Last Tuesday, The Tabernacle became The Church of Hip(sters), where the faithful were gathered to celebrate a return of the King of Cool: beat poet troubadour Tom Waits.
The last time he was in town, many of the fans in attendance for Tuesday's performance hadn't been born yet. I heard several folks afterward describe it as "amazing" or "awesome." The man put a lot of energy into the show and is a monumental influence on many of my favorite artists and people. Personally, I could have used more variation in the sound at the performance. I enjoyed the show, but I was not awe-struck ... particularly when I couldn't help but compare the ticket price -- $70 for general admission after the TicketBastard "convenience" fees -- to show costs for some of our own home-grown talents. So here's a list of bands to see if you're too cheap or too impatient to check out the next Tom Waits appearance:
• Several members of The Blue Velvets just moved back from Eastern Europe. Let's hope they perform regularly again. "Think of [them] not as a Tom Waits 'cover band' or a 'tribute band' but more of a Plagiarist's Society," they say. I reviewed them a few issues ago, thinking I wouldn't get the chance to see Tom Waits himself anytime soon. Thanks for proving me wrong, as usual, fates!
• Hubcap City shares some of the odd instrumentation of Tom Waits but lacks things like melody, chorus or traditional song structure. The stories are surreal and fun, but it's only for those with a broad tolerance in sound.
• Slim Fatz has a similar gravelly voice and tells dark tales like Waits, but is a bit more blues-based. I get the impression, however, that Tom is telling charming-yet-tall tales of debauchery, whereas I know for a fact that Slim is singing from experience.
• Speaking of blues, just about any night at Northside Tavern you can hear about life in the gutter, often from people with experience; sometimes they're even on stage performing, and they're usually pretty damn good.
When Tom Waits threw in a few lines from "Spoonful" (a la Howlin' Wolf), I couldn't help but think of the many times I've heard the song at Northside.
• But my personal favorite local act in a similar vein is Hope for a Golden Summer, a group led by two sisters out of Athens. They perform original material with poetic storytelling lyrics that are as haunting as anything Waits has done. Coincidentally, they performed Sunday at New Street Gallery in Decatur under the moniker Hope for a Golden Retriever. It was a benefit show for Presley, a dog who's suffering from bone cancer. She has lost a leg to the illness and has a stack of medical bills, but seems in fine spirits. So don't save your pennies for another 31 years -- get out there and see the Tom Waitses of the future tonight.
Since it's been over 95,000 degrees every day for weeks, what could be more fun than getting outside in the peak of the afternoon heat and playing football? Saturday Piedmont Park hosted Midtown Touchdown, a promotional event for the Falcons where participants could throw footballs, catch footballs and even have a football airbrushed onto their face. My high school football team won one game in four years, and neither of the colleges I attended even had a team, so I never developed a love for the sport. But apparently there are hordes of people who love not just the sport, but (shockingly) even the local franchise.
When the MC got on stage and yelled, "Are you ready to meet your 2006 Atlanta Falcons?" people sprinted across the park. Wait, if they're my team, then my first action is to threaten to take them to another town unless Atlanta builds me a new stadium. No, not for the players, just for my own personal use.
My 2006 Atlanta Falcons came running out on stage and down onto the lawn where the crowd was kept at bay by a barricade. The team jogged down this path to half a dozen waiting tour buses so they could be driven across the street. They played an exhibition game at Grady High School, but I didn't stick around. Grady's had a good team in years past, but I didn't think they were capable of beating a pro team. But then again, it is the Falcons! There was supposed to be more live music and fireworks after the game, but the rain drove me (and much of the crowd) away.
Emory University's Michael C. Carlos Museum (www.carlos.emory.edu) is hosting "In Stabiano," frescoes, reliefs and sculptures from the seaside vacation homes of ancient Rome's rich and famous. The homes are long gone, but some of the art has been salvaged and restored. I spent a summer studying in Italy and saw a ton of this stuff, so I know what I'm talking about when I say this is a fine exhibition. No, it can't match seeing Pompeii or Herculaneum or a visit to the museum in Naples. But you can't even get into the museum in Naples for $7, much less fly over there, so this is an affordable alternative.
It's too hot to be outside anyhow, so the cool confines, made doubly quiet between semesters at Emory, are almost worth the price of admission alone. I skipped the presentation about the society that spawned these homes and their works, but if you're curious, the museum has plenty of brochures, books and lectures detailing the stuff. You can even make your own fresco at a couple of workshops held in September. As is often the case at museums, lots of folks ignored the permanent exhibition in favor of the temporary one. The Carlos Museum has a really nice permanent collection of ancient work -- some Greek, Roman, Egyptian, American, African and Asian pieces. I found many of these items far more interesting than ancient Rome's Champagne wishes and caviar dreams.
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