Friday August 30, and I’m performing in The Glamour Geek Review the following Saturday night!

Meehan’s Roaring ’20s Gourmet Dinner is a mouth-watering $50 five-course price fixe dinner featuring pairings with New Holland Brewing and vintage-inspired cocktails.Call (404)-843-8058 to reserve your spot. For more information, including the night’s full menu, visit Meehan’s Public House Sandy Springs Website or the Facebook event page.

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Kool Kat of the Week: The Beating Heart of Art: Garrett DeHart and His Poe-Inspired Short Film IF I AM YOUR MIRROR

Posted on: Feb 22nd, 2013 By:

By Aleck Bennett
Contributing Writer

Atlanta native filmmaker and photographer Garrett DeHart is the mastermind behind one of the most inventive short films ATLRetro has seen in recent years: IF I AM YOUR MIRROR. An adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s short story, “The Tell-Tale Heart,” the film takes Poe’s lean exercise in mounting paranoia and expands it into a fractured document of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in the years following the Civil War. Beyond the narrative twists taken with Poe’s themes, the film dramatically stylizes the world its characters inhabit – presenting it as a living Victorian-era oil painting imbued with the blood, spit, dirt and murk both of the time and of its main character’s mind. The portrayal of that lead character by the late actor Larry Holden in one of his last roles, is a triumph: in turns fierce and fragile, proud and pitiable. Currently available for viewing online, this immersive 18-minute epic is well worth your time.

In honor of this horrific accomplishment, ATLRetro goes Really Retro with this week’s Kool Kat.  We spoke with Mr. DeHart about his experiences making the film, the techniques behind creating the images, his influences, his local ties and much more.

ATLRetro: IF I AM YOUR MIRROR has a remarkable visual style, resembling an oil painting come to life. Were there any particular artists that inspired the look of your film? Filmmaking-wise, who influenced you on this particular project?

Garrett DeHart: I’ve always loved Poe, and  I had been playing around with a process to make live action film look like an animated oil painting. I thought the color and composition of Romantic painting, the predominant painting style of Poe’s time, was very well-equipped to tell a story inspired by Poe’s voice. I added a bit more dirt, grim and blood, and I think, with that, it’s a style that lends itself well to my voice as well. I did research on Romantic painting as a whole, but was really drawn to the paintings of Eugène Delacroix, J. M. W. Turner and Thomas Wilmer Dewing.

As far as filmmakers, the process was, of course, inspired by Richard Linklater‘s WAKING LIFE.  I loved what he did, turning live action into animation, to create a world of dreams, and really loved the look of his Rotoshop films. But I really wanted something that had a bit more texture and grim to it, and also wanted something that I could do myself.  After I saw WAKING LIFE, I started working on the process and used it in my film THE PROBLEM WITH HAPPINESS (2004) a 70-minute film that was projected on three discrete screens and had an accompanying seven-piece live band playing the score. We had 300 people at Eyedrum for the premiere and then later played The Earl before the band broke up. It was a sci-fi film in which the protagonist’s world slowly turns into a moving oil painting. I was never really happy with the effect that I was able to produce for that film and so I kept playing around with the process. The narrative was inspired by the films of Terrence Malick and Lars von Trier.

Could you describe how you came to create MIRROR’s striking look? How long did it take to bring such a heavily-stylized project to fruition?

The actors were shot on green screen at a small studio at Georgia State University. Aside from a few chairs, luggage and miscellaneous props, everything else was added in post. I developed a process through Photoshop to stylize the actors’ frames and ran each frame of each element in a scene through Photoshop to add the effect. Many of the shots have multiple layers on each actor, and the layers were then rotoscoped in to create lighting effects, shadows and a greater depth of field with the paint effects. The backgrounds were developed from stills, paintings and created graphics. Those backgrounds were then layered and animated in After Effects. Some of the shots have hundreds of layers in them. The final shot of the film took over 30 hours to render. I pushed the capabilities of After Effects in working in a 2D for 3D world. I did all of the post for the film on my MacBook Pro. The computer was running full speed around the clock for over two years. I’m typing this now on the same machine. The whole process took a bit over two years.

You also directed DOGME #55: A PICNIC AND A STROLL. You’re obviously not frightened by taking on a wide variety of styles, as MIRROR is about as far away from the Dogme 95 philosophy as possible! Which turns out to be more difficult (or, alternately, more fulfilling) for you as a filmmaker: following the self-imposed restrictions of the Dogme 95 movement, or the technical demands of an effects-heavy film like MIRROR?

I was really inspired by the Dogme 95 manifesto. I really like the idea of using real people, instead of actors, when possible, and breaking down the spectacle of lighting and score, and using a handheld, cinéma vérité camera style to get to some truth. I think my tendency would be to lean more towards a Dogme esthetic, at least in the way in which I direct actors. Now that I think about it, It might be compelling to try and develop one of Poe’s stories as a Dogme style film.  But I don’t think even Von Trier or Vinterberg ever made a truly pure Dogme 95 film, and while I think there are some very important ideas in the Dogme 95 movement, I’m really most inspired by very stylized expression in films. I also love the graphics and effects and the spectacle of fantasy and horror films.

I did MIRROR for my graduate thesis and I really wanted to experiment with this effect that I had developed. They have a great studio at DAEL (Digital Arts Entertainment Laboratory), and I wanted to utilize the GSU facilities while I had the chance to access all of their equipment for free. We shot almost everything in the DAEL blue-screen studio at GSU and got to utilize all of the studio equipment.

I’m not sure which style is harder as a means of telling a story well. I know which takes longer.

How did you come to work with the late Larry Holden, and how was your experience working with him on MIRROR?

I met Larry on the set of another film a few years prior to my film. My friend had written him a letter, told him he was trying to make his first feature and asked if he’d be willing to be in the film. Larry drove across the country for that film, so when it came time to make my film, I thought he would be perfect for the role [and] I wrote him and asked if he would star in the film.

Larry was an amazing cast member to have on set. The experience and vitality he brought to the set really energized everyone working on the project. For most of us on set he was the biggest name we had worked with, but he was incredibly humble and was really dedicated to working with and teaching everyone on set. He had been in Christopher Nolan’s films and a lot of TV, but he was making his own films whenever he could, and when he had time he would travel across the country, for little more than expenses, to help and teach those who were trying to learn the craft. He stayed with some friends of mine up the street from my house during the shoot.

He was not only incredibly influential to all of the crew that he worked with for less than a week, but many folks in the neighborhood became very close with him in that time as well. My neighbors traveled across the country to go to his funeral. I was not able to make the trip at that time. It’s an incredible loss. He was an amazing artist and an amazing person, and we all feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to spend some time with him.

Poe’s stories are known for how streamlined they are, which makes adapting them almost impossible without necessarily expanding on the source material, or deviating from it in some way. MIRROR provides a particularly novel take on Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart.” How did you decide on your approach to the source material?

Initially I had planned to shoot a straight version of “The Tell-Tale Heart” told through the lens of Romantic painting, with voiceover. I had all the pre-production done and was ready to shoot and make that film. As I got Larry Holden interested in and then brought him onto the project, he convinced me that “The Tell-Tale Heart” films had been done enough and that it might be more interesting to take Poe’s story and its themes and let those inspire a new story. After some research, I realized that while a modern “Tell-Tale” done well could be really compelling, he was right and that I needed to develop something new: something that would express my voice. So I dug in, and with the help of a couple of friends, developed a script that I thought respected Poe’s legacy but might expand on who his characters were and the world they may have inhabited.

Garrett DeHart on set of IF I AM YOUR MIRROR.

I had the blueprint of all that pre-production I had done for the Tell-Tale script, but I was convinced we were making something new now—something certainly more challenging for me. So it wasn’t really a difficult process in deciding what to add or subtract. Poe’s story works really well in its minimalism and focus. He excludes all details that don’t lend directly to the development of the protagonist’s obsession and insanity. I was working on a new project; a film inspired by Poe. I think that “inspired by” gave me the freedom to expand on Poe’s ideas and imagine circumstances that may have brought his characters to the situations they experience in his story, and in that imagining I was creating my own story, a story that explored some slightly different, maybe more contemporary themes.

My first edit of the film we shot was almost 50 minutes. It was really more about pacing than it was about cutting scenes. But many of those quick shots, that last only a few frames, were 5, 10 or even 30 seconds long in the first cut. I was really working from the inspiration of Malick and Von Trier in the pre-production process. I imagined the film as a very slow, melodic PTSD nightmare. But as I worked with the film more and more, I found something of a thriller in it, and it seemed a bit pretentious to let the scenes linger like they were. I loved the 30-second wide, static shot of the train driving across the horizon, or 30 seconds of his wife walking through a burning wheat field, or a 5-minute flashback of the Civil War, but as I lived with the film day and night for two years, I realized this was a short, not a feature. I felt the audience might find it a bit tiring, and I wasn’t sure the long shots and extra scenes were really helping to propel the narrative. I’m happy with the decisions I made in cutting the film down.

Being an Atlanta-centric website, I’m required by city ordinance to ask: what local talent should we be keeping our eyes peeled for in the film? Any notable locals toiling behind the scenes that we should be aware of?

We had an amazing turn-out for crew from GSU grad students and for extras from all over the Atlanta area.

Shane Morton (aka Professor Morte of the Silver Scream Spookshow) was incredibly helpful on set. He did a lot of makeup work on the actors in production to help the paint effect along when we got to post.  He’s always working on cool projects. He did some effects and stars in the TALES FROM MORNINGVIEW CEMETERY horror anthology. He’s always planning and working on Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse, and they are in development on FRANKENSTEIN CREATED BIKERS (The sequel to DEAR GOD NO!).

If you’ve seen any Atlanta independent film you probably know Barefoot Bill (aka Bill Pacer), the Old Man/Evil Eye. Bill is always auditioning in Atlanta when he is not working on his one-man Ben Franklin show. He”ll be doing the Ben Franklin show at AnachroCon this weekend and March 2 at Duluth Historical Museum.

Mari Elle, the wife in the film, is now in LA but comes back to Atlanta to audition for films. She’s in town this week auditioning so catch her while you can. She is fantastic.

Steven Swigart and Chris Escobar were a huge help during production as the anchors of the production team. Chris is now the director of the Atlanta Film Festival and recently made a documentary short, shot partially in Colombia, about the ripple effects of family choices. Steven is making mini-documentaries for a university.

Jeff Ballentine, who let us borrow his large Civil War re-enactor wardrobe, is working on post for his own Civil War film.

What led to your decision to release the film online, rather than pursue the typical festival route? What has the reaction been thus far?

There’s a misconception, I think, that filmmakers are giving their work away for free when they put it online. The truth is that most filmmakers don’t make any money from their films; in fact, most spend hundred or thousands of dollars just trying to get the film seen in festivals. I made IF I AM YOUR MIRROR as my graduate school thesis project, so I wasn’t expecting to make money on the film. I wanted to create a film that exemplified my capabilities at the time, and I feel this film does that. MIRROR, at 18 minutes, is long for a short film and does not easily fit into an established genre. Therefore, it would be difficult to place it in festivals.

The festival circuit, while important, seems to me, just another way to suck money out of the truly indie filmmaking market. At $20 to $50 per entry, it’s just so much time and money that could be spent on the next project. And while seeing a film on the big screen is, of course, a far better experience (I screened my film at the Plaza Theatre and the trailer at the High Museum as part of WonderRoots Best of Generally Local, Mostly Independent Film Series), reaching an audience is really the most important thing, and the potential audience on the web is immense. Tapping that audience is, of course, the key, and that has been somewhat difficult, but I’m doing everything I can to self-promote the film through online media like ATLRetro. The critical response has been great and the film has gotten a lot of attention but, sadly, that has not really translated into as many viewers as I had hoped.

If you like the film, please support independent cinema, and pass it along to your friends and social networks.

This past October, I saw the 7 Stages production of DRACULA: THE ROCK OPERA, and when I saw your film later at the Plaza, there were a few effects shots in the video projection that looked familiar—primarily some shots of the train and the train station itself. Given the overlap in talent between these projects, I have to ask: were these your handiwork?

Yes. Rob Thompson was in MIRROR and asked, when they started to develop DRACULA, if they could use some of the footage for the backgrounds of the rock opera. I adjusted a few of the shots and gave them longer takes, and I’m very happy that MIRROR helped to fill in some of the space of the Dracula rock opera.  We’ve talked about the possibility of doing a music video/short with one of the songs on the soundtrack that will be released this month, but we haven’t had the time to work it out yet.

Are there any future projects on the horizon we should be looking out for?

I’m hoping that getting IF I AM YOUR MIRROR out into the world will facilitate connections with other writers and filmmakers and lead to new projects in the near future.  I’m in development on a Steampunk character study, short film with a style inspired by Wong Kar-wai and Gaspar Noé, that I hope, when complete, I can crowd-source into a TV series or web series. I’m looking for some writers to help in the expansion of that project. Again, if you like the film, please support independent cinema, and pass it along to your friends and social networks.

You can like IF I AM YOUR MIRROR on Facebook and check out the webpage; www.ifiamyourmirror.com.

Aleck Bennett is a writer, blogger, pug warden, pop culture enthusiast, raconteur and bon vivant from the greater Atlanta area. Visit his blog at doctorsardonicus.wordpress.com

All artwork is courtesy of Garrett DeHart.

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AnachroCon Performer Spotlight: A Bohemian Journey with Frenchy and the Punk

Posted on: Feb 23rd, 2012 By:

Photo credit: Anka Jurena

At first glance with all the top hats and bustles, steampunk seems more like a refined tribute to Victoriana congeniality, but at AnachroCon, a three-day alternate history convention Feb. 24-26 at the Holiday Inn Select Perimeter, don’t expect to see everyone waltzing. A diverse musical genre has grown up that’s every bit as imaginative and DIY as the books and costumes. And perhaps no band puts the “punk” into steampunk sound than an in-your-face feisty little duo named Frenchy and the Punk who take the stage at 10 p.m. Sat. night.

Samantha Stephenson (Frenchy) and Scott Helland (the Punk) started their musical collaboration as the Gypsy Nomads in 2005, but she being French-born and he having played guitar in several punk bands, the nickname stuck. As for their musical style, one could call it eclectic stirring up and twisting around elements of cabaret, gypsy, Celtic and steampunk. The resultant unique sound has won them fans across the US and Europe, and like gypsy performers of old, they are constantly on the road, touring and performing at some of the biggest steampunk and faerie gatherings, including DragonCon, Steamcon, The Steampunk World’s Fair, Wicked Faire, Sirius Rising, Faerieworlds and FaerieCon.

While driving their van down I-75 towards Atlanta, Samantha was kind enough to answer a few questions about what attendees can expect from their act and in general at AnachroCon. Which means, of course, that this interview was composed literally in motion.

How did you and Scott first team up as a duo?

Yes! We met in 1998 while we were both living in NYC. We started collaborating in 2000 when Scott was doing solo shows. He had left the band he was in back in 1996 and had launched a solo project switching from bass guitar to acoustic guitar. I had been heavily involved in the performance arts since childhood and was focused more on painting and sculpture when we met. I was using his music for art installations, and he used one of my paintings for a CD cover. From 2000 through 2004, I was booking his 70+ shows a year and promoting his music on the radio and other media. From my own previous performance background as a dancer and singer, in 2005, I joined him onstage to play percussion on some of his instrumentals and it all snowballed from there. We released several CDs, one entirely in French and another a mix of French, English and instrumentals, then in 2010 we released HAPPY MADNESS.

Frenchy and the Punk perform at the Time Traveler's Ball at DragonCon 2011. Photo credit: Mark Rossmore.

You’ve been compared to Siouxsie Sioux and your music could be said to have a punk energy about it that might be surprising to folks who think old-world and gypsy means polka retreads. Is that why you’re Frenchy and the Punk?

We started under the name The Gypsy Nomads but we were also dubbed Frenchy and the Punk early on. We thought about switching the name for a few years as it seemed more fitting and finally committed to it last year. I was born in France and come from French and British parentage. French was my first language although I started school in England. The song “Yes, I’m French” on the HAPPY MADNESS CD is a comical song of my coming to America. I get compared to Siouxsie a lot as I have a similar vocal style; ironically she is also of French and English parents and there is even a slight physical resemblance. Scott started playing in bands when he was 13 years old. He was the bass player of Deep Wound, the seminal Western Massachusetts hardcore punk band that he co-founded with Lou Barlow. The band also included J Mascis. Lou and J later formed Dinosaur Jr. Scott continued in the punk scene with the Outpatients. So his moniker of “the punk” comes from his musical beginnings.

Our music and performance style are high energy so we do get the gypsy punk label quite a bit, but there are so many different influences in our sound. The name really is a reflection of who we are as opposed to a music style. We do what we do, how people define us really boils down to their own interpretation based on their own frame of reference. The pervading consensus seems to be that we are spirited and fun, sonic anti-depressant! We are a visceral, theatrical band, we love to perform and we especially love to inspire people to move.

Did your music lead you to steampunk or was it vice-versa, you discovered steampunk and then embraced a musical style that fit into it?

We’ve always played the music that came naturally to us. Our sound is very eclectic with elements of cabaret, vaudeville, punk, rock, world, french chanson and folk. We also have a segment of our show that is all-drum instrumentals which can be described as a cross between Taiko and Blue Man Group. Scott has played drums since he was a kid,  and I was obsessed with the drumming and percussive sound of the samba school when I lived in Brazil for a short time as a child. We did not actively seek out the steampunk scene but rather we were embraced by it. Having lived in Europe as a kid and studied the visual arts – sculpture and painting – I was very drawn to the creative aesthetic and maker’s spirit of the movement. The people that populate the scene are crossovers from other scenes we were already a part of so it was a very organic process. I am the lyricist of the group,  and my personal history happens to blend well with the steampunk spirit. We also play faerie festivals which have strong roots in European folklore. Scott’s blending of old world melodies with the more modern live looping technique gels well with the steampunk idea of bringing the old and new together. The guitar looping also gives us a very full rich sound making it hard to believe there are only two people on stage.

Do you have anything special planned for your AnachroCon performance?

We will be sneaking in some of our brand new songs this weekend so we’re very excited about that, and you never know, there are lots of bands playing so there are likely to be some spur of the moment collaborations.

Other than your performance, what are you personally most excited about at AnachroCon?

These events are like reunions, we look forward to seeing the Atlanta crew again. We haven’t seen them since we played DragonCon last fall. Whether it be a convention or a festival, it is always fun to reunite with people that we may not have seen in quite a while. We do this musical life full-time, year round and we travel all over the U.S., as well as Europe, playing shows. The performers and attendees are equally nomadic so you never know who will show up. We’ve played shows with almost everyone on the bill before so it’ll be great to share the stage with them all again. It’s quite the cast of characters!

Photo credit: Frank Siciliano.

What about a steampunk convention is most likely to surprise someone who is new to the subculture and has never attended one before?

If someone hasn’t been to a convention like this before they will probably be surprised at the costuming as it can be quite elaborate and make you feel like you are in a different time period. That should not deter anyone from going though, even if they don’t have the steampunk costume, they should check it out. There will be lots of really cool vendors who have great accessories that they can throw on for some last minute steampunk flair! Also, I have heard mentioned from attendees that they are amazed at the wide age range at these events and also the sheer high spirited mood and vibe that seems to pervade. And of course, there’ll be tons of awesome live music, DJ’ing and other performances.

What’s next for Frenchy and the Punk?

We are working on a 2 CD release set for this spring thanks to a very successful Kickstarter campaign last Fall. We have lots of conventions and festivals coming up in April and May, as well as a European tour in June. All of our dates are on our tour page of [our] website. And we post our goings-on on our Facebook page regularly. Overall, we continue to build the world of Frenchy and the Punk with our music and art. And to your readers, don’t forget that there is nothing quite like seeing live music! There are lots of independent bands out there like us who drive all over tarnation to bring their sounds to you. By attending the shows you not only have an unforgettable experience you also keep independent music alive, and we thank you!

For the full scoop on the rest of what’s going on at AnachroCon, be sure to check out our Ultimate Guide here.

 

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Really Retro: Your Ultimate Guide to AnachroCon, Atlanta’s Steampunk/Alt-History Con

Posted on: Feb 21st, 2012 By:

Science fiction used to be all about the future, but in steampunk, it’s gone back to the past to create a steam-powered alternate Victorian era full of airships, goggles and rayguns where Tesla trumps Edison. If you think that steampunk is just about creative costumes, there will be plenty walking the halls of AnachroCon, this weekend (Feb. 24-26) at the Holiday Inn Select Perimeter, but there will also be so much more from literary to art to performances. Read more about the many facets of this fast-growing subculture in our recent interview with STEAMPUNK BIBLE co-author S.J. Chambers, then head on down to AnachroCon to experience the city’s biggest annual steampunk gathering live.

As Anachrocon’s Website says, it’s the “place in the South for Steampunk, History, Alternate History, Science, Music, Classic Sci-Fi Literature and the most amazing costuming you’ve ever seen!” Here’s our top nine coolest things to do at Anachrocon. For times and locations, check the full con schedule here.

Mad Sonictist Veronique Chevalier.

1. Costumes Extraordinaire

Men in top hats, boots and goggles. Ladies in their finest Victorian dresses with rayguns tucked into their beaded evening bags. Gizmos galore. In the case of steampunk, accessories make the outfit and it’s not just a look but a way of life for some followers who meticulously craft their eccentric wardrobes in home workshops. Expect to see an amazing array of hall costumes, but the best of the best compete in the Costume Contest at 5 p.m. on Saturday. Or learn to make your own from award-winning costumers in the Fashion and Fabrication programming tracks.

 

Frenchy & the Punk.

2. A Marvelous Menagerie of Musical Acts

If steampunk has a look, thanks to a motley menagerie of talented musicians, it also has a sound – a diverse blend of jazz, ragtime, gypsy, classical, goth and even a touch of rock n roll. At Anachrocon, you can hear some of the best in the region and nation including The Hellblinki Sextet (do we need to say more than pirate cabaret to pique your interest?!), The Extraordinary Contraptions, Frenchy and the Punk, Aeronauts, The Ghosts Project, The Gin Rebellion, The Vauxhall Garden Variety Players, Play It With Moxie and more. Dance the night away to several DJs including “self-described eccentric audio arranger and morally ambiguous scientist” Dr. Q, the mad mastermind behind The Artifice Club which stages quarterly steampunk shindigs and is the official sponsor of the Friday night main entertainment track provocatively titled Fallout Frenzy. Read an interview with Dr. Q here about The Artifice Club here.

Talloolah Love. Photo credit: Mark Turnley.

3. Trick or Tease: Burly-Q and Carnivale Steampunk-style

Burlesque arose out of vaudeville and sideshow hoochie-coo, all of which go back to the bawdy dancers, singers and comedians of the Victorian music hall. Circuses and carnival sideshows for general public pleasure also came of age in the 19th century. See steampunk versions of both this weekend. Award-winning Atlanta burlesque beauty Talloolah Love  invites you to Burlesque At the End of the World (Fri. midnight) featuring  flavors of Bertolt Brecht, The Muppets, and Hollywood heresy; “you’ve never seen a burlesque show like this!” Guest stars include Knoxville’s Rosey Lady, the Blooming Beauty of Burlesque; Katherine Lashe of Syrens of the South Productions; The Chameleon Queen; and Sadie Hawkins and Barbilicious of Blast-Off Burlesque. Meanwhile under the motto of “Doing the extrordinary with the ordinary,” the talented performers of Oklahoma’s Carnival Epsilon (Fri. 5 p.m.) test the limits the human body can be pushed to with sharp blades, burning fire and a silver fork. And Wicked Hips Bellydance, a professional troupe with members from the US and Europe, presents an art form once considered so risque that it would have inspired proper Victorian ladies to grasp their smelling salts (Sat. 7 p.m., Sun. noon).

4. History, Science and the End of the World, Oh My!

Nikola Tesla.

Yes, the whole idea of steampunk is based on an alternate history and a different direction in science and energy. Costumes are not mandatory to attend these bonafide actual history and science with fascinating panels on such topics as “the history of passive-resistance and non-violent protest” (Fri. 3 p.m.);  “evolution of small arms” (Fri. 5 p.m.), “Sex in Classical Greece and Rome” (Fri. 11 p.m.), Van Gogh at Remy (Sat. 5 p.m.) and much more including culinary discussions, Vikings, shipwrecks and a Sunday-morning gnostic mass. Well, with the Mayan calendar’s abrupt end this year, we give them some slack for a few more apocalyptic (and maybe not so hard-factual) programs such as “This is the Way the World Ends; Eschatology 101″ (Fri. 2 p.m.), “Mayan Calendar 2012″ (if the world’s coming to an end, it only makes sense there’s also a mead-making 101 class out by the pool at the same time), and “Surviving Those Pesky Zombie Apocalypses” (Sat 8 p.m.). Does that mean we’ll see some Walking Dead Steampunks drunk on mead? Well, we can only hope.

The Traveling Revelers.

5. A Little Etiquette & Indulgence Can Do You Good

The Victorian Age was known for being prim and proper, unlike our uncouth contemporary era, so it seems only fitting that AnachroCon’s newest last-minute programming track is centered on Etiquette & Indulgence. Run by Peter Beer Slayer and Richard Carnival, “their mission [is] to make the world a better place by providing instruction on the Social Graces and how to truly enjoy life by using their combined powers to become the Traveling Revelers!” Take ConSociology classes on “how to meet people at cons” (Fri. 3 p.m.);  “the zen of flirting” (Fri. 7 p.m.); “the art of social cues, green lights/red lights” (Sat. noon),and enjoy a “morning refresher” course (ok, early afternoon, Sun. 1 p.m.). Or engage in proper Tea Dueling at 11 a.m. Sun. morning.

Bill Pacer as Benjamin Franklin.

6. Viva the Revolution – Meet the Founding Fathers

Tea Partiers and Ultra-Liberals, take note! OK, AnachroCon isn’t breaking out the Ouija Board (well, not right now anyway; we kind of think there has to be some Ouija-ing going on somewhere), but professional Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin impersonators (J.D. Sutton and Bill Pacer) will be on hand to share their wisdom on government, electricity and even provide a Q&A. Find out what the founding fathers really thought about freedom of religion, gay rights and sleeping with French prostitutes – we dare you to ask them!


7. Astounding  Alt-History Literature & Pop Culture Panels

At the end of the day, it’s sometimes forgotten that steampunk started not as an aesthetic movement but in the pages of books and now is a lively literary genre. Panels discuss classic influences from Edgar Allan Poe (Sat. 1 p.m.) to a Victorian Science Fiction Roundtable (Sat. 9 p.m.) where we imagine the names Jules Verne and H.G. Wells might get a few mentions. More topics include how to write alternate history (Sat 4 p.m.), modern steampunk literature (Sat. noon) and Growing Up Steampunk (Fri. 7 p.m.). Author guests include Mark P. Donnelly, Kathryn Hinds, O.M. Grey, Emilie P. Bush, Kimberly Richardson, Alan Gilbreath and Dan Hollifield.

Enhanced sonic phaser by Venusian Airship Pirate Trading Co.

8. Sensational Steampunk Marketplace

Need a pair of goggles, a trusty ray gun, a corset, jewelry, custom leather items? All of these and more are available in the Vendor Room, a veritable bazaar of steampunk-related merchandise, with a little Medieval-Renaissance-Celtic thrown in for fun. Well, steampunk does share some roots in modern fantasy which is often inspired by those eras. Be sure to also visit the Artisans Room where you can buy unique, one-of-a-kind creations by jeweler Corey Frison (Labrys Creations), art prints and jewelry by Kerry Mafeo (Fantastic Visions), chainmail by Thandor (and watch him craft it before your very eyes!), the geekiest T-shirts on the planet from Aardvark Screen Printing and works by award-winning artist and illustrator Mark Helwig.

9. Steampunk Boba Fett

Do we really have to say anything else but those three words? OK, you may have seen the Elvis Stormtrooper at DragonCon but Steampunk Boba Fett has taken this helmeted STAR WARS mercenary to a new level of eccentric creativity. Dubbing himself humbly, “the galaxy’s most feared Steampunk Bounty Hunter since 1878 (Earth Time),” to see him is to be inspired! Now go home and get to work on your costume so you’ll be ready to enjoy Anachrocon this weekend!

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Kool Kat of the Week: Back to the Eighties with Becky Cormier Finch of Denim Arcade

Posted on: Jun 8th, 2011 By:

Photo credit: Jayne Cormier.

Today many people make fun of music in the Eighties when pop stars sported ultra-teased mullets, super-wide shoulderpads, leg warmers and cut sweatshirts. Coming after the hard edge of punk, the sugary exuberance of Top of the Pops UK bands today seems quaint and something we sometimes like to forget we actually thought was rebellious at the time. Yet it’s easy to forget that for a lot of the ‘80s, only handful of Brit hits makers made the US Top 40, like Flock of Haircuts—excuse me Seagulls—, The Police, Human League, Soft Cell and Tears for Fears before John Hughes movies made at least one song by Simple Minds and a de-angrified Psychedelic Furs temporarily cool.

On the other hand, our charts were loaded with big-haired hard rock and metal bands from Van Halen to Bon Jovi, Cinderella to Motley Crue. Michael Jackson was the King of Pop. Billy Ocean crooned “Caribbean Queen,” Rick James undulated to “Super Freak,” Huey Lewis claimed the “Heart of Rock n Roll, Prince spawned an fleet of protégées, and Madonna seemed to spawn an entire genre to herself.

While many cover bands play ‘80s music, Atlanta’s Denim Arcade tries to capture both the decade’s sense of fun and unique sound using similar equipment from guitars to keyboards—the signature instrument of synth pop. Made up of seasoned musicians out to have some fun, Denim Arcade includes Wade Finch (lead and rhythm guitar) and John Christopher (bass), who first played together in the alternative band Noise Dot Com; Andy Womack, who has drummed in a wide variety of bands for more than 20 years including Atlanta-based Renaissance Festival phenomenon, The Lost Boys; and lead vocalist Becky Cormier Finch, best known for Three Quarter Ale, a fast-growing popular Celtic rock band that was a finalist recently on the GEORGIA  LOTTERY’S ALL-ACCESS MUSIC SEARCH show.

ATLRetro caught up with Becky to find out why these talented musicians decided to go back to the Eighties, what to expect at their next show this Saturday starting at 10 PM at @tmosphere, and what’s up next for Three Quarter Ale.

I understand Denim Arcade actually grew out of another ‘80s cover band called Great Scott. How did the band get started and get its name?

Both bands got started because of friends with a shared love of ‘80s music and a love of performing. “Great Scott,” of course, is Doc Brown’s signature phrase in BACK TO THE FUTURE. We had a line-up change, and decided that with a female lead singer, “Great Scott” didn’t really fit. No one in the band is named Scott, anyway! I believe a group of friends was at Manuel’s Tavern, having a conversation about quintessential ‘80s things, and my friend Bettina just blurted out “Denim Arcade” and it stuck!

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Really Retro: Step Right Up, Ladies and Gents, The Clockwork Carnival is Coming to Town

Posted on: Apr 15th, 2011 By:

Clockwork Carnival and Artifice Club ringmaster DJ Doctor Q

Long for a bygone era that never was of elegance, adventure and glorious gadgetry? Then you may be one of the steampunk subculture growing across America. In Atlanta, one of the prime organizers of activities for aficinados of steampunk is The Artifice Club, founded by DJ and master event planner Doctor Q. Over the past six months or so, the Artifice Club has put on a number of affairs both independently and as part of other steampunk and alt-history gatherings such as Anachrocon.

This Saturday April 16, however, The Artifice Club is pulling out all the stops to present The Clockwork Carnival, a veritable steampunk circus featuring a night full of gypsies, fire eaters and other curiosities at The Goat Farm. Featured acts encompass who’s who of entertainers in the vibrant local scene including The Imperial OpaHot Toddies Flaming Cabaret, the amazing aerial feats of Blast-Off Burlesque‘s Sadie Hawkins, Thimblerig CircusPyro Salto of Birmingham, AL, music by DJs Doctor Q and The Davenport Sisters, and more. Also planned are a Vendor’s Market Caravan, photography sessions, The Circus Contraption Contest with prizes awarded for the most creative device you would need to work at a carnival, and a steampunk costume contest to crown the King and Queen of the Carnival. Festivities start at 4 PM and will last into the very wee hours of the night, we suspect.

ATLRetro askedRingmaster and DJ extraordinaire Doctor Q for a sneak preview of the fabulous festivities, and he kindly obliged…

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Weekend Update, Feb. 24-27, 2011

Posted on: Feb 24th, 2011 By:

As I said at the start of the week, there are some tough choices this weekend, and a few additions not included in This Week to make it even harder. Whatever you choose, hope you have a ravishingly Retro good time!

Thursday Feb. 24

The Atlanta Opera presents the opening night of George Gershwin’s PORGY & BESS, a American folk opera about two lovers struggling to find happiness in Charleston’s Catfish Row. Find out more about the production at the Cobb Energy Centre which runs through March 6, in KOOL KAT OF THE WEEK spotlighting Costume Coordinator Joanna Schmink.

Good grief, CB’s an adolescent now, his little sister’s a goth, his ex-girlfriend’s in a mental hospital for setting too many fires, his friends are all drunk, and when his dog dies from rabies after killing a “little yellow bird,” he starts to question the existence of an afterlife.That’s the wacked-out premise of DOG SEES GOD: CONFESSIONS OF A TEENAGE BLOCKHEAD, a black comedy inspired by the popular PEANUTS comic strip and performed by the new Fabrefaction Theatre Company, which premieres today and runs through March 13.

ATLRetro will finally be joining the Last Of The Red Hot Truc-ers as Ghost Riders Car Club celebrates Vietnamese New Year with classic ’50s honkytonk and rockabilly for the last of their February Thursday night free gigs at Pho Truc in Clarkston. For a sneak peek, read Feb. 1 ’s KOOL KAT OF THE WEEK with guitarist Spike Fullerton. Listen 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. And Breeze Kings bring on the blues at Northside Tavern.

Friday Feb. 25

Get back to rock’s rockabilly, country and Western swing roots with Big Sandy & His Flyrite Boys, with special guests Caroline & the Ramblers and The Stumblers, at Star Bar. It’s a soulful night at Highland Inn Ballroom with The Soulphonics & Ruby Velle and George Hughley with Johnny & the Lakewood 5. The Nick Longo Band jazzes up Fernbank Museum of Natural History’s Martinis & IMAX. And go really retro with a futuristic twist at AnachroCon, a three-day steampunk convention, which kicks off today in grande style with The Gaslamp Gala, a concert extravaganza organized and presented by The Artifice Club‘s Dr. Q, at 7 PM. Performers include The Ghosts Project with Nathaniel Johnstone (Abney Park) and Play it with Moxie, a ballroom jazz band. Admission is included in your AnachroCon membership, with VIP seating available for $5.  All festivities are at the Holiday Inn Select Perimeter, 4386 Chamblee-Dunwoody Road.

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This Week in Retro Atlanta, Feb. 21-27, 2011

Posted on: Feb 21st, 2011 By:

It’s a veritable luau feast for Retro activities in Atlanta this week, and ATLRetro has some tough decisions about what to do, especially on Saturday night.

Monday Feb. 21

Joe Gransden & his smokin’ 16-piece orchestra present another Big Band Night of jazz at Café 290, featuring Sinatra, Bennett, Basie and Joe’s originals.

Tuesday Feb. 22

The current incarnation of seminal progressive rockers The Church play their haunting melodies not just under the Milky Way but at Variety Playhouse. Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra are at Symphony Hall. Or if you live on the east side, swing dance to the Atlanta-New York Connection at the unlikely location of Northlake Mall’s Food Garden starting at 6 PM. Then head to Twain’s in Decatur for a Joe Gransden jazz jam session starting at 9 PM.

Wednesday Feb. 23

“If Elvis had been a woman, he probably would have sounded just like Kim Lenz,” says Rolling Stone. Decide for yourself when the scarlet-haired rockabilly queen brings her fiery voice to the Star Bar with her band The Jaguars. And if the night weren’t rockin’ enough, local faves Atomic Rockets and Junior, Dolan & Cash are also on the bill. Get ready to rumba, cha-cha and jitterbug at the weekly Swing Night at The Glenwood. Catch Joe Gransden every Wednesday night at 8:30 PM at Jerry Farber’s Side Door. Dance to ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s hits during Retro in the Metro Wednesdays presented by Godiva Vodka, at Pub 71 in Brookhaven, starting at 8 PM.

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