Kool Kat of the Week: Like a Jagged Stone: Keef Richards Gets What He Needs Paying Tribute to a Guitar Legend and Rocks Around the Christmas Tree Sat. Dec. 1

Posted on: Nov 28th, 2012 By:

Barry Zion, aka "Keef Richards," of The Jagged Stones.

Forget the Elvis impersonators. The Rocking Around the Christmas Tree benefit on Sat. Dec. 1 at 7 p.m. treats you to a rarer form of superstar tribute and a delightfully different holiday party courtesy of Nine Inch Neils, who channel Neil Diamond in his ‘70s heyday, and Jagged Stones, whose name should give away the act they idolize that also came of age in the late ’60s/’70s. In addition to two rockin’ fun bands, a humble suggested donation of $10 (kids free) serves up pizza from Mellow Mushroom Decatur, two glasses of beer or wine, free sodas and a dessert bar. There’s also a silent auction including some cool items like a signed movie poster from the TWILIGHT series and an original POWERPUFF GIRLS animation cell from Cartoon Network. Proceeds support the House of the Rock (also the site of the party; 731 Peachtree St., NE, corner of 4th Street) and Lutheran Community Food Ministries, which do amazing work feeding Midtown’s homeless. So if you can, also bring some cans to benefit the food ministry. And parking is free, too.

Last year ATLRetro interviewing Cage, lead singer of Nine Inch Neils, to find out what made him and the band a believer in Neil Diamond. This year, we decided we wouldn’t get no seasonal satisfaction without catching up with Barry Zion, aka Keef Richards, of The Jagged Stones.

ATLRetro: When’s the first time you heard the Rolling Stones and was it love at first listen?

Keef: When I was 13 years old, my older brother turned me onto the GET YER YA-YA’S OUT live album. I had been taking some bass lessons, and the guitar work on that album immediately grabbed me. I can remember playing the Chuck Berry cover “Carol,” about 200 times a day until I developed the strength to do that Keith Richards rhythm. It’s quite a physically challenging thing when you are first learning as it takes all of your fingers, barre technique, pinky strength and solid rhythm with the right hand, plus the added handicap of playing on a $20 acoustic guitar with string height action that was measured in feet rather than millimeters. But thanks to that, it helped me develop some very strong muscles in my left hand. After that it allowed me to focus on the other songs and I wore out that album.

It wasn’t until I was older that I mastered Keith’s tunings and techniques and got closer to his sound, and Mick Taylor‘s fluid lead playing was something that took me years to even understand and is something I am still working on today. Mick Taylor is in my opinion, the most under-rated guitarist in rock, and his time in the Stones is clearly the era that grabbed me the most and that I try to emulate in my playing.

There’s got to be a great story about how you all came together to found a Rolling Stones tribute band?

I had recently relocated to Atlanta from NY/NJ/PA, and I had been frequenting the Atlanta jam scene and been known as “that Allman Brothers guy, that did some Stones too.” Duane Allman and Dickey Betts are other influences on my playing. I was not really interested in being in a band for the usual reasons – low pay, long hours, lots of competition, playing songs you don’t like, smoky bars, etc. One of my jam friends saw on Craigslist an ad for an open audition for a Rolling Stones tribute band, and he dragged me to the tryout. Well, of course, everybody want’s to be Keith, and when I got there, the audition coordinator asked me if I wanted to take the lead guitar spot for the audition. Since I planned on trying out for Mick Taylor’s spot, I quickly set up. I think the first song we played was “Wild Horses,” and I guess I nailed it pretty good and stayed close to the album. Then while another Keith was setting up, Skip [Stephen Skipper, aka Mick Jagger in the band] and I were sitting around, and I started playing “Love In Vain.” The two of us just clicked, and from then on Skip put the pressure on me to be in the band.

Funny we clicked so well, that he asked me which of the Keiths I liked the best, and I told him, that I thought I could do a better Keith than any of the guys that had auditioned. Skip didn’t want to lose me as Mick Taylor, but I assured him that I could backfill a lead guitarist for my slot (Yeah, even back then I had Eddie Brodeur, our current guitarist in mind) and that it was more important to have a strong Keith guitarist in the band. Well, with some hesitation, Skip let me try it, and I guess I did pretty good during that audition and have been Keef ever since then.

Since then Skip and I have become “Soul Brothers,” and we share the same vision on where the band is going. All the guys in the band are the top musicians that I had met from the jam scene.  Dave Lang (keyboard/vocals/guitar/harmonica/kitchen sink) and I had met a few months before that at a Kennesaw jam. About a year before that, Eddie Brodeur (lead guitar/Ronnie Woods) and I had met  at a Southern Rock theme night jam where without a rehearsal we absolutely clicked. It’s a really rare thing to have two lead guitarists that can leave space for each other and have styles that are different enough yet similar enough for the magic to happen. Eddie is that guy for me. The bass player and drummer took a while to settle in, but Joel Edwards (bass) is one of the most sought after bass players in Atlanta, and he’s a scary good musician that can play just about any style, and also plays drums, keyboard and guitar very well. Frankly I was shocked that he wanted to play in The Jagged Stones. He has, in my opinion, solidified us and carried us over that hump of trying to establish a new band.   Martin Abbot was the drummer that same night I played with Eddie at the theme night, and I knew that day that he would be the rock steady drummer to anchor the rhythm section.

Keef Richards (Barry Zion) and Mick (Stephen Skipper) of The Jagged Stones.

How many Rolling Stones tribute bands are out there and where do The Jagged Stones fit in?

We definitely have some competition and that keeps us always trying to improve. I really love The Glimmer Twins from Philadelphia. I’ve seen them  on visits I make up north, and they are a vintage 70s Stones band. I think because we are a bit older, we are more of the recent Stones tribute, probably 90s/2000s. The GTs don’t travel much down here, and we don’t travel up there, so I like to think that we are mutually supportive of our respective bands, and territories. Their Mick (Keith Call) and Keith (Bernie Bollendorf) are masters at their craft, and they have a great supporting cast behind them and have been at it for quite some time and are successful at it.  I really respect Bernie and the attention he pays to the tunings and the version of the songs they play. I think what sets us apart from the other tributes, is that Skip nails the look and sound of Mick Jagger whereas most of the other tribute bands have a Mick Jagger lookalike, but they don’t sound much like him.

This is your second year doing the Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree show at the House of the Rock with the Nine Inch Neils, right? How did you get involved?

Cage (Neil Diamond from the Nine Inch Neils) was instrumental in getting Skip to go from a karaoke singer to a front man for The Jagged Stones. Last year’s event was really our first “real gig,” and thanks to Cage, we got that gig and met Jon Waterhouse and Pastor Matt. Jon has been a key to our success, and without his support and guidance we would probably not be together, so anything that we can do to help Jon out including playing his charity events we try to do. For me, once I saw what was going on at The HOTR last year, I was just really moved by the people that are involved with the church and the event. It was a real special event for me, and one that I will always remember. I think this year will be even better, as we are now more seasoned, and our current lineup is firing on all cylinders.  People have told me that they can see that we all have fun playing the music and that it carries over to the audience.

What can audiences expect from the Jagged Stones at Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree this Saturday? Holiday favorites? Greatest hits?

We always put a lot of thought into our setlist and tailor it to each show.  Dave Lang works hard on that and takes in all the parameters of the venue. You will definitely hear all the familiar Stones hits and a few deeper cuts for the Stones aficionado. They have such a vast catalog of hits, [so] it becomes challenging to try and cram them all into the time we have allotted.

Some people might think the event can’t be hip, because it’s at a church. But to us this just tells us the House of the Rock is mighty hip. Tell them why they’re wrong.

As I said above, the event was an incredibly moving experience for me last year. I was surprised that the Church has a state-of-the-art sound system, lighting and a nice size stage for Skip to strut his stuff on. The people who organize and staff the event are cool cats and chicks and are more of the hippie generation, and certainly not that image I had of little old church ladies pulling bingo balls. Pastor Matt is quite a musician himself and has a pretty good band that plays regularly at the HOTR. I live close by and it truly touched me how they are helping the hungry in downtown Atlanta. I have been shopping the whole week for canned food to bring with me and encouraging all our friends to go above the ‘suggested one can of food. Also it’s such a bargain at $10 for two excellent bands, let alone Mellow Mushroom Pizza and two drinks. You’d be hard pressed to find that anywhere around Atlanta.

What’s gives you the most satisfaction about being a Rolling Stone impersonator?

Well if you look up the definition of ‘Rock & Roll’ in a dictionary, there should only be a picture of Keith Richards there. He is Rock & Roll, and what better character could anybody want to portray then Keith?! Lots of people think Keith is not a very good guitar player, but he finished in the #10 spot in Rolling Stone Magazine’s Top 100 Greatest Guitarists of all time. I think it’s easy to take him for granted as he is not flashy or incredibly fast or a very innovative kead player. However he is the riff-master. There are only a handful of guitarists that you can identify by their tone, and Keith’s tone is one of those. It doesn’t take more than a few notes to identify a Rolling Stones song on the radio. I try really hard to reproduce the subtleties of his tone by using his tunings, instruments, attack and, of course, dressing up like him and moving around like him.

What’s next for you and the Jagged Stones in terms of gigs? Any recordings?

Recordings are not something I have given much thought to, but Skip has been in the studio recently recording some corporate stuff that needed some Jagger-like vocals. We love playing live and thrive at auditoriums and festivals. Skip has a knack of working a big stage and reaching a big crowd. In addition to the HOTR show, we are really looking forward to our New Years Eve show at The Strand.

What do you do when you are not a Jagged Stone?

Besides sleeping? For fun, I like to take long walks in dimly lit cemetaries. Seriously I enjoy the jam scene around Atlanta, and have a day job that keeps me pretty busy. The joke I have is that I am an “Antique Consultant,” which has its origin in women giving me the usual interrogation to assess my datability quotient:

Woman: What’s your name?
Me: Barry
Woman: What do you do?
Me (over loud music): IT Consulting,
Woman, yelling: Wow that’s so interesting. Have you ever been on ANTIQUES ROADSHOW???
Me: No, not antiques. IT like computers.
Woman:  Oh ok, cya.

So I learned to just go with the antiques and say I speacialize in Queen Anne chairs, and the interrogation proceeds a few more questions, before the woman leaves.

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Kool Kat of the Week: Nicolette Valdespino Fashions a “Bohemian Playground” at Paris on Ponce

Posted on: Jul 11th, 2012 By:

Nicolette Valdespino

By Torchy Taboo
Contributing Writer

A visit to Paris on Ponce always feels like stepping into New Orleans or indeed – Paris – in the middle of Midtown Atlanta. I adore its historical, yet timeless French aesthetic. The unique antique shop will be celebrating that French flavor with their first annual free Bastille Day Festival, Saturday, July 14 from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Sunday, July 15 from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday evening from 6-9 is the Party Fantastique with Baton Bob, Minette Manifique burlesque, magician Chad Sanborn, All Hands Productions puppetering and film premieres from Escobar Productions.

In the early 21st century I dreamed of having my own event there. However, the owners at that time shied away from getting into the complexities of running and renting a true event space and only did so sporadically. The year 2011 saw a change, however, with new owners, a new manager named Nicolette Valdespino and a fresh new take on sharing the space with the public.

Le Maison Rouge is the 4,200 square foot event space that is over-the-top Moulin Rouge-themed within the heart of the store….In this last year, we have hosted two public auctions, participated in ‘The Next Cool Event,’ hosted the Atlanta Film Festival, made a film, been named the ‘Best Antique Store in ATL’ by Jezebel Magazine, and now we are kicking off a whole flush of new remodels with the Bastille Day Festival,” bubbled Nicolette. In a way chatting with her is like a conversation with the evolving space itself. Meaning of course, that ATLRetro could not resist making her Kool Kat of the Week.

ATLRetro: My first visit to PoP was to perform at an event in 2002. I walked in the front and was enchanted, but had to ask, “Why are we performing at an antique store?” Tell us how you first came there.

Nicolette: [While] shopping for a couch I walked into Paris on Ponce for the first time. I had my own interior design business [in Portland, OR] for eight years and then decided one day that it was time to try to be a East Coast girl. So I packed up the pug and drove across country in search of design adventures. When I walked into the shop in April 2011, I met Skip [Engelbrecht] and Dennis [Baker] [the new owners] and immediately recognized and respected their vision for the new Paris on Ponce. They had worked for the previous owners, George and Judi, for 11 and eight years respectively and had just bought the business weeks before.

Tell us a story about yourself as a budding designer. Did you rearrange your mother’s furniture and redecorate your bedroom seasonally?

Well, I was always described as a “busy child” and was constantly trying to build/sew/create something. At about four to five years old, my mother began hauling home large boxes from the San Francisco Children’s Hospital where she was a nurse, and I would build go-carts, furniture and once a sink complete with plastic bags of water and turn screws for faucets. Hard lesson there – water + cardboard = Not as much fun as you’d think.

I think the first interior design project that I really did was when I was seven – I wanted a canopy bed. My mother nixed that so I just took down my curtains and rods and staple-gunned them to the ceiling around my bed. Done.

You’re from Portland. What experiences there shaped your creative vision?

Portland is very DIY, very vintage, re-purposed, locally made and handcrafted – which is why I moved there in the first place. There is an easy sense of community that involves musicians, artists and philanthropy. But after 11 years, I had created what I needed to there in the arts/music/design/fund-raising scene.

What is the arts scene like  in Atlanta compared to Portland?

Frankly, the art scene [here] is just like Atlanta [itself]: bigger, bolder and from many more perspectives and mediums. It tends to be a louder and more high-minded scene and gets the attention it deserves.

Nicolette Valdespino with Paris on Ponce co-owner Skip Englebrecht.

What drew you toward Atlanta and were there other cities that you considered moving to?

I was actually plotting my new life in New Orleans when I got sidetracked to Atlanta by a girlfriend who lives here, suggesting that the original California kid might want to put her toe in the water in a large Southern city before I went “deep south” as she called it. The sense of history, craftsmanship and ornamentation that is on the streets, in the air, in the architecture and the culture on the East Coast as opposed to the West eases my soul and inspires me. I don’t know that I’ll have children in this lifetime, and when you start thinking that way, you start wondering who exactly is going to remember you. That leads me to start thinking about all of the hands and stories that created these cities and furnishings that were interesting, emotional and forgotten. By re-purposing, valuing, and preserving these artifacts, I feel more involved with those lives and more a part of humanity in general. Perhaps someday I will be distantly remembered for my interpretations as well.

What historical era of design is your personal favorite?

I should have been born in the 1930s. While I am delighted and really enjoy modern shapes and styles of clothing and furnishings, my personal aesthetic is and always has been a sort of twist on 1940s couture. My father used to refer to pocket money as “hat money” because that is exactly what I would spend my jingle on as a child. I love toppers, circle skirts and pin-up styles. They just feel the most natural to me. Feminine, timeless, and they seem to make people happy. My personal style in decor is greatly influenced by all of the traveling I did as a young person with my French grandmother. If it’s gilded, baroque, velvet, marbleized and slightly decaying, I’ll immediately start to squeal.

How does this inform you as a professional designer?

When I design someone else’s space, it has nothing to do with what I personally like. It is all about the interpretation of that person’s background, personality and resources. Style doesn’t have anything to do with expense as well. Often times, revamping what a client has and custom, locally crafted pieces are much less expensive than just purchasing ready-made items. Plus, you are fostering money within your community and really customizing a space towards the haven that everyone deserves to call home.

In what ways have you influenced the “new PoP”? In other words, when I walk into the venue, where will I see your fingerprint?

Skip, Dennis and I are most certainly a team when it comes to the direction of Paris on Ponce and PoP Marche. I will say though, that I am ridiculously focused on making sure that not only does our new “PoP Marche” have something for everyone, but that the individual booths are very specific to a given lifestyle. I want them to be little complete worlds unto themselves. I want PoP Marche to be startling. From space to space, you are jarred into a whole different vision. Eventually I would like a book store, a toy store, a cafe, a prop studio, an in-house upholstery shop, a gallery for local artists, even a barbershop would be fun. Come, play, experience, purchase, participate and enjoy yourself, and know that the next time you walk in, you will see whole new installations.

What event has been the most fun and exciting for you at PoP?

When we made the giant paper Marie Antoinette for “The Next Cool Event” that was a great crafting project, and the way it was received as compared to other businesses very expensive displays was really satisfying. Our aim was to show that we could make the most ordinary of mediums be extraordinary. Clever beats a dollar bill every time.

Truthfully, though, I’m most excited about the upcoming Bastille Day Festival. I’ve thrown a lot of parties, weddings and charity events before, but never a festival, and never for a guest count that I can’t even imagine. The idea of making it an annual festival is really thrilling, too. Cementing Paris on Ponce in the community as a bohemian playground for artists, writers, performers and dreamers feels like not only is it attainable, but just over the horizon.

If you hadn’t become an Interior Decorator, what might have you done?

I think that it is compulsive for me to create and interpret. Everything. I’ve been sewing and creating my own wardrobe since I was seven. I am no fine artist, but I love to sculpt. Industrial design and furniture design are fascinating to me because you genuinely get to create objects that engage people and serve practical purposes. I have built couches, tables, chairs, and the reinterpretation of leftover furniture pieces through re-upholstery and faux finishes has been a lot of fun lately.

Did you ever expect to be involved in events coordinating and what is your role in the events that take place there?

I throw parties. I love throwing parties. I love them so much I became an officiant so that I get an excuse to participate in other peoples’ parties – kidding – kind of!  Throwing an event is like a shorter, more satisfying version of designing an interior. You come up with a concept and a budget, pull it all together while trying to make it surprising and clever, and everyone has a great time. The one large drawback comparatively is that it’s all temporary. A great party is a great memory, and nothing practical that someone can utilize in the future. But, of course, one’s life is simply a collection of memories, so it is pretty important when you think of it that way. I love the idea especially of doing this Bastille Day Festival here, aligning and showcasing these artists and performers so that they can get paid for being brave and creative. In the future, I would love to make it a fundraising event for the Atlanta arts community.

As far as most of the private events in Le Maison Rouge goes, Dennis is the resident event coordinator, but concerning our previous opening gala, auctions, the upcoming Halloween party, I anticipate that my extra special brand of nonsense will be all over that.

What do you see yourself doing five years from now?

Smiling. Laughing. Building. Learning. Becoming better, brighter and more honest about everything I do. I know that I am extremely lucky to be where I’m at. In this city, in this store, with such great bosses who never red-tape my visions. And I know that I’m here because I work really hard to make this life as full as possible, and that means saying “yes’ when others say “no,” looking for the silver lining, and being creative with difficult situations. There is always a way to make things work if you just breathe, be humble about your perspectives, and take those big leaps. Kind of like when I jumped out of a plane last year on my birthday and the parachute collapsed 30 feet from the ground…Wait-that didn’t work out so well – but I’m still glad I did it.

If I can help to pull off this new vision, this bohemian playground, creating a new corner of culture, I will be a very happy girl and then maybe a whole new endeavor. I’ve been too lucky thus far to plot my future.

Note: All photos are courtesy of Nicolette Valdespino and used with permission.

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