Kool Kat of the Week: Joel Burkhart Plans on Doing Something With It; AM Gold Throws a CD Release Party at the Star Bar

Posted on: Sep 27th, 2012 By:

AM Gold at Oakland Cemetary. Photo credit: David Batterman.

By Torchy Taboo
Contributing Writer

My radio was my best friend from grade school all through college. I knew every word to every song and spent my teen years trying to stretch my tiny hands across the frets to eke out “Smoke on the Water” like the rest of my artsy friends. An Atlanta band has emerged called AM Gold that speaks to the growed-up heart looking for that “me and my radio” feeling. They will celebrate the release of their first CD, PLANNING ON DOING SOMETHING WITH IT, this Friday September 28 at the Star Bar with Higher Choir and My Rebel Episode.  A dream-team of an outfit, they’re fronted by this week’s Kool Kat guitarist Joel Burkhart, who was good enough to give ATLRetro the back-story on growing up in the glory days of AM radio, his past bands and Star Bar shenanigans.

Torchy/ATLRetro: Tell me about AM Gold.

Joel Burkhart: AM Gold started as a dream. Several nights in a row I had this dream of a band playing on the top of a hill. There was sunlight behind them so all I could see were the long shadows of the band cascading down the hill. The golden rays of the sun eclipsing any details other then the shadows of the people playing. The sound was a chorus of voices, not heavenly like a choir but more earthly and gritty. I heard them singing these lines:

“These are the songs we like to sing
Makes us forget most everything
This is the way that I want to feel
Soft as love and strong as steel.”

After the third or fourth night of this dream, I picked up the guitar and wrote that song. Then I started putting together the band. I knew it would possibly be the last band I ever put together so it had to be amazing. It had to have great players but this time it also had to have great singers. This was going to be all about the words and the melodies. If I wanted them to shine I had to get the right people to be in the chorus.

I have played with Jim [Stacy], Eric [Young] and Jeff [Langston] for years and knew what they were capable of. Jim Stacy has been a lead singer/frontman for many years with Greasepaint, LaBrea Stompers and Little Women and sings with me in The Downers. He was first on the list, but I asked him last because I didn’t think he’d want to be in another band with me. Jeff plays with me in Bully but has also fronted his own bands (Ledfoot Messiah, Ritual, Flathead Fuel) for years. He is quite possibly the best male vocalist in Atlanta that no one knows about. Eric has been my drummer through Mulberry Street, Bully, The Downer Brothers and now AM Gold. Along the way he started singing back-ups and is one of the best singing drummers around. He also makes playing drums look as easy as breathing. Musically I have never played with a better drummer. I have a hard time imagining my songs with anyone else playing drums on them.

When it came time to complete the rhythm section, there has always been a combination that I wanted to hear together. I had Eric and now I was lucky enough to get Blake [Parris] to say yes also. Blake is this town’s hidden treasure. Someday someone who can pay him properly for his services is going to come and take him on the road and we won’t ever see him again. Blake is an amazing bass player and singer – probably one of the best -but he can play almost anything: electric guitar, acoustic guitar, lead, rhythm, banjo, lap steel, pedal steel, keys… I really bet that you could give him a trombone, and in 15 minutes he would have a proper part written for a song. There is nothing that I can play or sing that won’t be made significantly better with Blake. He could just sit onstage with anyone and make then sound better. Seriously.

The final piece to the puzzel was a keyboard player. The only person that even crossed my mind was Jett [Bryant]. While he is not one given to the art of practice, he is one of the best damn singers in the game of rock and roll. He knocked’em dead in the Rock City Dropouts and kills it every night with Bigfoot. With AM Gold, he is pitch perfect and brings the pretty. I am sure that this is the most professional band I have ever played with. Practices and rehearsals are exciting and fun. We always have fun playing shows and hell, on top of all of that, we like each other. We all genuinely like being in the same room and shooting the shit. When the 6 of us are playing and singing together it is magic. There is no other word for it.

Joel, where are you from? Did you grow up listening to AM radio?

Joel: I am originally from Detroit. Lived there until the age of 5. Lived in farm country – Tecumseh,MI – for a few years before moving to Brighton, Michigan. I spent the 1980s as a mall rat in the suburbs. I moved to Atlanta when I turned 19 [in 1989].

Totally grew up listening to AM radio early on in Detroit – WJBK, WXYZ and CKLW. Later listened to commercial FM Radio – WRIF, WLLZ – and the college stations from University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan University.

Joel Burkhart. Photo Credit: John McNicholas.

Do you write much aside from lyrics and when did you first start writing songs?

You know, I used to write all the time. I have notebooks and notebooks of stuff. Poems, short stories, essays, laundry lists – actual and metaphysical – good, bad, everything,  As I have gotten older, I write less but the quality seems to be higher. I think that comes with being married and having kids, but also realizing who I am and what I want to say. When I do put pen to paper these days, there is probably a song there.

I started writing songs pretty late, I think. I was in my mid-teens when I first learned enough chords to have two different parts to a song. Unfortunately the first one sounds a lot like “Under The Milky Way Tonight” by The Church and the second one sounds a lot like “Boys Don’t Cry” by The Cure. It really wasn’t until a few years ago that I started to think I was writing my own songs that sounded like me. I think that’s part of the process: writing and writing and writing until you find your own voice.

Who were your earliest musical influences that stuck with you?

I think like most kids you listen to what is around you at the time, and my earliest influences were from my relatives. Whether it was my cousins listening to Elvis, Chicago, Kiss or Steve Miller; my grandfather listening to hits from the ’40s and ’50s; my grandmother playing WWII ballads on her Wurlitzer; or my uncle’s Rare Earth, Kansas and Yes records, it all influenced me. Some of the best memories I have are driving around singing “Afternoon Delight” [Starland Vocal Band] or “What’s Going On” [Marvin Gaye] along with my mother. Detroit radio was some of the best in the country in the ’70s, and my mother, in particular, was pretty influential in my early years. She loved music and loved singing; whether it was rock, soul or country, she listened to it all. Our record collection had Neil Diamond, Neil Sedaka, Paul Williams, Barbra Streisand and the Bee Gees. Another big record that stuck with me was Tom T. Hall record SONGS OF FOX HOLLOW – For Children of All Ages. My grandmother gave that to me. I wore that thing out.

Who’d you listen to that makes you ask, “What was I thinking?  and how’d you ‘take their sad song ‘n make it betta’? Even the questionable influences of childhood can positively shape budding creativity, right?

When I was a young child, we had one of those small Imperial portable record players and I would go from room to room when my parents had parties putting on my “show.” I would carry my record player, my yardstick – which doubled as microphone and guitar – and my favorite record, Helen Reddy’s “I Am Woman” b\w “Delta Dawn.” I would sing through side one, take my break and then sing through side two. Man, I could rock that shit.

While there was some questionable hair metal that I listened to in the ’80s – TnT, Krokus, Helix anyone? – I can’t really disavow it in good conscience. They are all colors in my crayon box so to speak. Some people are great at painting with one color; I’m not. All of the music that I have listened to tends to find its place in the songs that I write for my different bands.

Before the Star Bar sound booth days, what was your worst day job, and did I hear the residue of that angst in your band Bully?

I did death scene clean up for almost two years. It was miserable work, didn’t pay very well, boss was a dick. That was very influential in the Bully songwriting process. “Quitter,” “Spit,” “I Don’t Feel Well,” “2nd Drawer Down.” All from that period of time. I’d come home pissed off and beat, fire up the bong, hit the Jaeger and let it all out. Thankfully my work life is less stressful now, but I think that was what life is supposed to be like in your 20s, living hard and carefree.

What was it like working sound at the Star Bar? Favor us with a story of your days in the booth.

So much to tell – Jim Stacy and I once spent 30 minutes trying to get a G string on Hasil Adkins’ guitar while a nearly sold-out house waited impatiently. He had a box of old guitar strings he carried with him, every one of them old and rusty. Just looking at the box gave me tetanus. For some reason, none of them were the right one.

Once we had a kid who was trying to promote some shows – this particular one with Har Mar Superstar – have a breakdown on stage. He started calling out the booker of the club, the owners, the bartenders and finally me. He told the room filled with people I had stolen his guitar and amplifier – which I believe he had left in a friend’s car or sold for meth – and that he wasn’t a “fat, jaded motherfucker” like me. I, for sure, took the brunt of it, I guess because he was on stage staring right at me. I think most everyone thought I was going to kill his mic (or him), but I just let him keep going until he tuckered himself out. He ended up going to a mental hospital a week or so later. Pretty weird.

But I also had some great, amazing memories there. The Ex-Husbands blowing everyone away with an out of left field, dead-on cover of “War Pigs” [Black Sabbath], followed by “Beating around the Bush” by AC\DC.

I remember that!

Alejandro Escovedo bringing over 200 people to complete silence with the breathtaking-ness of his songs; The Drive-By Truckers playing an Atlantis Music Conference and just weeping over the song “Heathens,” knowing things would never be the same for them after that night. That stage is magic.

AM Gold. Photo credit: David Batterman.

As I was on the road last year, I heard a lot of BS about how listening to Johnny Cash was a hipster trait and therefore passe. What would you say to that labeling?

One of the bonuses of being older is that I don’t know if it’s hipster or not. I’ve been listening [to Cash] since the ’70s when I was a kid and never stopped. I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon.

With The Downer Bros, you and Jim Stacy pay homage to some of Johnny Cash’s most, for the lack of a better word,  “fierce” recordings. You recently rattled the walls at the 12th Annual Cash Bash at the Star Bar [Sept. 22]. How’d the idea for the Downer Bros come about?

Like most of our great ideas, it started off with drinking. During the rockabilly\country revival in the 1990s, there were a lot of bands that would throw in a Johnny Cash or George Jones [song] and do it in whatever style they played. There was no one really doing the slower, lost love, murder ballad stuff, and definitely no one doing it stripped down and acoustic. Jim and I loved that kind of stuff. So when we were waiting for bands to show up or when the night was over, we would play songs, just me and him. Acoustic guitar, harmonica and our two voices, harmonizing and trading songs. It was magic. The name came from trying to describe the music to our good friend Andy McDaniel. He asked what kind of music we were doing and we said “country music, but you know, the ‘downer’ stuff.” It stuck.

I’ve been paying attention and coming to see your bands for a bit now. Do I detect a progression of a happier and more fulfilled man through your musical timeline, having made so many people weep openly, inviting us to be healed and happy – or am I waxing fanciful?

I think there is a definite evolution. Mulberry Street was me getting my feet wet playing and performing but quickly became a little darker then I thought it would become. With Bully, I totally embraced that darkness and anger. When you are more or less penniless, living from day to day, broken-hearted and feeling alone, it is hard to find the light. The Downer Brothers are similar to Bully in that there is some frustration and  loneliness, but instead of being loud and in your face and angry, it was quiet and more thought-out and reserved.

AM Gold it is next logical extension of the realization that there is goodness all around you. Goodness in the things you do, the places you go and the people you meet. The trick, I think, is being open to it, being willing to let it chase away the darkness that has comforted you for so long. Don’t get me wrong, there is still a meanness out there, thriving and consuming, but you have the choice. You can live in fear with the darkness or live in the happiness of the light. Mostly now I choose the light. Some days it is really hard work to find it, but I think it is worth the struggle.

As a performer, what show stands out in your memory?

Probably one of the highlights for me personally was playing in Greasepaint and opening for Tenacious D. It was a sold-out crowd at The Tabernacle here in Atlanta. For AM Gold, it has to be playing The Dogwood Festival earlier this year. A few thousand people on a beautiful day in Piedmont Park. Nobody knew who we were or our songs, but they seemed to really appreciated them and we had a great response.

Honestly though every show is great in its own way. Any time I get to get on stage with my friends and we get to play our original songs, the ones we have practiced a hundred times, the ones we put our time and effort into writing and arranging and performing. That’s a good day.

Worst gig ever has to be the Chili Cook-Off at Stone Mountain last year.  It was the first time in over 20 years I set foot on stage for the sole purpose of making money by playing covers. While we had fun playing our Steve Miller Greatest Hits set at the Star Bar a couple months earlier, when it came to doing those songs again, there was no love for them. While I admire people that can get on stage and play three or four sets of somebody else’s material and are able to support a family doing it, I am not cut from that same cloth. I suppose that’s why I am not able to support a family doing that.

I’ve been the annoying fan begging for CDs forever. What was the AM Gold studio experience, was it documented on film and when will PLANNING ON DOING SOMETHING WITH IT be available? Joshin’, but seriously does being recorded affect your perspective? And by the way, thanks and eager to hear both the Bully and AM Gold disks!

The recording process was really fantastic. We recorded with a great guy named Jimmy Ether at his studio called Headphone Treats. For this recording we were all in the same room, playing together. We set up in the morning, recorded seven songs, and were pretty much done that night. We came back a couple times and overdubbed a few guitar parts, percussion and some vocals, but for the most part, what you hear is what we did that first day. It is a really great way to record. All of the recordings I have ever done previously were all with the drummer in his own room and the guitar amps in their own rooms and the rest of the band usually in the control room listening back through small, tiny speakers. It has always been frustrating for me. I like being able to feel the kick drum and bass, feeling the air move in the room with the music, the rise and fall of the conversation we are all having with one another through our instruments. There is no replacing it.

As for the Bully stuff, we’ve got over 40 songs that had very limited – me handing a homemade CDR to someone – release. I’m hoping to change that later this year. I think we are going to put out three EPs, each having five to seven studio cuts and two to three live recordings. I’m not really sure. We also started re-recording some Bully stuff a couple of years ago that has yet to see the light of day. When your bass player is in one of the biggest metal bands in the world, it gets hard to get everyone together in the same room and on the same page, but hopefully while Troy [Sanders] is home for a little bit between records, we can get some Bully time out of him.

What aspirations does the band muse about for the foreseeable future? Just sheerly hypothetically speaking, what’s next for you creatively?

The thing about us being in our 40s and doing this is that we don’t have the free time and lack of obligations that being 20 something has. Jett [Bryant, keyboards] has Bigfoot and a budding movie career [he was the star of DEAR GOD! NO! and is going to be in the follow up], Blake [Parrish, bass] and Eric [Young, percussion] are both in several bands and are in high demand as players, Jeff [Langston, guitars] has Ledfoot Messiah (they are doing the Kiss Kruise later this year) and he is in DRACULA: THE ROCK OPERA (ED note: Watch out for a Retro Review soon) at 7 Stages and Jim [Stacy, harmonica] has the Starlight Six Drive-In and Palookaville to run, as well as a successful TV show and the possibility of a opening a restaurant fairly soon.

And me, I’m not getting any younger. The thought of getting in a van and blowing with the wind down the road trying to find my rock and roll fortunes has long passed me by. The music I write and play isn’t fashionable. I have no hipster cred; my waist size has expanded. I’m not much to look at;  my head is shaped funny. At the end of the day I’m a 43-year-old IT nerd scraping by at a job I don’t care about, working for people who don’t care about me so I can earn money which is spent before I get it so I can keep a roof over my family’s heads and food and clothes in and on our bodies. I have a beautiful wife and family and a life like most people: spectacularly wonderful and exceedingly average. It just depends on what day of the week and how close we are to the next paycheck. Sometimes we have a little more than others, sometimes a little less. In my mind I’m doing all of this for them, hoping for the big pay-off someday. Rational Joel knows that is probably never going to happen.

But still, I have this need to make this music. I tell these stories and dream these dreams. That’s all good music really is. Stories and dreams. I’m going to keep writing and playing every chance I get for whoever will listen. When I have new stories, I write new songs. When I have new dreams, I write new songs.

It’s what I do, I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon.

Look for me up front and center.

AM Gold. Photo credit: David Batterman.

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Kool Kat of the Week #2: The Better Half Will Reach You: Jazz Singer Yolanda Rabun Is Keeping It So Real at the Atlanta Jazz Festival

Posted on: May 23rd, 2012 By:

Photo courtesy of Yolanda Rabun.

The Atlanta Jazz Festival brings a national and international who’s who of the art form to Piedmont Park for an amazing free concert every Memorial Day Weekend. With so many incredible artists, we decided we couldn’t pick just one, so this week, look out for two Kool Kats.

Kool Kat #2 is Yolanda Rabun, one real lady of jazz who’ll be singing both her own originals and classic pieces on Memorial Day Monday, May 28 at 3 p.m. The former Atlantan now lives in North Carolina but is excited to be returning home in support her debut CD SO REAL, and we can’t wait to hear her, whether she’s channeling classic chanteuse Billie Holliday or showing us with her voice how the true meaning of love embodies peace and harmony and even when true love means it’s time to leave. She has sung with Isaac Hayes for President Ronald Reagan, performed with Clay Aiken, been the lead vocalist of the Stanley Baird Group opening for Jennifer Holliday and traveled the world. All at the same time as serving as corporate counsel for a Top 5 Forbes company. We caught up with her to find out more about her eclectic background, what her mother taught her about music and life, and what it means to be So Real…

How did you discover jazz?

My mom introduced me to Nancy Wilson and Nina Simone when I was younger. Billie Holliday was a really big hero of mine. And Diane Reeves. My background is musical theater. I always think of musical theater as a story being told to music and that’s what jazz does too. As I got older I was called by jazz bands asking me to come play with them, and I began stepping out. In fact, throughout school I would sing with different jazz bands. I’d do things here and there, but I really got into my jazz vocal career five to six years ago when I became the official lead jazz singer for a band in North Carolina.

Who are some of your favorite classic jazz singers and why?

Billie Holliday, her music changed during the course of her career and that was very impressionable on me because it gave me meaning behind what jazz what can be. When I think of jazz, I think of improvisation—feeling through music based on what’s going on around you, being more straightforward with tones, more purposeful with meaning. As Billie got older and had been through more, her music became slower, energy more focused either in the emotion of anger or the emotion of sorrow. That was amazing for me. This woman could take music and deliver a message basically through the emotion going on in her life and the song. That’s a skill that I’ve worked on through my years studying music.

Sara Vaughn and Dinah Washington also made an impression on me, and Nancy Wilson is one of my biggest influences.

Trumpeter Al Strong and Yolanda Rabun at Raleigh's Artsplosure Festival 2012. Photo credit: Frank Myers.

Do you consider your style to be traditional jazz or contemporary jazz?

I don’t even think I want to be labeled. I like to be considered both so I’m not put in one corner or other. There’s a photo of me with a flower in my hair on my album, and that’s part of my brand. When you see it, you probably think Billie Holliday. I almost want to you, I sing traditional jazz in live shows. But listen to all of my music and you’ll find out it’s a mix. I want to send the message that whether I am singing contemporary or classic jazz as it was back in the day, whether soulful jazz or gospelly jazz, in the end it is jazz. And jazz is delivering emotion through the actual sound you hear in the music.

There must be a great story about how you came to sing and do a recording with Isaac Hayes and sing for President Reagan?

I was a junior at Northside School of the Arts and President Reagan was visiting. There was a big production and they wanted a song. They said Isaac Hayes was producing it and my face lit up. When I met him, he said he was so glad I was singing it. He was amazing. He was very caring about what needed to happen but also very stern and concerned that I was at my best. When I did it, it was on CNN and all the news stations. As soon as the song was over, I got so excited that I turned around and shook President Reagan’s hand. The Secret Service didn’t expect that. But he grabbed me and hugged me. It was a great experience all around, meeting the President and working with Isaac Hayes.

You often quote the statement: “Half of what I say is meaningless but I only say it so that the other half may reach you.” Where did you get that from?

It was something my mother said to me. I always wondered what she was saying. But I know now it means to pay attention to everything that is said since the portion that you need the most comes when you are ready to receive it.  The story about Isaac Hayes and being able to meet the president—what does that all mean? Mr. Hayes said a lot to me in the course of our working, I remember him reiterating that I would be a singing lawyer and that I am! In the end, it’s about having been blessed and continually being blessed to be able to work with really great people in my career. I’m based in NorthCarolina now, have traveled all around the world and I get to come back home to Atlanta for the Atlanta Jazz Festival. Did you know I used to sing the theme song for Atlanta and now I am coming back toAtlantato sing my music. I’m really, really excited.

Can you take a little about your debut CD SO REAL?

SO REAL is smooth and soul jazz. I started writing the song “So Real” for my husband. It was exciting for me, doing a demo and getting back into the field of music. As a corporate lawyer,  I’d gone full surge into that career but I wanted to get back to music. I wrote the song “So Real” as part of a demo and then set it aside.  Finally, the hard start of stepping out on my own and starting on my own album began in 2010. Because everything became  “so real,” that’s the music I wanted to sing and make my own. I took the single and created a full HD video, and then it toured to Portugal, Spain, Turkey and Jordan. I sang for it for the US troops because what they are doing for us was so real. Then I finished the album and took it back to Diego Garcia, and the  response  was amazing. The “So Real” song and album did well on the charts for the independent labels in the UK. I can’t even tell you how overwhelmed and excited I am.

Can you give us a taste of what you’ll be performing at the Atlanta Jazz Festival?

Hi, I’m Yolanda Rabun here and this is my new contemporary jazz album “So Real.” That’s a big deal. I’ve been the lead singer for a jazz group and now I’m stepping out and here I am. You will see a mixture of a lot of musical influences, Nancy Wilson,  Billie Holliday and others that will surprise a few. I will do some songs from my SO REAL album, and a song by one of the biggest influences in my life out of all my influences, Gladys Knight! My songs involve a journey of love, a journey of freedom, a journey of harmony and peace. My show is centered around the idea of real love and what that is, whether it’s blossoming, wonderful and happy or searching and unclear. In the end it’s about harmony and peace.

I’m from Florida but grew up in Atlanta. I went to Warren T Jackson Elementary, SuttonMiddle School and Northside School of the Performing Arts. I met my husband, Rick, in Atlanta, I was married in Atlanta (formerly known as Yolanda Williams) , one of my children was christened in Atlanta at my home church (Cascade United Methodist), my mom, (Kappitola) is in Atlanta where I was raised as her only child.  Atlanta is my home. I’m coming full circle. I started in Atlanta with my music, went off and became a lawyer, and now I’m coming back with my music.

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Kool Kat of the Week #1: Jazz Meets Mizrahi and Rock: Up-and-Coming Israeli Artist Nadav Remez Brings His Unique Spin to the Atlanta Jazz Festival

Posted on: May 23rd, 2012 By:

The Atlanta Jazz Festival brings a national and international who’s who of the art form to Piedmont Park for an amazing free concert every Memorial Day Weekend. With so many incredible artists, we decided we couldn’t pick just one, so this week, look out for two Kool Kats.

Nadav Remez. Photo credit: Dana Merison.

The first is guitarist Nadav Remez. He’ll be playing Sunday, May 27 at 6:30 pm. Lauded as one of today’s top emerging jazz voices, he grew up in Israel, scored a full scholarship to attend the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston, also studied at the New England Conservatory and now resides in New York. Last year he released his debut CD, SO FAR. As for his music, it has been called “haunting” and reflects the versatility of jazz as an art form merging modern jazz, alternative rock and traditional Israeli folk music.

You have a really interesting background having grown up in Israel and had your first music education there. How did that shape your approach to jazz?

I grew up in the Tel Aviv area and into a situation that resembles many other places in the Western world in the ‘90s. I listened to a lot of pop music, British and American. We had MTV Europe, which was different from MTV in America because it actually played a lot of music, not just reality shows. So when I was a teenager, my musical inclination was very pop-oriented. However, in Israel, international pop was just one channel feeding us musically. We also got some other types of music, what we call mizrahi music which is our folk pop music, popular Middle Eastern music. So we grew up listening on the radio here to one song from the UK Top 40 and then the next song would be Middle Eastern. As time went by, from the ‘90s into the 2000s with the Internet, more people [in Israel] were exposed to different kinds of music, and musicians started mixing these kinds of music together. If you turn on the radio today, you find our pop has a lot of Middle Eastern elements.

Then I went to Thelma Yellin High School of the Arts, a famous art high school with a jazz major that produced many famous Israeli jazz artists. That’s where I first heard about jazz, and it was very exciting experience. I was woken up to a new reality. Jazz was a music that’s not just something around you, not just something that you played coincidentally but something very serious and very deep. That’s when jazz came into place for me, into my world. I was lucky to have many teachers dedicated to jazz as an art form, who really taught me a lot about what the music means—teachers who had lived in the US in New York. So they brought their love of jazz over toIsraeland to many of my peers.

Nadav Remez. Photo credit: Dana Merison.

Who are your favorite classic Retro jazz musicians and why?

For me, going into high school, I was so shocked by this new thing in my life called jazz. I just wanted to explore it all around, but my teachers told me that in mu first years of listening to jazz, I should be listening to jazz from the first half of the 20th century up to the ‘60s. That’s when a lot of the innovations in jazz were taking place—Charlie Parker in the ‘30s and ‘40s, John Coltrane in the ‘50s and ‘60s, Miles Davis, Louis Armstrong, etc. I was focusing a lot on bebop, hard bop and post bop, styles that emerged in the early  ‘40s to mid ‘60s. With jazz in those days, it really was about listening to different musicians but whoever I was listening to, they stood out as geniuses because they all were. That being said, I was very much into Coltrane. He and Charlie Parker are like the gods of that era. There are no rules but I’d say to someone who is an aspiring jazz musician in their teens, before you go to newer music, you should check out the roots because that’s where the music comes from.

Your approach is very eclectic and innovative, blending Eastern and Western sounds. Can you talk a little about how you developed your unique style and sound?

That all started when I was at the Berklee College of Music in Boston about five to seven years ago. I and a group of other Israeli musicians started to experiment with long improvisation forms that came from jazz and added Middle Eastern aesthetics to it. That’s where our ears pulled to naturally. After I started playing with it, I also started writing my own music and thinking about my first album, SO FAR. At this time, I was trying to absorb what was around me. Jazz musicians stay close to their roots. So I started to listen to more Middle Eastern music and trying to apply those concepts and ideas into my jazz, and also rock and pop, mainly ‘90s sounds. Radiohead was a very big influence.

Your Atlanta performance is with a special project, right?

Yes, the Nadav Remez/Omer Avital Quintet. It brings together songs that I wrote and songs that Omer Avital wrote. He’s a very important figure in jazz right now and a bass player with many albums behind him, both as a leader and a sideman – currently with Yemen Blues and Third World Love. This [performance] will be a combination of tunes by me and tunes by him. Like all music, it’s in a way both similar and different because we both grow up inIsraelin similar settings. But he’s older than me—he’s 40 now—so he has other Israeli influences from when he was growing up. Even though one could hear both the pop/rock influences, as well as the mizrahi influences, in both our musics, Omer’s music leans more towards the mizrahi, while my music leans a little bit more towards rock. The quintet also includes Greg Tardy [tenor saxophone], Jason Lindner [piano and keyboards] and Yoni Halevy [drums]. It’s a high profile line-up which I am very excited to perform with.

Playing Smalls in NYC. Photo credit: Dana Morgan.

If we go to New York, where should we go to listen to some great jazz?

Personally I like going to places like Smalls, Village Vanguard and Fat Cat. But these days in New York, you can hear great music all over the city, not only in Manhattan. There is a vibrant scene in Brooklyn as well. All you have to do is pick up a newspaper and see what’s going on tonight or look online. I recently found an iPhone app called NY Jazz, that displays a comprehensive list of jazz shows as far as a month in advance. The New York scene is very alive with contemporary jazz, cutting edge jazz and also traditional jazz—which also is cutting edge.

You just said traditional jazz is cutting edge. What do you mean?

Because jazz is a music of the moment. Even if you play with the traditional language from the ‘50s and ‘60s, you can still have lot to say and make very strong statements.

What’s next for you?

[Omer and I] have a few more shows [together]. In June and July, we have a residency in Smalls Jazz Club in New York with Omer’s new band called Band of the East, and then there are several other projects in 2012 that are going to involve us playing and performing together. With my own group, I will be travelling in July to Germany to play at the Palataia Jazz Festival and plan to perform in Israel in August and September.

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Kool Kat of the Week: Down By The River: Ruby Velle and the Soulphonics Add Some Soul to a Good Cause

Posted on: May 3rd, 2012 By:

By James Kelly
Contributing Music Editor

The recent splash of international attention for retro soul music in the mainstream with artists such as Adele, Duffy, and Bruno Mars has been a welcome event. However, it should be no surprise that there has been a thriving deep soul underground that features artists who are just as good, if not better, than a lot of the major label acts. For about five years Atlanta has been the home for the amazing Soulphonics and Ruby Velle. This coming Friday they are performing at the 16th annual River Revival, a fundraiser for Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper. The event is May 4 at Park Tavern in Piedmont Park starting at 6:30 p.m. and also featuring Burnt Bacon, Julia Haltigan and Ben Sollee.

ATLRetro.com caught up with the lovely Miss Velle this week, and she was kind enough to answer a lot of questions. We officially declare Ruby Velle (and the Soulphonics) the Kool Kats of the Week.

ATLRetro: What inspired you to become a singer, and how did you find your “voice” in such a commercially underappreciated genre?

Ruby Velle: I’ve been singing since I was 8, with early hand-me-down inspiration from my aunt and uncles musical influences. They were constantly providing me with vinyl listening parties, live jams with friends and creating an environment where I could perform at a young age. They were great friends with the late Luther Allison, [an] amazing blues artist.

Growing older, my parents and friends along the way were all very into soul, so I soaked up the greats and some of the lesser known artists through auditory osmosis. However, I don’t see the genre itself as commercially under-appreciated; it just will never gross as much as other genres such as pop or country. But there are some great acts out there making a good living from playing soul. I think the commercial factor is less relevant in the genre than the emotion portrayed in the music itself.

How and when did you and the Soulphonics end up in Atlanta, and why?

I had just graduated from college and wanted to study graphic design in Atlanta because I knew it was a career that could be useful to being a recording artist. The band’s creator, Spencer Garn (also the band’s leader, keyboardist, co-writer, producer and engineer), wanted to expose our music to a new audience, as we had a pretty good hold on the market in Florida. I moved, then Spencer, then Scott Clayton, the original guitarist/co-writer.  Atlanta seemed like a great next step and has proven to be a great place to call home. Our music has been able to evolve here into something Atlantans are proud to call their own, and since we’ve been here we have been voted Atlanta’s Best Soul Band by Creative Loafing, two years in a row! So Atlanta has quickly become home to us.

You have often mentioned Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye and Otis Redding as big early influences, who are some of your favorite contemporary artists, and why?

Oooo… there’s such a long list. I always say my music is a collection of inspirations from all types of artists and genres, so it’s hard to just name a few. The biggest influences for songwriting lyrics have been Paul Simon, Fiona Apple and even Ani DiFranco. These artists are storytellers and their writings speak to me in a deeper more intellectual way. That is what I aim to do with the soul music we’ve been creating. Sure, anyone can write a soul ballad, but can it be deep and introspective? Can soul music make you move and make you think? I believe the answer is yes. I think my need to offer a new take on soulful lyrics is a result of the influences from these writers.

As far as musical influences that are contemporary, I’ve really been enjoying Alex Clare’s music lately. He just released his album to the states; he is originally from the UK. I love his soulful voice, and I can tell that he, like me, has been pulling pieces of styles, inflections, and vibe from the greats, but he makes it his own. I recommend his album because it mixes genres well with some soul, electro and dub-step (with credit to Diplo and members of Major Lazer). I think the melding of these genres is intoxicating.

Lastly, as far as contemporary artists go it doesn’t get much better for me than the Black Keys. I really admire Dan Auerbach’s talent and his ability to carry the torch for the blues and blues rock. I’m always impressed by whatever they put out, so soulful and simply genius.

What do you think brought about the re-emergence of deep soul and classic R&B over the last several years? 

Well, I’m glad you said “re-emergence” instead of “resurrection” because I hold the belief that soul never really died; it’s just become an evolving genre because the context has shifted so much from the days it originated.  I think more than anything people were craving that old sound made by new artists, so new interpretations have been born  a la Sharon Jones & The DapKings, Amy Winehouse, Adele and The Dynamites featuring Charles Walker. I’m grateful these artists have fueled the re-emergence because we have been doing soul music for almost 10 years as a underground act. It’s great to know that the genre itself has growing appeal to all ages on a wider scale.

What sort of crowd comes to see Ruby Velle and the Soulphonics? Does the age range surprise you?

ALL TYPES and ALL AGES. I’ve seen gay, straight, black, white, Indian, Chinese – you name it, they have been in the front row dancing till the last song ends. I’m very fortunate that our music resonates with all ages; it really has a way of bringing the community together when we play shows or benefit festivals. I’m not particularly surprised because the music is about emotion and feeling. And everyone of all ages can relate to certain emotions.

How challenging is it to maintain a band and keep things fresh and exciting in the Atlanta music scene?

Well, maintaining an eight-piece band can be hectic and can bring you to your knees if you begin to focus on logistically how hard it is, but I certainly can’t take credit for great management to date. We’ve become a tight knit team of multi-taskers and multi-talented folk. Spencer Garn, for example, manages the band, owns a record label [Element Records], and also records and mixes our music. I’ve had the band as my graphic design client for the past seven years, creating merch and posters to album art and vinyl labels. I also work as a creative director with stylists and designers, such as Bill Hallman, to maintain our dapper image and keep up looking sharp. Our guitar player and co-writer Scott Clayton is also an expert with sound equipment and repeatedly has the band sounding great. I’m very fortunate to work with some amazing people that believe in what we do.

In the Atlanta music scene, if you did not put out a song yesterday, you are pretty much obsolete. You have to really create here on a large scale and frequently to be recognized. I think Atlanta has prepared us well to deliver on a larger scale. Luckily we’ve been playing shows in Atlanta for the last five years at a pretty constant rate so we are seeing some of the fruits of that labor. The fans here, though, are incredibly supportive, more so than I’ve seen anywhere else. Sometimes I wish they would let go, lose it all and dance a bit more, but I came from a hippie town in Florida so it’s been a little adjustment for me to see the more refined fans here.

You and the band have put out a few great singles, which have whetted the appetites of your fans. Was this a strategic plan, or simply a business decision?

This has been a little of both. Just internally, we’ve had some of these songs written and recorded for a while, but we are very particular about what gets heard when. We love to build suspense around our releases, which is why we’ve been putting out a steady stream of singles since 2010. Our fans are losing their minds in anticipation of the album, and I’d like to think the singles have had something to do with that hype.  We are just as excited for the release of our debut album IT’S ABOUT TIME.

When will we finally see a full-length recording of the band?

This Summer we will FINALLY release the full-length debut album. Keep an eye out for our album release party in early August. The street date for the release will be around July 24. And we will party till the sun comes up. It’s been a very long road to put out the album, but we are pleased with it and are looking forward to the reviews and press to help it grow legs.

You are playing a benefit for the Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeepers this coming weekend, so how important are the environment and other social causes to you?

Environmental and civil rights issues are a huge cornerstone for the Soulphonics and myself. A lot of the lyrics in our songs are about inspiring change, in ourselves as well as in others. We are just a group of folk that feel a need to use our musical influence to bring about change. In addition to working with the Riverkeepers to promote their benefit, we will be working with a number of nonprofit organizations dealing with sustainability, economic recovery in struggling regions and environmental causes. Although some of these plans are just getting going, we are partnering with CTC International in Kenya on some sustainability efforts for the communities there. We’ve also made an impact here in Atlanta with benefit shows and song donations for the Atlanta Humane Society and the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund, and are always looking for more opportunities to promote social and environmental causes.

What does the future hold for Ruby Velle and the Soulphonics?

Positive change on a mass scale. With the release of the album and planning a tour, we will be able to bring our music to more ears than ever before. We are thrilled to be on the road soon touring and spreading the word about this little soul outfit with a big sound from Atlanta. There is a lot going on over the next year, but I look forward to being more involved in social causes as well as continuing to write for the follow-up album. IT’S ABOUT TIME chronicles our struggles and setbacks since we were established in 2007, but now that it’s releasing soon I guarantee there is no stopping this soul machine. The future, for all of us, is as bright as we think it to be.

All photos courtesy of Element Records and Ruby Velle and the Soulphonics and used with permission. For more information and to purchase tickets for the River Revival on May 4 at Park Tavern, go to their website at: https://www.xorbia.com/e/ucr/rr2012

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‘Tis the Season To Be Bono: Yacht Rock Revue Kicks Off St. Patrick’s Day Early at Park Tavern and Muses on Stepping Into the Shoes of So Many Rock Icons

Posted on: Mar 1st, 2012 By:

Photo courtesy of Yacht Rock Revue.

Shamrock with Yacht Rock Revue kicks off Atlanta’s St. Patrick’s Day shenanigans early this year with the ultimate U2 tribute experience on Sat. March 3 at Park Tavern at Piedmont Park. The event, featuring one of Atlanta’s most popular classic rock cover bands, kicks off at 2 p.m. and live music starts at 4 p.m. with special guests Saturday Night Beaver presenting a glamorous stage show that celebrates the artists that brought sex appeal to popular music such as Rick James, Rod Stewart and George Michael. Then U2 tribute band Uno Dos Tres Catorce performs followed by two sets by Yacht Rock Revue. Drink and eat up with an ultimate Bloody Mary bar, green beer and plenty of hearty fare. ATLRetro caught up with two of the six members of Yacht Rock Revue, Nick Niespodziani and Peter Olson to find out more about the Gaelic goings on and what it’s like to step into the shoes of so many classic rock icons.

What do you have planned for March 3? Will it be an all-U2 show?

Our plan starts with Irish Car Bombs. Then Uno Dos Tres Catorce – starring Bueno and the Wedges. I play Bueno, everyone else is a version of the Wedge. Then it’s a long block of soft rock in our Yacht Rock Revue persona. Actually two long blocks. That’s a lot of music, especially after doing Led Zeppelin IV and Dark Side [of the Moon] last night at the 40 Watt and Sgt. Pepper’s tonight at Smith’s.

Yacht Rock Revue does so many specialty shows from Beatles tributes to Pink Floyd‘s Dark Side of the Moon played in sync with WIZARD OF OZ at the Strand last fall. Fans of different bands can have high levels of scrutiny, so what do you do to prepare in general for gigs that focus on a specific band? And what will you be doing to prepare for stepping into the shoes of Bono and The Edge?

Each of the shows requires a totally different approach. It’s a lot like being an actor in the theater. Led Zeppelin is the guns-blazing action star. Yacht Rock is the like-able bad guy in an ’80s movie. How do you play Prince and MJ without coming off as a perverted prick who can’t dance as well as those guys? How do you pay tribute to the Beatles without coming off as a smarmy mop-top wanna-be? These are the questions that challenge us at our job.

U2 is the unironic one-dimensional sci-fi hero.  It’s not much of a stretch for me to play the self-righteous, self-aggrandizing social activist role of Bono…  since it’s basically who I am in real life, without the religion and millions. Their music definitely gets your adrenaline pumping. Vocally, it’s a real workout. So I’ve been increasing my throat push-up regimen in preparation.

Photo courtesy of Yacht Rock Revue.

Is there a particular U2 song you are especially looking forward to playing live?

We’ve never done “Pride” before, and we’re trying it this year.  It’s impossible to sing, so we’ll see how it goes. It seems especially appropriate to play it in the home city of MLK.

What’s your favorite tribute show you’ve done so far?

Purple Rain and Thriller was pretty epic last year – we had a 25-person choir in purple robes singing all of the backing vocals. We’re all big Prince fans, so taking on that album for the first time was a very fulfilling challenge. And then we played Thriller in Storm Trooper outfits.

What’s been your most challenging gig? 

The most challenging gigs are the ones where the music isn’t the reason people are there.  We’re spoiled, in that every time we play a show in public we get so much positive energy back from the audience.  When we get into some (not all) of these corporate event situations and we don’t get that vibe back from the crowd, it becomes a lot more difficult to do our job.

Is there a tribute show you’re really dying to do but haven’t had the opportunity yet?

Queen’s “Night at the Opera” versus Janet Jackson’s “Rhythm Nation 1814.”  Also, some of our guys have a project called “Dwight Snake” that re-envisions White Snake’s best tunes through the lens of Dwight Yoakam.  I can’t wait for that show.

How do stay fresh while working with classic cover material?

We always try to put some of our own stank on the tunes – it’s the only way to make it happen.  The key is not to treat the music with kid gloves, you’ve got to smack it around and roll with it in the dirt.  We treat these tunes irreverently, as if they’re our own songs.  That’s the attitude that makes the music and the show compelling.

What are your parameters in terms of what qualifies as a Yacht Rock Revue song?

Whatever we say goes.  And it can’t be written by Jimmy Buffett.

What’s the story behind how Yacht Rock Revue get started?

We were doing a variety show at the 10 High called the Surprise Party where we did a different show every week, including classic albums, comedy, our own original material, etc.  We thought a ’70s AM Gold Show would be hilarious.  It was spearheaded by our drummer Mark and our guitarist Mark.  I didn’t even know half of the songs.  And now it’s the joke that keeps on giving, as the saying doesn’t go.

St. Paddy’s Day is still coming, so do you have plans for any more U2-inspired shows?

Not this year – Park Tavern is the only one.  So catch it whilst thou can.

What else does Yacht Rock Revue have planned for this spring?

We’re recording a studio album, mixing a live album, planning more national-scale tours, launching another Summer Series at the Park Tavern, and cloning ourselves.

What question do you wish someone would ask you but nobody ever does? And what’s the answer?

Q:  Where’d you get your boots?  A:  I’ll never tell.

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This Week in Retro Atlanta, June 27-July 3, 2011

Posted on: Jun 27th, 2011 By:

Just five months after quietly launching ATLRetro the last weekend of January, we’re up to our 100th post, blushing after a rockin’ review from Scoutmob, and averaging nearly 4,000 hits a month! Thanks, dear readers, for your support, and we hope you’ll stick around for an exciting site revamp in July featuring a mighty swell new logo courtesy of that swingin’ kat Derek Yaniger and new regular features on Retro restaurants, cocktails and vintage shopping.

Mike Geier and one of the lovely Dames Aflame.

Monday June 27

From 3 PM on, savor tropical sounds and libations, as well as a Polynesian dinner during Mai Tai Monday at Smith’s Olde BarKingsized and Tongo Hiti lead singer Big Mike Geier is Monday night’s celebrity bartender at Sister Louisa’s Church of the Living Room and Ping Pong ParlorNorthside Tavern hosts its weekly Blues Jam.

Tuesday June 28

Grab your horn and head to Twain’s in Decatur for a Joe Gransden jazz jam session starting at 9 PM. Fedora Blues is at Fat Matt’s Rib Shack. Notorious DJ Romeo Cologne spins the best ‘70s funk and disco at 10 High in Virginia-Highland. Catch Tuesday Retro in the Metro nights at Midtown’s Deadwood Saloon, featuring live video mixes of ’80s, ’90s, and 2Ks hits.

Wednesday  June 29

Get ready to rumba, cha-cha and jitterbug at the weekly Swing Night at Graveyard TavernThe Hollidays bring a little soul to Fat Matt’s Rib Shack and Danny “Mudcat” Dudeck blues it down at Northside Tavern respectively. Dance to ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s hits during Retro in the Metro Wednesdays presented by Godiva Vodka, at Pub 71 in Brookhaven.

Thursday  June 30

You don’t need a golden ticket to enter in a world of Gene Wilder‘s imagination courtesy of trippy 1971 kids classic WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY, this week’s movie at Piedmont Park‘s Screen on the Green.

Uncle Daddy & the Kissin’ Cousins get Twain’s a hoppin’, hillbilly style. Self-described Atlanta “modern retrobilly” band The Serenaders swing at Kathmandu Restaurant & Grill in Clarkston. All Thursday shows at the Vietnamese restaurant are free and all-ages. Go Polynesian 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. Party ‘70s style with DJ Romeo Cologne at Aurum LoungeBreeze Kings and Chickenshack bring on the blues respectively at Northside Tavern and Fat Matt’s Rib Shack.Bluegrass Thursday at Red Light Cafe features Kris Youmans & the DC-3’s.

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This Week in Retro Atlanta, June 20-26, 2011

Posted on: Jun 20th, 2011 By:

Monday June 20

Swing to Joe Gransden, trumpet player extraordinaire, and his 16-piece orchestra during Big Band Night at Cafe 290 on the first and third Monday of every month. From 3 PM on, savor tropical sounds and libations, as well as a Polynesian dinner during Mai Tai Monday at Smith’s Olde Bar. Kingsized and Tongo Hiti lead singer Big Mike Geier is Monday night’s celebrity bartender at Sister Louisa’s Church of the Living Room and Ping Pong ParlorNorthside Tavern hosts its weekly Blues Jam.

Tuesday June 21

Grab your horn and head to Twain’s in Decatur for a Joe Gransden jazz jam session starting at 9 PM. Fedora Blues is at Fat Matt’s Rib Shack. Notorious DJ Romeo Cologne spins the best ‘70s funk and disco at 10 High in Virginia-Highland. Catch Tuesday Retro in the Metro nights at Midtown’s Deadwood Saloon, featuring live video mixes of ’80s, ’90s, and 2Ks hits.

Wednesday  June 22

It’s an all-star night of jazz and swing at the Star Bar with Nat King Coal Miners, a dynamic new jazz trio made up of three seasoned musicians, February ATLRetro Kool Kat Spike Fullerton (Ghost Riders Car Club) on guitar, Matt Wauchope (Blair Crimmins & the Hookers) on piano and blues man Dave Roth (Burnt Bacon). Read more about them in a sneak preview with Spike Fullerton posting soon.

Chris Isaak may not have that perfect pompadour anymore but you can see him still shaking up alt-rock with that modern Sinatra vibe tonight at in the Classic Chastain series. Get ready to rumba, cha-cha and jitterbug at the weekly Swing Night at Graveyard TavernThe Hollidays bring a little soul to Fat Matt’s Rib Shack and Danny “Mudcat” Dudeckblues it down at Northside Tavern respectively. Dance to ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s hits during Retro in the Metro Wednesdays presented by Godiva Vodka, at Pub 71 in Brookhaven.

Thursday  June 23

Expect “shimmies, shakes, glitter, glamour and, of course, tassels” as the burlesque beauties of Minette Magnifique take to the stage tonight in a new show titled Prohibition Exhibition *Making the Illicit Explict* at The Warren City Club. Read the ATLRetro Kool Kat profile of Shellie Schmals, aka Baroness VONSchmalhausen here.

In Conversations with Contemporary Artists: Radcliffe Bailey, the world-renowned artist discusses his work with diverse media in the new exhibition MEMORY AS MEDICINE, which opens Sun. June 26 and runs through Sept. 11 at High Museum of Art. Take a tour with the provocative artist in this week’s Kool Kat here. Tickets to the talk at the Woodruff Arts Center’s Rich Auditorium are free but limited to two per person, and advance reservations are recommended at (404) 733-5000.

Tongo Hiti

Classic horror (James Whale’s 1931 FRANKENSTEIN featuring Boris Karloff vs Hitchcock’s 1963 THE BIRDS) is the theme for viewer’s choice night at Piedmont Park‘s Screen on the Green. 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. Alt-country act McNary plays Kathmandu Kitchen & Grill (formerly Pho Truc) in Clarkston. All shows are no cover charge, no smoking and all ages. Party ‘70s style with DJ Romeo Cologne at Aurum LoungeBreeze Kingsand Chickenshack bring on the blues respectively at Northside Tavern and Fat Matt’s Rib Shack.Bluegrass Thursday at Red Light Cafe features Curtis Jones & Friends.

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Weekend Update, May 27-29, 2011

Posted on: May 27th, 2011 By:

Friday, May 27

Bubbapalooza, Atlanta’s biggest annual rockabilly/Redneck Underground festival celebrates its 20th anniversary this weekend at Star Bar, and the fun starts at 7 PM tonight. Be sure and read the sneak preview/tribute piece with Bryan Malone and Ted Weldon here and get the band full schedule for Friday and Saturday here.

Mon Cherie Presents Va-Va Voom Black Light Burlesque Show, which has the awesome tagline “Where Kool Kats Go and Boobies Glow!”, at The Shelter. Emcee is the delectable Miss Mason and performers include The Chameleon Queen, Stormy Knight, Scarlett Page, Jon Pine, Tupelo Honey, Katarina Laveaux, Kittie Katrinaand newcomer Davana Scott. As usual, there’ll also be a Ragin’ Raffle with great prizes from a variety of vendors.

As a time-traveling Website, ATLRetro would be remiss if we didn’t mention that Friday also kicks off TimeGate, a convention celebrating two time-traveling TV shows/movie franchises which originated in the 20th century DOCTOR WHO and STARGATE. Guests include actress Sophie Aldred, who played Ace from 1987-89 with seventh doctor Sylvester McCoy.

Broadway and London musical superstar Patti Lupone brings her show-stopping revueCOULDA, WOULDA, SHOULDA to the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra at theWoodruff Arts Center. Michael Brown Quartet brings rhythm & blues and jazz to Fernbank Museum of Natural History’s Martinis and IMAX.

Saturday May 28

Decatur Arts Festival paints the suburb’s streets with art vendors, live musical performances including Cowboy Envy at noon, street food and kids activities. The 34th annual Atlanta Jazz Festival runs all day from 1 PM until after dark at Piedmont Park.

Caroline Hull Engel of Caroline & the Ramblers, among Saturday bands at Bubbapalooza 20.

Bubbapalooza revs up with doors at 3 PM and live music starting at 4 PM at Star Bar, including the Redneck Cruise-In Car Show featuring pre-1970s and earlier hot rods and cycles starting at 5 PM in the parking lot; barbecue by Slope’s BBQ; raffle & prizes; chance to get your official Bubbapalooza 20th anniversary photo taken at the PBR Photo Booth; and Internet motorhead radio station Garage 71 broadcasting live all night from The Little Vinyl Lounge. For a complete band listing, click here.

Broadway and London musical superstar Patti Lupone performs her show-stopping revue COULDA, WOULDA, SHOULDA for a second night with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra at the Woodruff Arts Center. DJ Romeo Colognetransforms the sensationally seedy Clermont Lounge into a ’70s disco/funk inferno.

Sunday May 29

Decatur Arts Festival continues, with bands including the jazzy Bonaventure Quartet featuring Amy Pike at 2 PM, rockin’ blues with Delta Moon at 4 PM and then wrapping up at 7 PM with Swingin’ on the Square. The Atlanta Jazz Festival also starts back up at 1 PM at Piedmont Park with a mix of vintage and contemporary style jazz performers. The contributions of veterans not just of current conflicts but WWII, Korean War and Vietnam War will be celebrated during Veterans Remembrance Day at the Atlanta History Center. Spend a day in the company of veterans and living history interpretors who will tell their stories using authentic dress, equipment and vehicles. The Barrow Boys headline blues “dunch” between 1 and 4 PM at The Earl.

Closing this week

At the High Museum of Art through May 29 is the MOMA-organized HENRI CARTIER-BRESSON: THE MODERN CENTURY, a blockbuster exhibit showcasing a photographer and photojournalist who captured on film many of the seminal moments  of the 20th century from World War II to the assassination of Ghandi, China’s cultural revolution to civil rights and consumer culture in America.

Tune back in on Monday for This Week in Retro Atlanta. If you know of a cool Retro happening, send suggestions to ATLRetro@gmail.com.


 

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Weekend Update, April 15-17, 2011

Posted on: Apr 15th, 2011 By:

Friday, April 15

The 75th annual Dogwood Festival begins at noon at Piedmont Park including a large juried fine arts market, continuous live music including New Orleans-style blues from Swamp Funk Quartet at 3:40-4:30 pm, kid’s village, food vendors, Friends of Dogwood tasting pavilion, rides on the vintage Seattle Wheel (read ATLRetro’s preview here), built for the 1963 Seattle World’s Fair, and a classic 1965 carousel, and more. Also happening this weekend is Sweetwater 420 Fest in Candler Park, also featuring an artists’ market and plenty of live music acts, including the Gimme Hendrix Band at 5:20 PM.

The Atlanta Braves celebrate Jackie Robinson Night in honor of the 64th anniversary of the legendary player’s debut in Major League Baseball, breaking the color barrier, with a pre-game reception and on-field ceremony featuring Hank Aaron before tonight’s game against the New York Mets. Rockabilly queen Wanda Jackson holds court at The Loft, while contemporary Atlanta rockabilly band Psycho Devilles descends into The Basement at 1245 Joseph Street. Danish duo The Raveonettes, at The Masquerade tonight, blend ’60s beat with ’80s alt-garage for a sound both Retro and original. Eighties alt-rockers Toad the Wet Sprocket hit Variety Playhouse. The Hollidays bring rhythm and soul to Sidelines in Marietta. Salsambo Dance Studio unleashes some Latin heat at Fernbank Museum of Natural History’s Martinis and IMAXJoe Gransden and Kenny Banks jazz up The Mansion on Peachtree. Saxophonist Brian Hogans headlines Friday Jazz at The High Museum of Art, including full gallery access (see ongoing for current exhibits) and a cash bar. Or go really retro with the Atlanta Opera‘s COSI FAN TUTTE at Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre. In Mozart’s comedic masterpiece, two Italian officers boast of their fiancees’ faithfulness, only to have a clever friend put it to the test.

Saturday April 16

Vinyl-lovers rejoice! Today is Record Store Day so be sure and support your local indie record store, even if you decide to buy a CD! Decatur CD celebrates with sales, Community BBQ sliders, free beer, concert ticket giveaways, and Atlanta’s own King of Pops with scrumptious freshly made popsicles outside after 2 PM (weather permitting)! Other great Atlanta and Athens indie music shops will host their own celebrations, so get yourself to Fantasyland Records, Wax n’ Facts (live music), Wuxtry (live bands at the Athens location), Criminal Records (live music) and Full Moon Records.

The 75th annual Dogwood Festival continues all day at Piedmont Park including rockin’ blues from Lefty Williams at 5 PM and outrageous ragtime from Blair Crimmins & the Hookers at 6:30 PM. Read ATLRetro’s interview with Blair here. Meanwhile at Sweetwater 420 Fest, catch 7 Walkers featuring Bill Kreutzman of The Grateful Dead at 4:50-6:30 PM.

Mon Cherie’s The Chamber Reunion transports attendees back to Atlanta’s notorious ’90sGoth/Industrial/fetish club with live fetish performances, burlesque/Boi-Lesque,  aerial feats, go-go dancers, drag skits, body paint, a chocolate bar and more surprises to tickle your fancy tonight at The Masquerade from 9 AM late into the night. Mon Cherie provides an exclusive preview as this week’s Kool Kat.

On any other night, The Chamber Reunion would win hands down the most exotic extravaganza in town, but tonight isn’t any other night. Creative competition comes from The Artifice Club, which presents The Clockwork Carnival, a steampunk circus featuring a night full of gypsies, fire eaters and other curiosities at The Goat Farm. Featured acts include The Imperial OpaHot Toddies Flaming Cabaret, the amazing aerial feats of Blast-Off Burlesque‘s Sadie Hawkins, Thimblerig CircusPyro Salto of Birmingham, AL, music by DJs Doctor Q and The Davenport Sisters, and more. Also featured is a Vendor’s Market Caravan, photography sessions, The Circus Contraption Contest with prizes awarded for the most creative device you would need to work at a carnival, and a steampunk costume contest to crown the King and Queen of the Carnival. Festivities start at 4 PM and also last into the very wee hours of the night, we suspect. For ATLRetro’s sneak preview with Doctor Q himself, click here.

In Atlanta Rollergirls action at the Yaarab Shrine Center, the Dirty South Derby Girls take on the Tampa Tantrums at 5 PM, followed by a whole lotta shaking going on as the Denim Demons and the Toxic Shocks skate it out for a chance at a first win of the season. The Psycho Devilles rockabilly it up at Dixie Tavern in Marietta. Variety Playhouse turns the clock back and invites you to dig out the shoulder pads for The Reagan Rock Prom featuring “The Greatest ’80s Soundtrack Songs of all Time.” Music, dancing, a prom king and queen contest and refreshments. Better Than The Beatles pays tribute to the Fab Four at Jerry Farber’s Side Door. DJ Romeo Cologne transforms the sensationally seedy Clermont Lounge into a ’70s disco/funk inferno.

Sunday April 17

Spend a lazy Sunday at the Dogwood Festival at Piedmont Park, catching bands such as easy-going, all-American Jackson County Line (2 PM). Or Sweetwater 420 Festival winds down with several bluegrass acts. Gentleman Jesse serves up the blues “dunch” between 1 and 4 PM at The Earl. Catch the final matinee performance at 3 PM of the Atlanta Opera‘s COSI FAN TUTTE at Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre. At night, legendary blues musician Taj Mahal plays Variety Playhouse.

Ongoing

Leave it to the mad geniuses at Dad’s Garage to transform a beloved children’s classic into a bloody puppet musical. SCARLETT’S WEB features all your favorite characters from Wilbur the pig to Templeton the rat but adds some splattery special effects. Never mind, it’s all in fun though, they say, and definitely recommended only for anyone old enough to appreciate adult humor. Opened April 14 and runs Thurs., Fri. and Sat. nights at 8 p.m. through May 7.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec died in 1901, but it’s not a stretch to say that his vibrant posters and prints of showgirls, nightclub stars and the café culture influenced the 20thcentury romantic view of Paris and still inspire today’s burlesque performers. The High Museum of Art’s dynamic new special exhibition, TOULOUSE-LAUTREC AND FRIENDS: THE IRENE AND HOWARD STEIN COLLECTION, runs through May 1. Also at the High through May 29 is the MOMA-organized HENRI CARTIER-BRESSON: THE MODERN CENTURY, another blockbuster exhibit showcasing a photographer and photojournalist who captured on film many of the seminal moments  of the 20th century from World War II to the assassination of Ghandi, China’s cultural revolution to civil rights and consumer culture in America.

Tune back in on Monday for This Week in Retro Atlanta. If you know of a cool happening coming up, send suggestions to ATLRetro@gmail.com.


 

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Retro Rides Add Magic to 75th Annual Dogwood Festival

Posted on: Apr 13th, 2011 By:

Atlanta’s quintessential weekend in the park, the Dogwood Festival at Piedmont Park has always been a crowded but laidback affair with bands, art vendors, food, kids’ activities and dogs who chase Frisbees. So when organizers looked for something to make its 75th anniversary year even more memorable, ATLRetro is jazzed that they decided to think backwards to a ride that has been the signature of world’s fairs, expositions and festivals of bygone days—a Ferris wheel.

And what a Ferris wheel they found—the Seattle Wheel. The largest traveling Ferris wheel in the nation at nine stories high, it seats four abreast in each car and was built in 1963 for the Seattle World’s Fair. That’s big for most Ferris wheels of today with the exception of stationary giants such as the London Eye. To put it into perspective, the first Big Wheel, designed to rival the Eiffel Tower in its mechanical wonder, was built for the legendary Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. Its cars were 24 feet wide and carried up to 60 people!

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