It occurs to me as I sit down to cobble out this week’s A-List that there really is a fair amount of decent music here in the A-T-L. We import regularly from the Palmetto State and Ala-bam, and of course rely heavily on the mini-mecca that is Athens, but all in all it’s not so bad here.
I’ve lived in a couple of other towns that consider themselves capitols (of the world and of the nation, respectively) and this town stacks up just fine (with regard to live music – don’t think I believe it can carry the weight with those towns in any other aspect). But our live music scene has a legitimate variety of venues, several ambitious local promoters, a plethora of active genres, and most places are pretty easy to get to and get into. I guess it’s really pretty good. For that I am thankful. Give yourself a minute and you might be too. They say a thankful heart is a happy heart, so get happy.
The week starts off strong with Q-Tip, The Cool Kids and Janelle Monae, Monday night at Center Stage. I don’t pretend to have my finger on the pulse of the hip-hop scene. To the contrary, my knowledge of most African American music outside of the blues is spotty at best but this is a show I want to see. Q-Tip is of course one half of the legendary Tribe Called Quest whose Low End Theory is easily my favorite hip-hop album (yeah that’s old, but so am I). The Cool Kids represent the best new hip-hop I have heard since the first time I heard Outkast. I must have spent at least three weeks this summer when I couldn’t drive anywhere without listening to their EP, The Bake Sale (myspace doesn’t even highlight their best tracks). As they call themselves, and as any lazy scribe like me (or somebody getting paid at Paste) will repeat, they “are the new black version of the Beastie Boys”. Finally, I missed the freaky and inventive sci-fi mystique of Clark Atlanta University’s Janelle Monae. She, like The Cool Kids, is only pushing an EP, Metropolis, but it is worth the spin if only because it is unlike anything else I have heard lately.
I cannot fail to mention that B.B. King also be in town on Monday night. He’s at the Tabernacle and I know that won’t match timing (1995) or the size (250 seats) of the venue where I saw him, he is still a legend and if you’re into being able to say “I saw him” to friends and grand kids, then it’s certainly worth the price of admission. You can always hope to hear him do a classic like “Five Long Years” or “Help the Poor” – which is worth the full value of any cover charge.
I’m going to get out of order here and plug a cover band. And what’s worse, it’s a cover band that I have never even seen before. Obviously, this choice is rife with dangers but I find the concept so absolutely compelling that I am consciously ignoring the fact that their next gig will be the FIJI house in Tuscaloosa. The concept behind The Last Waltz Ensemble is that they only cover Bob Dylan and The Band (I am honestly embarrassed that I feel the need to link these two artists, but I am doing it anyway). Those who actually read and retain this column, will recall that I wrote at least one installment while listening to The Basement Tapes (Dylan and The Band together, for those not familiar) which easily ranks among the very finest double records of all time. Aside from dressing up in rhinestones, sunglasses and sideburns, I cannot think of two better artists to cop than Dylan and Robbie Robertson. Oh yeah, it’s at Smith’s on Friday night.
I am, at best, an adopted southerner. So when a band describes itself as southern rock, I don’t tingle with excitement as much as reconsider my memories of .38 Special. That being said, I have become a DBT fan (clinched by their recent show at the Tabernacle) and certainly love the blues and Americana elements that are often present in the best of this so-called genre. A band of that sort that I will miss this week but sort of wish I won’t is Tishamingo, Wednesday night at Smith’s. Should be a good set up for T-Day F-Ball.
If you like that clean acoustic pop sound, Shawn Mullins will be at the Variety on Saturday night. Like almost everybody else in America, I love that song “Lullaby”. C’mon, that line about L.A. being just like Nashville “but with a tan” has got to make any southerner, native or adopted, smile just a little. If you don’t know this from his voice-overs on Dave FM or his appearances at great local events like 500 Songs for Kids, Shawn is a Lake Claire boy done good. His most recent effort Honeydew is a return to the integrity of his earlier work which was more about what he has to say than what the radio night want to hear. I expect that he will draw a healthy crowd.
I don’t really know how to describe the Modern Skirts. I guess it’s just pop rock like the last guy but to me their sound is sort of, well…nondescript. I know they have their local following (being from Athens and all). I mention them here mostly for the sake of completeness (and the realization that I am often wrong about things). They will be at the Earl on Friday.