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Music, especially rock and roll

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Schedules | Venues | Radio | Great shows

- Where I'm coming from

I enjoy live music and prefer small venues.  I won't go to large shows or pay much over $10.  That said, I'll see any kind of music and if it's good, I'll probably enjoy it.  I enjoy pop music but I much prefer hearing stuff I've never heard before.  My tastes run from classical (hard to see for $10) to jazz, to rock, to punk, to hardcore, to Americana, to country, to free jazz.  I am less interested in folk, hip-hop, new wave, world, or pop country.

 - Find out who is playing where

  • Creative Loafing's Vibes Section is the first place to look for nearly everything.  Click on "Sound Menu" for day-by-day listings.  The critics highlight interesting acts.
  •  lists punk, hardcore, emo, grindcore, and just about every other type of "core" show you can imagine.  You will find no pop here. Make sure to join the mailing list.
  • Spivey Hall, just south of Atlanta, hosts all kinds of non-rock music.  I've never been there but the acoustics are renown.

 - The best places to see live (non-classical) music.

  • The Star Community Bar in Little Five Points is a treasure but don't tell anyone I said so.  It's in an old branch bank building.  It's small club that is very friendly with a doorman who will remember you.  The annual "Bubbpalooza" weekend and Elvis's birthday celebration are a treat and a hoot.  I've seen rock, punk, Japanese punk, jazz, free jazz, country, rockabilly, and swing here and enjoyed it every time.
  • The Variety Playhouse, also in Little Five Points, is an old movie theater.  It's an auditorium rather than a club.  It is an absolutely great place to see music.  There is room to stand, room to dance, theater seats to sit in, and tables.  Great bookings of all kinds of acts.
  • Red Light Cafe is in Midtown on the east side of Piedmont Park.  It's more of a coffee house than a bar.  If you get there early, you can sit on a couch.  You won't find loud rock and roll here, but you might find jazz, folk, bluegrass (especially on Thursday), and blues.
  • Blind Willies is in the Virginia/Highland neighborhood east of town.  You can find the schedule in Creative Loafing.  Dedicated to Atlanta blues man Blind Willie McTell, it's blues every night.
  • Under the Couch is in the basement of the Couch Building at Georgia Tech.  Operated by the Georgia Tech Musicians Network it's one of the best places to see underground bands that often feature Tech students.  Yes, there are couches at Under the Couch.  The unique thing abut UTC is there is no drinking and no smoking.  Imagine, if you can, a smoke free rock and roll show.
  • The Echo Lounge has put on some great shows.  It's a typical stand-up rock and roll club in a former ice-house, in East Atlanta Village .  It's long, narrow, tall, has a high stage, and there is a major hassle to get into the the room on a crowded night.  But as I said above, they have some great shows.
  • The Earl is just north of the Echo lounge in East Atlanta Village .  It's a happening  neighborhood bar/grill in front, with a nice music room in the back.  It's a square room with the low stage set in a corner.  You can get very close to the performers.
  • The Masquerade is in a former mill on North Avenue just east of Midtown.  It is a huge place with a disco (hell), a bar (purgatory) and a large performance hall (heaven).  You can find your punk, metal, and hardcore here but there is major swing dancing every Sunday night.  The building is cool even without the music.
  • Smith's Old Bar has a restaurant, bar, and pool tables downstairs.  The music hall is upstairs in on old Masonic meeting hall.  With chairs, tables, and a raised platform around the walls it's a great place for a show.  They have music, every single night.
  • The Dark Horse Tavern is in a wonderful old building on Highland Avenue.  Upstairs, it's a major singles joint.  The music room, 10 High , is in the basement.  It's small with a very low ceiling.  If you enjoy the band, you are going to be up close and cozy with them.  It books mostly local acts but you can find surprises here:  The last show I saw there was Dick Dale.
  • The Point is no more.  It had a pie-shaped, stand-up room that is now a clothing store.  I saw lots of great shows there.  Rest in peace.

 - Best radio stations

These are the non-commercial stations in Atlanta.  You can hear the pop, modern rock, urban, news, and sports at their regular places on the dial.

  • WREK 91.1 FM is Georgia Tech's student run station with a major attitude.  It has a remarkably diverse format and play list.  Many would say it's un-listenable.  You may hate it but it you can probably find a show you like.  When the NPR station broadcasts Morning Edition, WREK plays classical.  It is the first radio station to broadcast over the internet in 1994.  To top it off WREK maintains a 7 day archive that you can access over the internet.  Want to hear last week's metal show?  No problem.
  • WRFG 89.3 FM is Radio Free Georgia.  WRFG is diverse but listenable.  From bluegrass to salsa, to jazz, to 50's R&B, to hip-hop, it's great music..
  • WCLK 91.9 FM is Clark Atlanta University's "the jazz voice of the city."  They certainly live up to the name with jazz, gospel, and reggae.
  • WRAS 88.5 FM is Georgia State University's student station.  Unlike WREK, they actually want you to like their music.  With a strong signal, professional staff, and diverse programming WRAS is a great station.

 - Great live shows that I've attended.

This guide is about the present and the recent past, but I simply can't make a list with this heading without mentioning at least a bit of more ancient history. Over the many, years I've attended live music in the South, I've seen more than my fair share of memorable shows.  But a few shows transcend time, that is, I still have vivid, fond memories mostly between 1967 - 1972:  The Band, Jimi Hendrix (2), Led Zepelin (2), Mahavishnu Orchestra, The Who, Cream, Santanna (3), Johnny Winter (2), Joe Cocker, Canned Heat, Weather Report,  Rashan Roland Kirk (wow).  A extra special mention: the Allman Brothers' two free concerts in Piedment Park.

  • Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band  To say it's orginal is an understatement.  Most folks would hate it.  It is certainly one of the strangest acts ever.  Mix Dada, free jazz, blues, rock and roll, humor, and what have you and that's still not enough.  One of my favorite quotes is, "Even thirty years later, it still sounds like it comes from the future."  Extraordinary.
    • February 8, 1971 at the Atlanta Sports Arena with Ry Cooder.
    • March 27, 1972 at the Atlanta Municipal Auditorium with Jethro Tull.
    • November 28, 1978 at a now closed Cherokee Theater on Buford Highway just outside I-285. It was briefly the Great Southeastern Music Hall.
  • Pere Ubu at the Echo Lounge, September 27, 2002.  They rocked big-time.  They had dynamics.  Even when they were threatening to blow the roof off, the songs were touching and moving. "Some day I'm gonna be your man, some day I'll be the best that you can do." Uncanny. I'll see them anytime.
  • Sleater-Kinney  at the Echo Lounge, summer of 2000 and October 23, 2002 at the Variety Playhouse.  The critics call it angular punk-pop.  I have one of their CD's.  I'd pay money for a live recording:  Their show at the Echo Lounge  was one of the best I've ever seen.  The Variety Playhouse show was just as good. 
  • Dick Dale played in the tiny Dark Horse Tavern in the fall of 2000.  He blew the fuses during the first song.  The man's got it.
  • Peter Brotzman and Hamid Drake at the First Congregationalist Church in the spring of 2001.  Free jazz with Peter on sax and Hamid on drums.  Free jazz is not for everybody, at least half the audience left during the break.  I find it exciting, often breathtaking, and memorable.  You wont go home humming any of the tunes.
  • Peter Brotzman and His Chicago Tentet Plus 2 at the Variety Playhouse in the spring of 2000.  This was free jazz with a big band:  Four saxophones, one bass, two percussionists, a cello through a guitar amp, three brass players.  The auditorium was full, the show was spellbinding and impossible to forget.  Frankly, I don't know why it works for me.  The music ranged from the inside of a tornado to the sound a tree makes when it falls in the woods where nobody can hear it.  Also the Peter Brotzman and His Chicago Tentet at the First Existentialist Churchn June 11, 2002.  Wow.  Here is a list of the musicians:

Peter Brtzmann - tenor sax, clarinet & taragato
Ken Vandermark - tenor sax, clarinet
Mats Gustafsson - tenor & baritone saxes
Mars Williams - tenor, alto & soprano saxes
Joe McPhee - pocket trumpet, valve trombone, soprano sax
Jeb Bishop - trombone
Fred Lonberg-Holm - cello
Kent Kessler - bass
Hamid Drake - drums, percussion
Michael Zerang - drums, percussion

  • Doc Watson at the Variety Playhouse in the spring of 2000.  This was a wonderful Father's Day gift.  It was absolutely charming.  It seemed like I was sitting on the front porch with my favorite uncle.

  • The Jesus Lizard  twice at the Masquerade.  The band went as far as it could go I guess.  I'm sure most of the earth was happy to see them go.  I think they made the most elegant hard music ever.  The lyrics, if you could understand them, were funny horror stories with not a lick of ernest sentiment.  Certainly the tightest band that everyone hated.
  • Little Feat at the Variety Playhouse in the summer of 2000.  I won tickets from WREK.  I wouldn't ordinarily seek out Little Feat but this was a pleasure.  Everybody left the concert smiling.
  • Agent Orange at the Dark Horse Tavern and the Cotton Club.  Agent Orange was one of the originators of surf-punk.  I presume they reformed for a tour.  They probably all have families and jobs now.  Nonetheless the leader is a great talent.  This was musical punk with major chops.
  • The Melvins at the old Cotton Club and at the Masquerade.  They are one of the seminal Seattle bands.  Shirley Temple's daughter used to play bass.  The Melvins are on some kind of musical mission and they don't care if you get it or not.  In your face.
  • The Hot Club of Cowtown at the Star Community Bar.  A fiddle, guitar, bass swing group who played everything from Django to Texas swing.  Everyone had a great time.
  • Guitar Wolf at the Star Community Bar.  I learned a great lesson at this show:  Never miss an opportunity to see Japanese punk band.  I'd heard their recording of "Rumble" on WREK.  It defined low-fi and low-talent.  But live, well, the drunker they got, the more out of tune they got, the better the show got.  It was pure energy, pure excitement, and the essence of rock and roll.
  • John McLaughlin, Joey DeFrancesco, and Dennis Chambers at the Variety Playhouse.  I'll admit that Jimi Hendrix and John McLaughlin are my guitar heroes.  Thankfully, John is still alive.  John played electric guitar at this show.  Spectacular talent and a spectacular show.
  • Ultra Babyfat at a variety of venues.  This is an Atlanta girl-punk-pop group that I follow.  Great songs and great harmonies.  They were "signed" and dropped but they keep plugging away.  Sometimes they don't connect with the audience but sometimes they do.
  • The Woggles at a variety of venues.  The Woggles are another local band.  They play garage rock, wear white ruffled shirts, dance on stage, and are there to entertain.  They play "The Swim."  Lot's of fun.
  • Webb Wilder at Smith's Old Bar.  Part country, part Rolling Stones, part I don't know what, funny and fun.  A tall balding guy with glasses and a white hat.  Lot's of entertainment for the money.
  • Wayne Hancock at the Star Bar and Smith's Old Bar.  Wayne's mission is to keep Jimmy Rodgers, Hank Williams, and honky-tonk alive.  He's a throw-back who demonstrates just how much soul there is in the old music.
(last updated on December 22, 2004