Kool Kat of the Week: Caleb Warren and the Perfect Gentlemen Wax Nostalgic with a Pickin’ Pandemonium While Slingin’ Their Modern Brand of Rowdy Old-Time “Acoustic Brass ‘n’ Brew-Grass”

Posted on: Aug 12th, 2015 By:

by Melanie CrewUse Caleb_CD_front[1]
Managing Editor

Caleb Warren, ragtime rumble slingin’, guitar pickin’, Dixieland lovin’ purveyor of old-time dance hall tunes with a maniacal modern twist, along with his polite partners in crime, The Perfect Gentlemen (and lady) [Colt Bowen – percussion; Dave Aitken – lead guitar/banjo; Jenna Mobley – fiddle; Robert Green – trumpet; and Ian Blanton – upright bass] will be raisin’ a riotous ruckus at Mac McGee Irish Pub in historic Roswell this Saturday, August 15, at 9 pm! And if that isn’t enough, you’ll get a second and third hoppin’ helping of their juke joint jamboree at The Earl on Aug. 22, and a tail feather shakin’ good time with the band at the sensational ‘n’ seedy Clermont Lounge on Oct. 8!

Caleb hails from Chattanooga and has a hankerin’ for the tunes of yesteryear. Although heavily influenced by Western swing, gypsy jazz, ragtime and Dixieland blues, Caleb Warren and The Perfect Gentlemen (The Gents) have proven time and again their ability to tell relevant tales to the melodies of the past. The Gents have shared bills with Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings, “First Lady of Rockabilly” Wanda Jackson, Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears, Billy Joe Shaver and more! Their self-recorded/self-released EP, “The River” was released in 2014, followed by their new single “Hoke Poole Stomp”/“Peach Pickin’ Time in Georgia.” And if you’re cravin’ a whole lot more from these rowdy folks, don’t fret! The Gents and are in the works on their first full-length album, so keep your ears peeled!

CWPG2[1]ATLRetro caught up with Caleb for a quick interview about whiskey ‘n’ women, The Gents’ flair for old-timey janglin’ jingles; his retro influences; and his love of Lefty Frizzell! And while you’re takin’ a gander at our little Q&A with Caleb, get an earful of Caleb Warren and the Perfect Gentlemen’s new single “Hoke Poole Stomp”/“Peach Pickin’ Time in Georgia.

ATLRetro: Caleb Warren and the Perfect Gentlemen’s sound has been described as coming straight out of the land of vaudeville, speakeasies, juke joints – all spiced up with that janglin’ ragtime Dixieland ‘n’ western swing, while “finding a place for the past in the present.” How important is it to resurrect the past to tell the stories of today?

Caleb Warren: Absolutely! I think being able to pay homage to the music that we love and the music that inspires us while telling the stories of today and connecting with the folks who are listening is not only an extremely important aspect of what we do, but an honor as well. The music we’re making today is hopefully a modern representation of some of the most pure forms of American music with our own twist, and if it weren’t for the pioneers of Western swing, country blues, gypsy jazz, Dixieland, ragtime, and blues, we wouldn’t be able to do what we’re doing today.

Any interesting stories to tell our readers about your musical upbringing, or when you became interested in playing music?

Jenna Mobley

Jenna Mobley

When I was just a wee lad (haha) my grandfather, “Pops” or “Papa” to me, owned an alternator repair shop near Atlanta. He loved his work. He also had a love of honkytonk and classic country. Some of his favorites were Lefty Frizzell, Hank Williams Sr. and George Jones. I can distinctly remember sitting at the kitchen table of my grandparents’ home (the same home my dad grew up in) as a 12-year-old who wanted to learn anything and everything that I could about music, playing guitar, classic country and old gospel hymns from my grandfather.

As a result, when I sit down at my kitchen table with a cup of coffee or a glass of whiskey (depending on the time of day), that’s where some of my most introspective and personal writing happens. In my late teens I strayed a bit from my roots as a musician and was in a few bands that were a little louder and a little heavier, but eventually found my way back to making the music that is, for lack of a better way to put it, “In my blood.” All that to say, I’ve always been interested in playing music. It just took me a little while to find and settle into what musically feels like “home”.

(L-R) Dave Aitken, Jenna Mobley, Caleb Warren

(L-R) Dave Aitken, Jenna Mobley, Caleb Warren

We see that you (Caleb) hail from Chattanooga, a once thriving ragtime, bluegrass ‘n’ Dixieland swingin’ musical haven. How much of an influence did Chattanooga have on your current musical endeavors?

I do live in Chattanooga and it’s a wonderful city, but I wrote the songs we’re playing today while living in and around Atlanta as well as the mountains of north Georgia. Chattanooga is an amazing city centered around the Tennessee River and for whatever reason, there’s something about rivers and bodies of water that are extremely inspiring and seem to almost pull songs out of me. The extremely rich musical history in Chattanooga as far as the blues are concerned is pretty amazing! It’s the home of Bessie Smith and the Chattanooga Choo Choo!

What is it about whiskey, women and woeful misfortune that influence musicians, especially those of the old-time variety, to pour out their soul in front of the masses?

I feel like there’s a certain simple honesty and light-heartedness in a lot of the music we make that affords us the opportunity to write and

Robert Green

Robert Green

play songs that are fitting for the nights when you just want to have a good time, dance and forget about your troubles. On the other hand, this music lends itself really well to being able to tell some of the most heart-wrenching and deeply personal stories. Stories that might be autobiographical, might be about my best friend, or could be a declaration of love for a certain someone. I definitely feel like that’s one of the most beautiful and amazing things about this type of music. It’s made for telling stories. Good, bad, or otherwise.

We see that you’ve shared a bill with rock ‘n’ roll pioneer and “First Lady of Rockabilly” Wanda Jackson. How exciting! Can you tell our readers a little about that experience?

It was a great experience! We got to see so much great music and share a bill with some pretty amazing names like Jim Lauderdale, Strung Like a Horse, Reverend Horton Heat, Lindi Ortega and Hot Club of Cowtown. It’s humbling to have our name on the same bill as those folks, Wanda Jackson included!

Who would you say are your top three old-timey musical influences and why?

Oh man! This is a tough one! Geez! I would have to say that Milton Brown and his Musical Brownies is a band that never ceases to inspire me. The swing that they have as a band just blows my mind, the rhythm section is so solid, and the lead players are top notch. Those fellas along with Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys were instrumental (no pun intended) in making Western swing and country blues a form of popular music fifty years ago and the fact that those tunes are relatable and relevant today is, I think, a testament to how much fun that music is and how well-written those songs are.

Colt Bowen

Colt Bowen

Lefty Frizzell is one of my absolute favorites. I’m a bit partial to Lefty because my grandfather was a huge fan, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that Lefty Frizzell had one of the most amazing voices in the history of country music. You immediately know when you’re listening to one of his songs. I’m not sure there’s much more to say about that one.

Also, Preservation Hall Jazz Band from New Orleans is one of the first bands that really opened the door to all of this wonderful music for me. I can’t go a day without getting at least one Pres. Hall tune stuck in my head. The folks in that band are, to this day, teaching the newest generation of young musicians the traditions of New Orleans music and to me that is wildly inspirational!

Your newly-released single, “Hoke Poole Stomp”/”Peach Pickin’ Time in Georgia,” was recorded live at the home of your fiddler, Jenna Shea Mobley. Can you tell our readers why you chose to record live and what sets this single apart from your EP, “The River”, self-recorded/released in 2014?

Of course! With the single, we really wanted to capture the feel and energy of a live performance and instead of going the route of tracking

live in a studio, we decided to do something a little bit different and track the whole thing like one of the Alan Lomax field recordings of the ‘40s where they would set up in a hotel room or a living room and just put songs to tape. It was kind of a way of paying homage to the folks who paved the way for bands like us. We had our good friend, Mr. Tony Terrebonne engineer and mix those tunes. Our lovely Ms. Mobley was kind enough to let us take over her (entire) house for the day and track those tunes as well.

(L-R) Caleb Warren, Dave Aitken, Ian Blanton

(L-R) Caleb Warren, Dave Aitken, Ian Blanton

Our EP, “The River” was recorded and mixed by our drummer, Mr. Colt Bowen at his home studio in Adairsville, Ga. We spent quite a good bit of time recording that one and making sure it was exactly what we wanted to give folks as a first impression of The Gents and we couldn’t be happier with the way it turned out.

That’s a bit of a round-about way of telling you that the two recordings are totally different from one another, they represent two very different times in our progression as a band, and we are extremely happy to have been able to put our name on two completely different, but stellar recordings. Colt and Tony are both wizards when it comes to engineering. We’re lucky to have those fellas around, and even more lucky to be able to call them our friends.

If you could put together a dream line-up of musicians to play with [still around or not], who would it be and why?

Freddy Mercury, Ray Charles and Robert Plant sharing vocal duties;  Big Bill Broonzy and Merle Travis on guitar; Willie Dixon on upright bass; Bix Beiderbecke on coronet; Fats Waller on piano; guest appearance by Django Reinhardt on lead guitar and “La Pompe” for a song or two. Why? Because, seriously. Think about that band for just a second. I wouldn’t play in that band. I’d sit down at the table right in front of the stage with all The Gents and a glass of great whiskey. I’d smile, laugh, chuckle, give a thumbs up, make a joke that wasn’t all that funny, buy a round for everyone in the bar, and then I’d enjoy the show! My dream lineup of musicians to play some tunes with? The fellas (and gal) in our band.

What can ATLReaders expect to experience at your upcoming shows at Mac McGee (Aug. 15), The Earl (Aug. 22) and The Clermont Lounge (Oct. 8)? Should they bring their dancin’ shoes? Anything special planned?

IMG_9970[1]You can definitely expect to have a hell of a time and, yes, dancing shoes are a requirement for every show. I might even get off the stage and cut a rug with you! Special plans? There’s a possibility that you might see a singer playing an upright bass solo at The Earl…Also, isn’t any time spent at the Clermont special?

What’s next for Caleb Warren and the Perfect Gentlemen?

Definitely more shows, new cities, more writing and starting work on our first full-length album. We have some great things to look forward to in the next six months or so!

Anything else you’d like to tell ATLRetro readers about Caleb Warren and the Perfect Gentlemen?

Thank you! Thank you for listening to our music, coming out to shows and for supporting this band of ours. You folks are one of the main reasons we do what we do and you make all the work we put into these songs so worth it.

What question do you wish somebody would ask you and what’s the answer?

Q: What is the band’s favorite food?
A: Dude! Avocado (Guacamole counts), grilled chicken, bacon, bell peppers, pizza with all of the aforementioned foods as toppings, and if you really want to find the way to Uncle Buttermilk’s (Dave) heart, a damn good cheeseburger should do the trick.

Caleb_Warren_press_pic[1]

(L-R) Robert Green, Dave Aitken, Caleb Warren, Colt Bowen, Jenna Mobley, Ian Blanton

All photos courtesy of Caleb Warren and The Perfect Gentlemen and used with permission.

 

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Fritz Lang’s METROPOLIS: Fully Restored and Bigger Than Ever in Two Special Atlanta Engagements!

Posted on: May 23rd, 2013 By:

METROPOLIS (1927); Dir. Fritz Lang; Starring Brigitte Helm, Gustav Fröhlich and Alfred Abel; Starts Friday, May 24 @ Plaza Theatre (visit website for ticket prices and showtimes); Tuesday, May 28 @ Woodruff Arts Center (free outdoor screening w/ live accompaniment); Trailer here.

By Aleck Bennett
Contributing Writer

It’s a Fritz Lang kind of Spring, I suppose. That feeling is helped along by two venues showing the most recent restoration of Lang’s pioneering science fiction classic, METROPOLIS, which finally brings the film as close to its original state as possible. The historic Plaza Theatre has booked the film for a full week, and there’s a special outdoor screening of the restoration at Woodruff Arts Center featuring the US debut of a specially-composed score performed live by Georgia Tech’s Sonic Generator.

Last time we talked Fritz Lang, it was about M (1931), the first serial killer-themed horror film. But now, we’re going four years earlier and looking at METROPOLIS, the first feature-length science fiction movie. And in the ensuing years, METROPOLIS continues to be relevant to contemporary life, its themes resonating through the ages as our industrialized society becomes more and more technocratic.

The sprawling plot of METROPOLIS speaks mostly to the topic of class division. In the year 2026, the wealthy preside over the city of Metropolis and lead lives of decadence, while a teeming underclass of workers toil day in and day out, slaves to the machines that provide the power that drives the city above. Freder (Gustav Fröhlich)—the son of Joh Fredersen (Alfred Abel), the city’s aristocratic Master—falls in love with a labor organizer named Maria (Brigitte Helm) and enters the underground city of the workers. There, he just may serve to fulfill the prophesied role of the city’s “heart”: the man who will help Maria unite the workers and join the city’s “hands” (its workers) with its “head” (the ruling aristocracy). But the ruling class has other plans to keep the underclass down: to kidnap Maria and use a robotic doppelganger to sow seeds of discord among the laborers.

Add in a love triangle, espionage, sabotage, disaster, riots, beautiful art deco set design, Biblical references, hints of occultism, expert use of miniatures and pioneering special effects, and not only do you have an epic that presents a morality play and political polemic depicting class struggle with the rhythm of everyday life, but also a bustling action picture designed to keep viewers enthralled with the kind of futuristic grand spectacle not seen on the screen before.

Unfortunately, that balance was largely destroyed by cuts to the film that took place shortly after its premiere. The film was funded and its distribution controlled by a partnership between MGM, Paramount and German film studio UFA, which was known as Parufamet (a portmanteau of the three studios’ names). Parufamet cut the film from its 153-minute running time to 115 minutes, and later that year it was cut down further by UFA to a brief 91 minute running time. Huge chunks of character exposition and plot points were lost completely. This left much of the spectacle but presented seemingly one-dimensional characters inhabiting the film, which only emphasized the heavy-handedness of the film’s message-laden storyline. A film about people and ideas became simply a film about ideas.

Over the decades, numerous attempts at restoration took place using whatever could be found. The high (or low, depending on your stance) point of 20th-century efforts came with the 1984 release of a version compiled by songwriter/producer Giorgio Moroder. Moroder’s restoration was, at that point, the most complete version of the film available, incorporating all footage known to exist at the time. However, the film was tinted throughout, with its intertitles replaced with subtitles for continuity’s sake, with a pop soundtrack (featuring Freddie Mercury, Pat BenatarBonnie Tyler, Adam Ant, Loverboy, etc.) in place of a traditional score and with its frame rate increased to 24 frames per second (which resulted in an artificially-shortened running time of 82 minutes).

In 2002, Kino Lorber and the F.W. Murnau Foundation released a 124-minute restoration that seemed to be the final word on the film, as all remaining footage was believed to have been lost to the ravages of time. Missing footage was described in newly-designed title cards to fill in the blanks. But shortly afterward, film prints were found in New Zealand and Argentina that contained scenes not included in any existing copy. In fact, the Argentine print was a 16mm reduction of the entire original cut of the film. With these new sources in hand, METROPOLIS was restored to 95% completion (only two short sequences could not be included due to extensive damage). Settling on an acceptable frame rate (the actual frame rates of many silent films are hard to determine), and with the additional sequences restored to their rightful places, the final running time of the now-nearly-complete METROPOLIS is 145 minutes.

And those restored scenes restore a coherency and depth to the film that has not been experienced since its premiere some 86 years ago. The character of Freder becomes heroic rather than a cipher. Maria becomes a fully-rounded character rather than an archetype. Sure, the highly stylized acting familiar to German Expressionist silent filmmaking is still present, which may stand as a roadblock to viewers raised on the naturalistic acting of modern cinema, but the operatic tenor of the performances is almost necessary to keep the actors from being overwhelmed by the sheer size and spectacle of the film’s sets and effects (adjusted for inflation, the film’s budget in today’s numbers would be $200 million, making it one of the most expensive movies ever made, equal to James Cameron’s TITANIC). Without the benefit of speech, the sheer BIGNESS of the movie demands performances as visually loud as the sets are huge.

Though the film was panned upon first wide release (in my opinion, largely due to its being butchered and available only in compromised form), METROPOLIS has since become one of the highest-regarded films in existence, with its influence felt in movies ranging from BLADE RUNNER to DR. STRANGELOVE; from STAR WARS to BACK TO THE FUTURE; from DARK CITY to THE FIFTH ELEMENT. Oddly enough, though, it has found more frequent homage in the field of popular music. The music videos for Queen’s Radio Ga Ga,” Nine Inch NailsWe’re in This Together and Madonna’s Express Yourself have all been inspired by the movie’s themes and visuals. Meanwhile, Atlanta’s own Janelle Monáe has released two fantastic concept albums inspired by the film: 2007’s METROPOLIS: SUITE I (THE CHASE) and 2010’s THE ARCHANDROID. (Based on the title, I’m guessing that this year’s upcoming album, THE ELECTRIC LADY, will round out the trilogy.)

For very different experiences in viewing METROPOLIS this week, let me recommend that you take the film in twice. Firstly, it’s playing a week-long engagement at the Plaza Theatre, where you can sit in the enshrouding darkness and get caught up in the purely visual storytelling of this masterwork as the towering images wash over you to the accompaniment of the gorgeous original score by Gottfried Huppertz. Secondly, though, the film is the subject of a free outdoor screening at the Woodruff Arts Center on Tuesday, May 28, projected on the Anne Cox Chambers Wing of the High Museum. There, the film will be accompanied by a live performance by Georgia Tech’s contemporary music ensemble Sonic Generator (augmented by several additional performers from Atlanta’s vast musical spectrum), performing a score composed by renowned Argentine composer Martin Matalon which is making its US debut. For more details about this singular event, check out this great in-depth write-up in CREATIVE LOAFING by Doug DeLoach.

Either way (or both!) you take it, METROPOLIS is both a film of its time and film of all time; a movie that speaks to the concerns of Weimar-era Germany in 1927 and the “one percent vs. the 99 percent” fights of today. It’s a landmark in science fiction, a landmark in the development of special effects and a landmark in cinematic history, and in its restored condition, it commands the attention like few films ever made.

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

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Fire-Eating Mermaids, Cocktails and Guitars, Oh, My! Getting Revved & Ready for the Second Annual Rockabilly Luau

Posted on: Jul 30th, 2012 By:

Atlanta will say aloha to the Second Annual Rockabilly Luau this Sat. Aug. 4 from noon to 10 p.m. by the pool at the Holiday Inn Northlake, which has been undergoing renovations for a tiki cabana look. The first Rockabilly Luau last summer at Masquerade Music Park featured a great line-up of bands, burlesque and Polynesian performers and vendors. But after this long hot summer and before the Mayan calendar ends, this year’s event is themed The End of Summer, End of the World Luau! And ATLRetro is excited that cofounder Chris Mattox decided to relocate it to a more watery location, allowing us to pretend we have escaped to the paradise of the Hawaiian Islands and some added entertainment opportunities including aquatic dance by Marina the Fire-Eating Mermaid (also known as MeduSirena) from Fort Lauderdale, FL. Plus the incomparable Calu Cordeiro, mixologist for Mai Tai Tahitian Tuesdays at Dark Horse Tavern, will be supervising the cocktails – a must for any Retro-Polynesian-themed event. Again all proceeds go to two animal rescue charities, Friends to the Forlorn and Shelter Angels 

True to its name, Rockabilly Luau combines two Retro styles – tiki and rockabilly, with a healthy dose of surf. Back again are ATLRetro favorites The Rebel Surfers from Nashville (12:30-1:30), Hot Rod Walt and the Psycho Devilles (4:15-5:15) and  Daikaiju (1:45-2:45), who unfortunately got rained out last year. El Capitan & Thee Scallywags (5:30-6:30) also are on the bill, as well as a Polynesian Show (3-4 and 7:15-8:15),  a tropical bathing suit fashion show by Waterbabies (6:45-7), Marina the Fire-Eating Mermaid (8:30-9), and culminating in a Volcano Sacrifice Burlesque Show starting at 9:15. Co-hosts are Marina and the Right Rev. Andy, DJ of Psychobilly Freakout on Garage 71, Atlanta’s top rockabilly music radio source and the main stage sponsor.

More features include a fire knife performance, a vintage car cruise-in, live tiki carving, real kalua pork and other Polynesian fare, hula hoop performances by Hoop Essence, Poi performances by Sinder and Incendia and tons of vendors located on Tiki Row (including ATLRetro! We’ll be bringing plenty of T-shirts featuring our exclusive logo by DerekArt, hair flower art, Hula girl tote bags and more Hawaiiana and Retro items).

Marina, the Fire-Eating Mermaid. Photo courtesy of Marina.

ATLRetro caught up with Marina, a self-described “zany Uncanny Exoticat-Aquaticat,” to find out a little more about what it’s like to be a mermaid, why she was drawn to recreating vintage aquatic dance for today’s audiences, her Retro dance influences ranging from Esther Williams to Bruce Lee, and what she has planned for the Rockabilly Luau.

ATLRetro: How did you become a mermaid?

Marina: Well, there was never a time I “became” a “mermaid,” to tell you the truth. I can say that  I learned how to free dive at a very early age – 3 – in the West Indies and have always maintained a strong connection with aquatic movement art. That, together with training in Polynesian and Eastern dances, it was a natural fit.  I was inspired by marine animal movement and performers and showpeople ranging from Esther Williams, Eartha Kitt, Ricou Browning, Annette Kellerman, Iris Chacón and even Freddie Mercury, with a touch of Bruce Lee. My goal is to not only to return aquatic performances to people’s consciousness, but to help educate and encourage the art form for future generations. Retro-tainment if you will.

What attracts you to mermaids and do you have a favorite mermaid of screen or fiction?

The mermaid [is a] combination of two enviornments – the aquatic & the terrestrial – [and] everyone sees it in a different and personal manner. I perform often without fins, and love it just as much. It pays homage to those first aquatic performers.

The “mermaid” is what most people connect with, and as seems to have become quite popular recently, it’s what most people expect. I make it a point, however, not to appear “realistic,” instead opting for the image of a woman in a “fishtail cocktail dress.” I feel it best addresses the genre I wish to represent.

Marina recreates the aquatic dance made famous by the incomparable Esther Williams. Photo courtesy of Marina.

As for my favorite “mermaid” in film, it has to be the great Esther Williams. If you are referring to the “tailed” variety, it’s got to be SHE CREATURE (2001 remake). She was dangerous, and that really was great – she should make you nervous! The original CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON is also a fave. Love him to chummy bits.

Can you give readers a quick taste of what you have planned for Rockabilly Luau?

As for what I’ve got planned, all I’ll say is that it will be a loving nod to the golden age of tourism entertainment – a bit of swimming, a bit of fire, a lot of humor. I sincerely hope everyone enjoys it. It is a terrific honor to be a part of such a terrific event and for such a noble cause.

Tickets for the Rockabilly Luau are $15 in advance (available here) and $20 at the gate.

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