ATLRetro’s Throw Back to the 20th Century New Year’s Eve Guide – Our Top Ten Vitally Vintage Eras for Toasting 2015

Posted on: Dec 29th, 2014 By:

by Melanie Crew
Managing Editor/Contributing Writer

Ring in the New Year in vintage-style with Retro Atlanta!  Come celebrate what once was in 2014 and welcome with open arms what will be in Pallookaville2015! Start your new year off with a bang with all the hoppin’ shindigs we’ve found for you!

1. And All That Jazz. Ring in the New Year NOLA-style with the 4th Ward Afro-Klezmer Orchestra at Pallookaville! You’re guaranteed a funky time that includes a kid’s corndog drop followed by the grown-folks’ celebration! Corndogs, 2 Line Strut and Klezmer, oh my! The celebration is free and starts at 8:30pm! Or jazz it up Broadway-style and take a trip to Serenbe Playhouse’s “A Cabaret Celebrating Judy Garland” with award-winning actress Natasha Drena at 10:30pm! And stick around to boogie down at their NYE dance party, all taking place in the Farmhouse Restaurant in Serenbe!

Basement2. Hey, Daddy-O! Twist into 2015 at The Basement during Electric WesternsKeep on Movin! New Year’s Dance Party! featuring a night chock full of ‘60s rock-n-roll, soul, doo-wop and more! The DJs will have you hoppin’, so get dressed up to boogie down! Complimentary midnight toast to ring in the New Year and doors at 8pm! Or let The Star Bar show you where it’s at during their New Years’ Eve Bash & ‘50s and ‘60s Dance Party! Kool Kats Gringo Star will be delivering a whole set of ‘50s tunes while Kool Kat Joshua Longino and Andrew & the Disapyramids will be blastin’ out the sounds of the ‘60s! And that’s not all folks! Black Linen, Zoners will be rockin’ you into 2015! Rock out for $10 bucks and a free champagne toast at midnight! Doors at 8pm.Michelle Malone

3. Deep Roots. Ponder 2014 by getting to the root of it all! For a New Year’s Eve filled with foot stompin’ Americana, blues and rock ‘n’ roll, make your way to Eddie’s Attic for two hoppin’ helpings of the sultry Michelle Malone and her New Year’s Eve show! First show at 7pm! Second show includes special guest Hannah Thomas and starts at 9:45pm! Or get toasty bluegrass-style with BlueBilly Grit at the Crimson Moon Café at 8pm! And get down and dirty at Clermont Lounge, the seedy land of debauchery, as they bring you a rockin’ hootenanny this NYE with Reverend Hylton & the Devil’s Hands, Caleb Warren & the Perfect Gentlemen and Coldheart Canyon! Doors at 9pm with a free champagne toast at midnight!

 5.7BeverlyGW4. That’s Why They Call it the Blues. For some classic blues and jazz, shimmy on down to Blind Willie’s for their Bluesy New Year’s Eve with the powerhouse vocals of Francine Reed! Doors at 7pm and $50 gets you guaranteed seating, party favors and a champagne toast at midnight! Or fire up the blues at the Northside Tavern with Mudcat’s Rockin’ Blues New Year’s Eve Party featuring Danny ‘Mudcat’ Dudeck, Eddie Tigner, Lola, Albert White, the Atlanta Horns and more! $20 cover includes party favors and champagne with doors at 9pm! Fat Matt’s Rib Shack dishes out the low-down dirty blues with the hard-stompin’ Beverly “Guitar” Watkins this New Year’s Eve! Doors at 8pm! And blues on down to Darwin’s Burgers & Blues for their “Kickin’ it LIVE into One-Five” New Year’s Eve Party with Truett Lollis and his Dixie-fried blues and blue-eyed soul! $10 gets you appetizers, desserts and a champagne toast at midnight! Doors at PiedmontParkTavern9:30pm!

5. Smooth Operator. Get ‘70s toasty and smooth in 2015 with Yacht Rock Revue at Park Tavern! And you won’t want to miss special guests Yacht Rock Schooner bringin’ in the funk! So, rock on down and set sail into 2015 with Yacht Rock Revue’s NYE party, featuring an open bar, s’mores, a Mixtape Atlanta photo booth and more! Doors at 9pm!

jagged-stones-jpeg6. Rock Across the Pond. Kick off 2015 with Atlanta’s favorite Rolling Stones’ tribute band, The Jagged Stones with special guests The Big Chicken Beatles Band, paying homage to the Beatles, live at The Strand Theater! Doors at 9pm! Or ring in the New Year with a Brit Invasion at Smith’s Olde Bar in the Atlanta Room with The Backyard BirdsNew Year’s Eve Bash! $10 cover and doors at 8pm!Phillips Arena The Isley Brothers

7. Groovin’ Up Slowly. Get funky and ring in the New Year with a little old school funk ‘n’ soul! Toast the New Year at Philips Arena with their NYE Affordable Old School Music Fest, featuring The Isley Brothers, Morris Day, Mint Condition and more! Doors at 7pm! Or get your NOLA funk rock fix at The Family Dog with theirA NOLA NYE with Gravy Live & Abita Brewingevent! You won’t want to miss the funktastic grooves of Gravy and special tasty treats! $10 cover and doors at 8pm! And cook it up at Cook Hall this New Year’s Eve with Moontower, funkin’ you all night long at their funk-filled holiday fiesta! No cover, doors at 10pm!

Marys8. We’re Stayin’ Alive! In Retro Atlanta that is! Boogie on down to Mary’s in East Atlanta for their annual Attack of the New Year’s Eve Party Monster event, featuring DJs 5 HR Boner & Sam Rothstein spinning your favorite disco, indie, house and rock! There’s no cover and a complimentary champagne toast at midnight! Celebration begins at 9 pm! Hula into the New Year boogie-style during the Trader Vic’s Soul Tiki Disco Dance Party featuring Bogey & the Viceroy and Mai Tais galore! $10 in advance/$15 at the door. Band goes on at 9pm!

9. The Cure for Bananarama. New-Wave is the epitome of 80’s pop culture, so celebrate 2014 while toasting 2015 by continuing The Shelter’s NYE tradition at the Famous Pub with Kool Kat VJ Anthony at their 6th Annual New Wave New Year’s Eve Party! Dress New-Wave, win prizes! The festivities beginFamous Pub at 10pm and $10 gets you party favors, a champagne toast at midnight, a ton of super rare New-Wave music videos and a bunch more surprises! Or get really ‘80s New Year’s Eve style at Bone Lick BBQ at their NYE in 3-D ‘80s-themed 3-D bash! Ring in the New Year with free retro arcade games, 3-D movies, complimentary champagne and more! Tickets are $5 in advance and $45 at the door and event begins at 10pm! And you won’t want to miss Kool Kat Becky EarlCormier Finch with Denim Arcade partying like it’s 1989 dishing out their ‘80s tributes at Wild Wing Café in Suwannee at 10pm!

10. Hey! Ho! Let’s Go! Get rebellious and rock into the New Year with some old school punk and plain ol’ retro-inspired rock-n-roll and metal! The Earl delivers a rockin’ NYE Bash punkin’ you into the New Year with The Biters, Dinos Boys, Ravagers, MammaBear and more! $10 cover, doors at 9pm! Or get mischievous and sinful at Hottie Hawgs BBQ during their Boss Hawgs’ New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Sin City Atlanta, delivering a rockin’ AC/DC tribute! Celebration starts at 7pm and stick around for a taste of “wild beast” and a special light show! Ring in the New Year with some old-school blues rock with Gregg Allman at Atlanta Symphony Hall at 9pm! And toast 2015 at Smith’s Olde Bar’s Music Room with a NYE Bash with The Swinging Richards and Buck O Five! $10 cover in advance, $15 day of show. Doors at 8pm!

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ATLRetro’s Throwback to the 20th Century New Year’s Eve Guide – Our Top Ten Vitally Vintage Eras for Toasting 2014

Posted on: Dec 28th, 2013 By:
by Melanie Crew
Contributing Writer 

Ring in the New Year in vintage-style with Retro Atlanta!  Come celebrate what once was in 2013 and welcome with open arms what will be in 2014! Start your new year off with a bang with all the swell happenings we’ve found for you!

1. Red Hot Jazz & Dixieland. There’s nothing like gettin’ brassy, super early 20th century-style, to ring in the New Year! So, head on over to Alpharetta, grab a few cocktails and celebrate the year with New Orleans Jon at The Atlantic Seafood Company at 7pm! His Been One Hell of a Year event will have you crooning for more! Or improvise and make your way to The Village Theatre in Decatur for their hilarious Hollabration 6 event with an after party featuring the ever jazzy New Orleans brass of the Wasted Potential Brass Band at 9 pm! Cover is $35 which gets you a drink ticket plus champagne to toast 2014, a world-famous improv comedy show, an after party with the band and more!

2. Puttin’ on the Ritz.  Roar into 2014 at STK Atlanta for their Great Gatsby-themed celebration!  The party kicks off at 5 pm in the lounge with 2 seating options, if you so desire! 5:30 for the early birds where $85 gets you a 3-course meal, 9:30 for the rest, where $115 gets you a 3-course meal with a complimentary champagne toast!  And for those who want to party the night away flapper-style, an open bar option is available for $75!  So, get glitzy and ring in the New Year in vintage style with the sounds of DJ London Thomas along with 20s-era performers, party favors and many more surprises! If you’ve got rhythm, then get ritzy and make your way to the Atlanta Symphony Hall and join the biggest band of them all, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra as they head to Broadway to ring in the New Year!  Get glamorous 1930s-style and roll into the New Year to the tune of George and Ira Gershwin!  The ASO along with guest conductor, Jack Everly, vocalist Judy McLane and pianist Michael Chertock, lead the way to bring you your favorite Gershwin favorites including ‘I’ve Got Rhythm,’ and ‘They Can’t Take That Away from Me’!  Tickets range from $31 to $69 and show begins at 8 pm!

3. Deep Roots.  Ponder 2013 by getting to the root of it all!  For a New Year’s Eve filled with grit and soul, make your way to The Earl as they dispense a foot stompin’ night of celebration with Gringo Star, Turf War and MammaBear!  Or get sultry and spend New Year’s Eve with Michelle Malone and her old-school Americana and soul at Eddie’s Attic!  The Variety Playhouse hosts those infamous sons of Atlanta, Drivin’ n’  Cryin’ as they deliver some real rock, folk and country punk with special guests Ed Roland & The Sweet Tea Project! And for a cornucopia of rooty rock styles, swing on by Red Light Café for their New Year’s Eve party with Copious Jones, The Jugtime Ragband, Mary Lynn Buchanan and The Last Gonzo at 8pm!

4. That’s Why They Call it the Blues.  For some classic blues and jazz, shimmy on down to Blind Willie’s for their New Year’s Eve Party with the powerhouse vocals of Francine Reed & The Shadows! Doors at 7pm and $50 gets you guaranteed seating, party favors and a champagne toast at midnight!  And the Atlanta tradition continues at the Northside Tavern with Mudcat’s 20th New Year’s Eve Fiesta featuring Danny ‘Mudcat’ Dudeck, Eddie Tigner, Lola, the BluesDude and the Atlanta Horns!  $20 cover includes party favors and champagne with doors at 9pm!

5. It’s a Beach Party! Spend New Year’s Eve in paradise, Mai-Tai style at Trader Vic’s with the rockin’ surf, beach party tunes of Kool Kat Joshua Longino and Andrew & the Disapyramids!  $60 gets you a four-course dinner and admission to the party! Or, come for the show only which is $10 in advance or $15 at the door.  You won’t want to miss this island-style extravaganza!

6. Rock Across the Pond.  Kick off 2014 with Atlanta’s favorite Rolling Stones’ tribute band, The Jagged Stones with special guests The Big Chicken Beatles Band, paying homage to the Beatles, commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the British Invasion at The Strand Theater!  Doors at 9pm!

7. Groovin’ Up Slowly.  Get funky and ring in the New Year with a little psychedelic soul!  Toast the New Year at the Clermont Lounge, the seedy land of debauchery as they bring you a rockin’ celebration with Halls of Jupiter, the Kris Bell Band and Ledfoot Messiah at their New Year’s Eve Bash, where $15 gets you a groovin’ good time, party favors and a midnight champagne toast!  Or come on out to Smith’s Olde Bar and rock out with Zack Deputy, joined by the father of madness and absurdity himself, Col. Bruce Hampton along with Johnny Awesome and Voodoo Visionary!  Groove on over to Philips Arena and get psychedelic with Widespread Panic and their New Year’s Eve music and food-drive, ‘feeding people through music’ event!  Rock over to Terminal West and groove into the new year with Washed Out and the Mood Rings!  And join The Georgia Soul Council at The Family Dog for a funk-filled holiday fiesta!

8. We’re Stayin’ Alive!  In Retro Atlanta that is!  Boogie on down to Mary’s  in East Atlanta for their annual Attack of the New Year’s Eve Party Monster event, featuring DJ Bendito & DJ Sam Rothstein spinning your favorite disco, indie, house and rock!  There’s no cover and a complimentary champagne toast at midnight! Celebration begins at 9 pm!

9. The Cure for Bananarama.  New-Wave is the epitome of 80’s pop culture, so celebrate 2013 while toasting 2014 by making your way to The Shelter for their 5th Annual New Wave New Year’s Eve Retro Party!  Dress New-Wave, win prizes! The festivities begin at 9pm and $10 gets you party favors, a champagne toast at midnight, a ton of super rare New-Wave music videos and a bunch more surprises! Or for some New-Wave inspired synth-pop and a New-Wave revolution, slink on over to Noni’s Bar & Deli in the Old Fourth Ward for New Year’s Eve with Sonen!  Free cover, free champagne toast at midnight!

10. Hey! Ho! Let’s Go!  Get rebellious and rock into the New Year with some old school punk and plain ol’ retro-inspired rock-n-roll and metal!  Punk it up at the The Star Bar with The Biters, The Booze, The Forty-Fives’ MC45s, their all MC5 tribute, Fiend Without A Face, the Zoners and Dasher!  $10 cover.  Doors at 8pm!  Or spend New Year’s Eve in Hell hosted by the dynamic duo and circus side-show pair, Captain & Maybelle at The Masquerade featuring a gritty, rockin’ good time with The Six Shot Revival, Beitthemeans, the rockin’ all-female Elvis tribute band, the Pelvis Breastlies and Gunpowder Gray! $10 cover; Doors at 8pm.

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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: Nine Inch Neils’ Cage Loves Like Diamond and Hopes to Give You a Holly Holy Dream of a Time Rocking Around the Christmas Tree This Saturday Night

Posted on: Dec 15th, 2011 By:

Cage. Photo courtesy of Nine Inch Neils.

Forget the Elvis impersonators. The Rocking Around the Christmas Tree benefit on Sat. Dec. 17 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 cover charge of just $7 and one can of food entitles each guest to one complimentary Chick-fil-A sandwich, unlimited sodas and a free dessert bar. Those 21 and older can enjoy up to two glasses of complimentary beer or wine. Such a deal! Proceeds benefit the House of the Rock (also the site of the party;731 Peachtree St., NE) and Lutheran Community Food Ministries, which do amazing work feeding Midtown’s homeless five days a week.

ATLRetro caught up with Cage, lead singer of Nine Inch Neils, to find out what made him and the band a believer in Neil Diamond, where Neil fits in the wacky world of rock tribute bands and what they have planned when they rock around the Christmas tree this Saturday night.

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

Cage: I think it was “Love On the Rocks” and yes. I remember seeing it performed as well in some GLEE-like show and thinking, “I can do that song. …It’s in my range.” And his voice has a kind of a growl to it unlike the pop icons of that era. While the other songs on the radio at the time were all for tenors, that was something I could sing.

There’s got to be a great story about how you came to found a Neil Diamond tribute band?

It is a long story, but it starts with a picture in some magazine of this ’60s pop star playing a small club in England. He was dressed to the nines in his glitter and glam, but his back-up band at that particular gig were punk rockers with the spiked hair and dressed in all leather. The picture was priceless.

Cage performs with Nine Inch Neils. Photo courtesy of Nine Inch Neils.

What about the name, Nine Inch Neils? Goth-industrial doesn’t seem very Neil, or do you ever perform Diamond songs with a Reznor edge?

Guitarist 211 came up with that name after we decided to change the band’s name from Hot August Knights. There is a Neil Diamond tribute band in Canada that took that name this year, so there is no going back. It was funny at the time, and you have to admit it’s catchy. It also gets us gigs at some rock clubs who otherwise would snub their noses at a Neil Diamond tribute no matter how much it rocks. Our renditions don’t go the Goth way. It has the edge of the classic rock gods of the ’70s.

How many Neil Diamond bands are out there and where do you fit in?

In a quick estimation, there are about a dozen bands here inAmericaand others abroad and maybe 50 individuals using background tracks. The well-known acts are traditional acts that use the synthesizers and female singers and everyone knows what to expect. There are very few, if any, that do it the way we do. I think that with exposure on a wider level, we could be one of the top.

What can audiences expect from Nine Inch Neils at Rocking Around the Christmas Tree? Diamond holiday favorites? Greatest hits?

We’ll perform two sets. The hits, of course, gems as always and a couple of new songs for us as a band not covered on any of Neil’s albums. They were popularized by the Monkees but written by Neil Diamond. “Look Out, Here Comes Tomorrow” and “A Little Bit Me, a Little Bit You.” We “Neil” them up, and rock them out. We haven’t found the right holiday song to perform. Maybe next year.

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.

The House of the Rock is a great venue. It is set up for live music. The sound will be amazing, plus it’s smoke free and clean! I hope they keep having shows there. Give it a chance. You won’t be disappointed.

What do you do beyond the music to perfect your Diamond impression?

I honestly don’t think of it as an impression. I do what music and lyrics move me to do. Beyond the music I draw inspiration from some great picture books of early Neil Diamond at live shows. The photographers seem to capture the emotion on his face and passion in his contorted body in those still shots. I listen to early live recordings and imagine what was happening on stage, what he was doing, feeling and thinking. I read and listen to interviews he’s done in the past and research the meanings and inspiration of the lyrics. It’s like an actor studying a role. The good ones embody the spirit of the person they portray.

What’s the coolest part about being a Neil Diamond impersonator?

The hair.

What’s next for you and the Nine Inch Neils in terms of gigs? Any recordings?

Cage. Photo credit: Lindsay Appel.

We hope to record something in the near future to give to fans. Nothing over-produced, just a live studio session. There will be a few festivals and events in the coming year along with some local bar gigs. We will keep you posted on facebook/nineinchneils.

What do you do when you’re not impersonating Neil Diamond?

I like to DJ weddings, mix music, run sound for bands at private events, and encourage my talented friends to pursue their dreams.

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