Atlanta punk! A reunion for 688 and Metroplex 

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"There was a lot of sex and drugs and freedom and creativity," Barge recalls, "and punk music was the soundtrack."

The Restraints regularly opened for such bands as the Ramones and the Clash. Barge even remembers headlining a show preceded by a pre-Chronic Town R.E.M. But the band dissolved in 1982 without ever making a record.

In late 1984, the fun came to an end. During an episode of drug-fueled partying in Wood's apartment, Robin Peskin, a 19-year-old Jewish girl, was shot in the face with his .44-caliber pistol. Wood claimed the girl was a close friend who accidentally killed herself. But a jury, convinced that the tattooed Nazi enthusiast had committed a hate crime, convicted him of murder. Five years later, Wood died in prison of complications from diabetes.

688: Misfits welcome

In the mid-'70s, when the Captain & Tennille, Barry Manilow and John Denver were the top acts in the country, Steve May had nearly given up on rock.

"I didn't think white music was fun anymore because it was run by corporate idiots," says May, who was working as a promoter for jazz, R&B and funk acts. Then, on a visit to London, he went to see some of the emerging New Wave and ska bands such as Squeeze and Madness, and was taken with their energy, edginess and attitude.

Back in Atlanta, where he owned a rehearsal space, he began to throw monthly keggers to showcase local bands. The events became so popular that May and friend Tony Evans decided to start a music venue. Their nightclub at 688 Spring St., which opened in the former Rose's Cantina in May 1980, was something Atlanta hadn't seen before. Rather than trying to lure established bands and familiar names, May focused on the new sounds coming out of college radio. If it was fresh, different and a maybe a little dangerous, he booked it.

The event that really put 688 on the music map was a weeklong stand by Iggy Pop, the wiry ex-Stooges singer now widely considered the godfather of punk.

"Our first show was a teen night and Iggy was at his absolute worst, cursing every other word and exposing himself," May recalls. "All the parents were upset. If that had happened today, we would've been charged with a crime."

But the Igster's antics communicated on a visceral level with teen audience members, including a young Randy Blazak.

"As a nerdy kid from Stone Mountain who was getting beaten up by football players, I had a life-changing experience seeing Iggy Pop in 1980," he says. "Here was a guy bouncing around, beating himself up on stage – it sounds funny, but to me it was empowering."

Blazak quickly became a 688 regular, getting DJ gigs and helping design show fliers. "The club was right next to the Varsity, but once you went inside, it felt like another world," he recalls. "Suddenly, all the people who didn't fit in had a place to go."

Unlike the clean, welcoming venues run by veteran promoter Alex Cooley, 688 was an indisputable dive. A friend of May told him it was "like walking into Charles Manson's rec room." The walls were covered in graffiti, the couches and tables were thrift-store rejects and the low stage put the bands within arm's reach of the audience.

"Being a suburban teen from Decatur, I'd never experienced anything like that before," says Cathy Hays, who snuck out to the club every chance she got. "Anything punk was fascinating to me and 688 was so grungy, it was everything a kid needed in terms of contained rebellion."

And then there was the music; 688 booked a variety of New Wave and edgy pop acts, from R.E.M. to Pylon and XTC to Violent Femmes – bands that would later be clustered under the heading of "alternative." But it also served as home base for Atlanta's early '80s punk scene, hosting such touring bands as the Stranglers, the Circle Jerks, Black Flag, the Fall and the Minutemen.

The granddaddies of American punk, the Ramones, usually drew such large crowds that May had to rent out the Agora Ballroom in the basement of what is now the Georgian Terrace Hotel. One afternoon in 1982, May got a call from the Secret Service. Amy Carter, daughter of the recent ex-president, was a big fan of the Ramones, he was told, but she couldn't make the all-ages show that evening and, at 15, wasn't old enough to attend the late-night show. Could she drop by and watch the band rehearse?

"We had eight Secret Service guys in suits and shades positioned around the room while the Ramones played a sound check for Amy Carter," he recalls. "At one point, the caterer bursts through the back door wearing a leather jacket and a Mohawk and found all these guys pointing guns pointed at him."

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