Kool Kat of the Week: Beth Kargel, AKA Kittens Aplenti, Gets Shaken (Not Stirred) at The Highlander with Her Covert Cohorts, Band. James Band. as They Raise a Ruckus in Celebration of the Newest Bond Film, SPECTRE

Posted on: Nov 3rd, 2015 By:

by Melanie Crew
Managing Editor

Band. James Band, Atlanta’s own rockin’ masterminds and a riotous tribute to a “not-so-secret agent” dish out a night of nostalgia ‘n’ espionage this Friday, Nov. 6 at The Highlander, along with The Shut-Ups, purveyors of new wave power pop, and a whole lotta down ‘n’ dirty noise pop with Map of the Moon! Grab your friends andyour foes, and boogie on down to the slickest free shindig in town while knocking back a couple martinis in celebration of the release of the 24th highly-anticipated Bond flick, SPECTRE, (dir. Sam Mendes) out in theatres that same night. Exploits begin at 9 pm sharp!

Band. James Band. [James Band (guitar/vocals); Kittens Aplenti (keyboard/vocals); Grillz (bass) and Huge Drag (drums)], began their rockin’ covert operation in 2012 and obviously is heavily influenced by the musical masterminds behind the Bond franchise (John Barry, Shirley Bassey, Paul McCartney, et al.) as well as other ‘60s party bands and tunes. However, they’ve also been known to sling a good ‘80s tune and promise a tantalizing taste of their own “Cold-War Paranoia-Pop” this Friday night! Diamonds may be forever, but this shaken’ (not stirred) shindig is a one-time deal! (This message will self-destruct!)

L-R: Grillz, Huge Drag, James Band and Kittens Aplenti; Photo by HOOPIX

L-R: Grillz, Huge Drag, James Band and Kittens Aplenti – Photo by HOOPIX

ATLRetro caught up with Kittens Aplenti for a quick interview about her cronies in Band. James Band.; their favorite not-so-secret spy; and the band’s mission to make sure you die another day so you can spy it up this Friday! And while you uncover our little Q&A with Kool Kat of the Week Miss Aplenti, get an earful of Band. James Band’s take on “Secret Agent Man” during their 2012 East Atlanta Strut performance, here!

ATLRetro: Band. James Band; such an ingenious name for a tribute to a not-so-secret agent! Can you thrill our readers with tales of how you and your own agents got together as a band?

Kittens Aplenti: “Well, the rain exploded with a mighty crash as we fell into the sun. And the first one said to the second one there, ‘I hope you’re having fun.”‘ – Oh, wait, those are the lyrics to “Band On the Run.” Beg your pardon, we don’t usually dwell much on our past. After all, you only live twice. Though it has been rumored that an origin story would be revealed this week, hasn’t it? OK, suffice it to say that Kittens Aplenti once had the opportunity to sing “You’re So Vain” – a song that was probably about James.  Then she wanted to perform the theme to “The Spy Who Loved Me,” and she banded together friends and foes to do so – though nobody does it better than Carly Simon.

James Band - Photo by Jenifer Carter

James Band – Photo by Jenifer Carter

We see that you’ve overtaken the criminal masterminds with an arsenal of ‘60s party music and film theme songs. Which film’s theme is your favorite and why?

We’re quite fond of the theme from ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE. The constantly descending chromatic lines reflect the movie’s downhill skiing sequences, a testament to the genius of John Barry. The minions in the band like it because it’s abbreviated in the set list as OHMSS; when chanted aloud, it creates the focus and clarity needed for carrying out codas and counterintelligence.

Your top influences are listed as the musical geniuses behind the James Bond franchise; John Barry, Shirley Bassey, Tom Jones, Nancy Sinatra, et. al. Can you tell our readers what drew you to the infamous and slickest spy around, as well as his musical cohorts? And why you want to share the love of the genre with your fans?

These melodies and memories are shared experiences across audiences. They guarantee a good time and much more than a quantum of solace. In addition to theme songs and ‘60s spy favorites, readers should be alerted to Cold-War Paranoia-Pop as well. We are likely to deploy a number of ‘80s favorites for those who are as fond of the Reagan era as we are. For your ears only!

Any adventurous tales of when you began to get interested in playing music?

Our leading man began playing piano like a dutiful lad before picking up an axe. The world is not enough for his talent. He axes while other men just balk. “He looks at this world and wants it all. So he strikes, like Thunderball.”

Photo by O-Jen Ishii Photography; L-R: Grillz, Kittens Aplenti

L-R: Grillz, Kittens Aplenti – Photo by O-Jen Ishii Photography

As purveyors of kitschy tongue-in-cheek underground shenanigans, can you tell our readers who are some of your favorite local bands? And why you love the Atlanta music scene?

A-ha! It would be hard to identify favorites. The camaraderie and formidable talent in the Atlanta scene knock the living daylights out of us.  Millionaire developer Mack Zoloft has approached the minions in the band with a scheme. By tearing down all of the local rehearsal spaces to build condos, we can prevent all the other bands from practicing. We’ll dominate!

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

We’d love to perform with our local friends Smithsonian and Clashinista. These are both British-inspired send ups as well.

Anything scandalous planned for your shakin’ and not stirred shindig, probing The Highlander on Nov. 6?

The Shut-Ups and Map of the Moon have been licensed to thrill, so you all simply must plan to die another day so

Photo by O-Jen Ishii Photography; Huge Drag

Huge Drag – Photo by O-Jen Ishii Photography

that you can join us. The Man With the Golden Drum is going to shake things up and bang out an electric, nay explosive, addition to the set inspired by a few beloved bonnie Scotsmen.

What’s next for Band. James Band?

Let’s just say our relationships don’t seem to last. There’s always the possibility that we might reboot with a new cast of characters!

Can you tell our readers something you’d like folks to know that they don’t know already?

We could tell you but then we’d have to kill you…This policy does make it a little difficult to promote our shows.

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

Q: Do you expect me to talk?   A: No, we expect you to listen!

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Retro Review: The Plaza Theatre Celebrates 50 Years of The Beatles’ A HARD DAY’S NIGHT With a Gorgeous New Restoration!

Posted on: Jul 2nd, 2014 By:

A HARD DAY’S NIGHT (1964); Dir. Richard Lester; Starring The Beatles (John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr); Runs Friday, July 4 – Thursday, July 10 (see Plaza Theatre website for times and ticket prices); Plaza Theatre; Trailer here.

By Aleck Bennett
Contributing Writer

Has it been 50 years already? Hard to tell when it comes to something timeless, and there are few films as timeless as The Beatles’ motion picture debut, A HARD DAY’S NIGHT. Chock full of great music, wild comedy, groundbreaking direction and a witty, snappy script, it’s enjoyable enough on any occasion. But with a beautiful, newly-minted restoration, there’s no better way to commemorate the movie’s half-centenary than spending an evening at the Plaza Theatre with the “Fab Four”.

When it comes to rock & roll movies, there are generally three camps. There are straight-up documentaries and concert films, like The Band’s THE LAST WALTZ, ELVIS: THAT’S THE WAY IT IS, WOODSTOCK or Dylan’s DON’T LOOK BACK. Then there are the films where a rock star gets shunted into some generally cockamamie scenario which has musical performances conveniently hanging off of it, such as most Elvis movies or Herman’s HermitsMRS. BROWN YOU’VE GOT A LOVELY DAUGHTER. Then there are those films where you’ve got a plot and actors that serve chiefly to prop up a handful of showcase musical numbers, featuring musicians that you don’t really see outside of those isolated performances, aside from maybe five minutes of acting to establish their presence in the film. This is typical of most 1950s rock & roll movies (Elvis vehicles excluded) like THE GIRL CAN’T HELP IT, ROCK AROUND THE CLOCK and—in later years—the Ramones’ tribute to these flicks, ROCK ‘N’ ROLL HIGH SCHOOL.

Then, there are the exceptions, and A HARD DAY’S NIGHT is one of the most striking. It’s not a documentary, though it probably gets closer to the true spirit of The Beatles and Beatlemania than any documentary could. It’s not tied up in some convoluted plot that exists to just fill time between songs (that would be their follow-up movie, the winkingly self-conscious HELP!). And with The Beatles starring as themselves, it breaks away from the ‘50s template. At the time, it was truly revolutionary. There really wasn’t much else like it.

And it remains the single greatest rock and roll movie ever made.

Like Joe Bob Briggs used to say, it doesn’t have any plot to get in the way of the story. The Beatles have to make it to a TV studio for a live broadcast, putting up with Paul’s troublemaking grandfather (“He’s very clean.”) and the trappings of superstardom along the way. That’s it. But that threadbare plot allows plenty of time for the lads’ personalities to shine through and firmly establish each of them as distinct characters. It also allows ample opportunity to present The Beatles’ music organically: not only as score, but as source—in staged rehearsals and run-throughs leading up to their on-air performance.

The script is incredibly clever, providing constant tangential episodes within the film that deliver small moments of energy, so we never hit a dead spell in the journey. As a result, it plays as something of a sketch film, with the consistent forward dynamic of the band’s race to the TV studio maintaining an overarching momentum. In addition, screenwriter Alun Owen spent several days with the foursome and drew dialogue from interviews with the band to deliver Beatles “characters” that were true to each individual member of the group.

Director Richard Lester was a left-field candidate for helming the film, personally chosen by The Beatles on the basis of his work with Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan on TV and in the 1960 theatrical short THE RUNNING JUMPING & STANDING STILL FILM. Visually inventive and wildly imaginative, he not only innovatively captured live music performances, but also delivered crazed comic sequences (such as the opening chase scene, a rapid-fire interview segment and the wild “We’re out!”/”Can’t Buy Me Love” romp). It all comes across as pure giddy exuberance in cinematic form. And even though it depicts The Beatles as prisoners of their own fame, it’s also early enough that we’re still seeing them enjoying the view from between the bars. (As Orson Welles said, “if you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story.”)

Acting-wise, The Beatles are surprisingly confident on-screen. Paul comes across as level-headed and charming, George as dryly droll, John as sardonic and anarchic and Ringo as sensitive and compassionate. It’s Ringo in particular that shines during a sequence in which he escapes from the TV studio to anonymously wander about town and winds up palling around with a young kid. The keen script, Lester’s deft direction and Ringo’s performance join forces to create one of the film’s most memorable chapters.

And then there’s the music. Rather than use the film to push already-existing product, aside from the previously-released “Can’t Buy Me Love” and a quick medley of hits as the basis for their TV performance, the film uses newly-composed, original material by the band. And the resulting LP, their first to not feature any cover songs, is perhaps The Beatles’ first great album. With all songs written by Lennon and McCartney, it firmly established The Beatles as a truly self-contained unit—and one that sounded uniquely like themselves, rather than a large derivative of artists that came before.

I could write for forever and never be able to capture what strange magic this film conjures. It’s pure electricity on film. It’s full of the joy of life and the living of it. Like I said before, it’s the greatest rock & roll film ever made. And what the hell, one of the greatest films, full stop. And hey! If you need more convincing to see this after all of the superlatives I’ve been piling on, it has been newly digitally restored for the film’s 50th anniversary, with a new 5.1 sound mix created at Apple Studios, and word on the street is that the end result is a marvel.

So drop what you’re doing and see this at your earliest convenience. Even if you don’t know it, you need a reminder of why The Beatles were one of the biggest phenomena of the 20th century, and there’s no more entertaining way to get that reminder than with this film.

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

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Really Retro: Elevating Downtown Atlanta’s Historic South Broad Street with Murals and a Festival on Sat. Oct. 27

Posted on: Oct 25th, 2012 By:

By Kristin Halloran
Contributing Writer

As part of the second annual Elevate arts festival, the City of Atlanta Office of Cultural Affairs has brought internationally-recognized muralists Hense, Sever, Push, Tilt and Born to South Broad Street to brighten up a once-vibrant block in south downtown. The artists started work Monday Oct. 22 on the large-scale works of art intended to enliven the street and the neighborhood. Come check them out in person this Saturday from 4-8 p.m. at the Elevate South Broad Mural Festival, featuring performances by Pierre Rigal and Atlanta Music Project as well as music by award winner DJ Kemit.

The street will be closed to cars and other fun will include sidewalk chalk art, paint-your-own graffiti, and food from Munch food truck, which is headquartered just around the corner on Mitchell Street. Mitchell Street’s Hotel Row Historic District is well worth a peek if you have any interest in the glory days of Atlanta as a main crossroads for rail travel, when the spectacular Beaux-Arts style Terminal Station still stood just blocks away. In addition, the corner of the district hosts a mural that was created by another French street artist for the 2011 Living Walls Conference – go give the croc a belly rub and see if he purrs!

Formerly known by a variety of names, including Bridge Row and Market Street, this section of Broad Street was the 19th-century home of the city’s first market, fire station and cotton warehouses. In the early 20th century, it was known as Produce Row, and when Rich’s department store relocated to the corner of Broad and Alabama Streets, South Broad Street seemed destined to grow into one of the south’s great retail streets.

The buildings still standing today on South Broad Street reflect the area’s history as one of the original “mixed-use” districts; they’re mostly late 19th- and early 20th-century brick buildings constructed with retail storefronts at the ground level and offices or residential space above. But the growth was slowed in the ’50s and ’60s and reversed in the ’70s and ’80s by a cascade of factors. Among them were the decline of rail travel, the end of Atlanta’s streetcar system, bus rerouting that eliminated a large portion of the pedestrian traffic and the national trend of “urban renewal” in inner cities across the country.

Most of the buildings on this block are vacant now, but that doesn’t make them any less fascinating. One has been the home of Miller’s Rexall – the store that provided the inspiration and cover image for Paul McCartney‘s album “Run Devil Run” – since 1965. Hense’s brightly-colored mural is going up on a building that is currently empty but was occupied by the Lewis H. Cottongim Seed Company from the 1930s to the 1980s. Built in 1895, it’s been boarded up for years, but features beautiful original brick detailing, as do several of the (even older) buildings across the street – the ones that are now emblazoned with enormous orange and yellow lettering.

The hope of Elevate organizers, area residents and business owners, and others who have been working together to revitalize the area is that the presence of this high-profile art in a setting that’s accessible to anyone will draw much-needed positive attention to South Broad Street. Despite the vacant spaces, a tightly-knit community exists here – one that understands the potential of the area and wants to see it fulfilled.

Courtney Hammond, project supervisor with the Office of Cultural Affairs, notes that Tilt’s flag mural incorporates the names of many of the people he has met on Broad Street, demonstrating his shared ownership of the piece with the members of this community. Hammond hopes Elevate brings people to the area who may not have visited before, showing them a piece of Atlanta that could someday soon become a new and exciting arts district. Come and experience it on Saturday!

Editor’s Note: All photos are provided by and copyright Kristin Halloran, 2012.

 

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Kool Kat of the Week: Everything He Touches Turns To Excitement! Conductor Michael Krajewski on ASO’s BOND AND BEYOND Concert

Posted on: Mar 14th, 2012 By:

By Anthony Taylor
Contributing Writer

This Friday and Saturday the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra enters the shadowy world of spies and secret agents with the BOND AND BEYOND concert, celebrating the music of composer John Barry and the 50th anniversary of the first James Bond film, DR. NO. Principal Pops Conductor Michael Krajewski will lead the Orchestra in a variety of James Bond movie themes, including “From Russia with Love,” “You Only Live Twice,” and “Goldfinger.” The program will also include other spy and action movie favorites, such as “Sooner or Later” from DICK TRACY, the “Inspector Clouseau Theme” from THE PINK PANTHER, and “Soul Bossa Nova” from the AUSTIN POWERS films. Broadway vocalist and Tony Award-winner Debbie Gravitte will join the Orchestra for many of the evening’s musical selections.

A cultural icon of the 20th century, superspy James Bond is a plucky survivor that remains a favorite with today’s film audiences – the 23rd Bond film, SKYFALL, is currently in production at Pinewood Studios with Daniel Craig returning to the role, and is due for release in November.

The music from the films is no less iconic. Setting the tone with DR. NO in 1962, composer John Barry would go on to score twelve of the films as well as create the unforgettable James Bond theme. Though credited to Monty Norman, the arrangement by Barry is what has become synonymous with the character and musical shorthand for suave, retro cool. Later films feature music by David Arnold, Marvin Hamlisch, Sir Paul McCartney and even Sir George Martin, the “fifth Beatle.”

Micheal, Debbie and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra will be giving all for Queen and country to thrill spies and femme fatales in attendance. ATLRetro recently interrogated Michael about the program and his connections to Bond… James Bond.

ATLRetro: The music of Bond is essentially the music of John Barry; what is Barry’s (who passed away in January 2011) ultimate impact on the landscape of film music, and how did his work influence you personally?

MK: John Barry seemed to have a knack for writing music that captured the grandeur and overall atmosphere of the film. The best examples are his work on DANCES WITH WOLVES, BORN FREE and OUT OF AFRICA. The Bond films are set in exotic locations and feature beautiful women and a suave, handsome hero. Barry’s sweeping descriptive music effectively supports the glamorous settings and characters.

Bond and Beyond features themes from other adventure films as well. Why not an all Bond program, and how did you decide what other pieces to include?

For the sake of an entertaining concert I chose to add some variety by including some well-known music influenced by the Bond movies, such as “Secret Agent Man,” “Soul Bossa Nova (the Austin Powers theme song) and the theme from MISSION IMPOSSIBLE.

Also, are there any Marvin Hamlisch pieces from THE SPY WHO LOVED ME, or any of Sir George Martin’s work from LIVE AND LET DIE included?

The concert will include Marvin Hamlisch’s “Nobody Does It Better” and Paul McCartney’s “Live and Let Die.”

“Goldfinger” is arguably the most well-known movie theme song of all time, and an enormous hit for Dame Shirley Bassey. What makes Debbie Gravitte the right vocalist to interpret it and the other theme songs included in BOND AND BEYOND?

Debbie Gravitte has a strong and compelling stage presence as well as a bold and commanding vocal style. She has a lot of dramatic experience due to her many years on Broadway, plus she has experience performing in concert with symphony orchestras. This made her the perfect choice for this program.

David Arnold composed the music for the last five Bond films, and was recommended for the job by John Barry. How do you feel his music compares to Barry’s work, and what differences do you find in performing it?

Just as the action and chase sequences seemed to intensify in the later films, so too did the music, courtesy of David Arnold.

Does BOND AND BEYOND feature deeper cuts from the films – for instance, the Little Nelly theme from YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE – or possibly medleys that include a sampling of music from the films?

The concert includes a medley of action sequences from CASINO ROYALE and QUANTUM OF SOLACE.

The spy film craze ended around 1968. What makes James Bond such an unforgettable character, and how is he (and the music from the classic films) relevant to today’s audiences?

I think the James Bond movies have always provided the audience with a wonderful escape. The characters are larger than life and the settings and music are beautiful and exotic. The desire to escape to the world of James Bond for a few hours has probably gotten stronger as our lives have become noisier and more complicated.

If you could have any gadget from the films, which one would it be and why?

Michael Krajewski. Photo credit: Michael Tammaro.

I’d like the invisible car that Bond had in DIE ANOTHER DAY. I don’t think I need to explain the advantages of an invisible car!

BOND AND BEYOND takes place at Atlanta Symphony Hall, Memorial Arts Building, Woodruff Arts Center Friday, March 16, 2012, 8 p.m. and Saturday, March 17, 2012, 8 p.m.  All single tickets for the 2011–2012 season are available online at www.atlantasymphony.org, by calling (404) 733-5000 or at the Woodruff Arts Center Box Office, at 15th and Peachtree Streets. Black tie and vodka martini (shaken, not stirred) are optional. 

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ATLRetro Weekend Update, Feb. 10-13, 2011

Posted on: Feb 10th, 2011 By:

Vampires, Vietnamese food & rockabilly, va-va-voom and vintage soul at the Star Bar, Valentine’s weekend promises plenty to do for lovers and anti-lovers…

Thursday Feb. 10

The Atlanta Ballet put the vampire into Valentine’s a few years ago with its seductive performance of DRACULA. Now it’s the Little 5 Points Rockstar Orchestra’s turn to go blood red with HAUS VON DRACUL, PART 1, an original rock opera by veterans of Atlanta’s underground music scene, opening tonight at 7 Stages Theatre in Little 5 Points and playing through Sun. Feb. 13. If you haven’t already, be sure to check out ATLRetro’s preview with Chris Love, aka Jonathan Harker here.

Also, Ghost Riders Car Club celebrates Vietnamese New Year with classic ’50s honkytonk and rockabilly every Thursday in February at Pho Truc in Clarkston. For a taste, see last week’s KOOL KAT OF THE WEEK with guitarist Spike Fullerton. Or 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.

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This Week in Retro Atlanta Feb. 7-13, 2011

Posted on: Feb 7th, 2011 By:

From vintage Valentines to roses and chocolate, many of the romantic traditions that we take for granted now go right back to the early 20th century.  And then there’s always the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre in 1929. With both in mind, this week is dedicated to lovers, but there’s also plenty to do if you’re drinking alone or prefer machine gun etiquette.

Monday Feb. 7

Tonight is Big Band Night with trumpeter/vocalist Joe Gransden and a smokin’ 16-piece big band playing jazz originals and favorites from Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Count Basie, Ray Charles and more at Café 290. Cover is just $10 and Joe’s special guest tonight is the Lovett-Ellington Jazz Ensemble.

Tuesday Feb. 8

It’s too very different nights at the movies at the Fox and the Plaza. First at the Fox, the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival opens with JEWS AND BASEBALL: AN AMERICAN LOVE STORY, a rousing homage to the national pastime which charts the historic and cultural contributions of great Jewish major leaguers such as Sandy Koufax, Hank Greenberg and Yogi Berra. Showtime is 7:30 PM, with a swanky preshow reception for Red Carpet VIP ticket buyers at 5:30. General admission tickets are $10, but kids 18 or under wearing a baseball cap or baseball or softball uniform. Or kids battle nasty, pint-sized demons from a hole in a suburban backyard when Splatter Cinema goes back to the ‘80s with THE GATE (1987) at the Plaza. The fun starts at 9 with a chance to get your free photo taken in a realistic recreation of a scene from the movie and to check out the merchandise table.  On the musical front, grab your horn and join Joe Gransden again in a jazz jam session starting at 9 PM at Twain’s in Decatur.

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