The reason I told you the joke, and the reason it's been on my mind for, oh, the past week, is because I saw Who's Bad? last week at Buckhead's Andrews Upstairs. Who's Bad? is a Michael Jackson tribute band. It claims to render M.J.'s music so precisely that "you may have to remind yourself that you're not watching Michael Jackson in person." It's true. Other than the fact that Who's Bad? is a wedding-ish white rock band fronted by a ponytailed black singer who looks like the gene-spliced son of Seal and Miles Davis starring in a revival of Fame, they're like, totally indistinguishable from the baby-dangling, chimp-loving, Emmanuel Lewis-was-my-date-to-the-Grammy Awards real thing.
The band took the stage and opened with a rock instrumental version of "Dirty Diana," climaxing in a screeching guitar solo. Michael, I mean, Who's Bad?'s Taalib York (sorry, I keep having to remind myself that it wasn't actually Michael) walked on as the band started "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough." Within 30 seconds, his impressive repertoire of M.J.'s tics and mannerisms were evident: physics-defying footwork, the sweet falsetto, yelling "jammon!" or "eee-hee" between every line of the song. The crowd certainly approved. Once he took the stage, the drinking and mingling crowd became a dancing and clapping crowd. I loved it, but I didn't dance. Writing this column is serious business. It's not a time for dancing.
It's been awhile since I'd been to a nightclub in Buckhead and I was really struck by how tan everyone is there compared to, say, East Atlanta. Another big difference was the reaction that people had to my camera. While I was taking pics of the band, women kept asking me to take their picture. That would never happen at, say, the Star Bar. One group even dispensed with the asking altogether. They went ahead and posed in front of my camera. One of them asked me, "Are you with Jezebel?" That might be the meanest thing anyone has ever said to me. Anyway, I didn't take the picture.Fiver: One of Little Five Points' more newish bars, the Five Spot, hosts a monthly open-mic comedy night. I went last Saturday. The host was Brian Bannon, an immensely talented and original Atlanta comedian who mines philosophy, literature and self-loathing for his jokes (for example, he once aired a homemade commercial on local public access for a fictional male-grooming product called Occam's Razor). On Saturday, he warmed up the crowd, if you can call it that, with a bizarre riff on Boolean logic.
Of the performers, Gary Rolin went over well with his caveman version of Jeff Foxworthy's "You Might Be A Redneck" routine. A performer named Todd Webster redeemed his set with a hilarious physical routine that had him dancing around an imaginary bedroom to the music of Prince. A special shout-out should also go to Melvin Hardin, whose routine consisted of Alabama jokes, nearly all of which I've seen in mass e-mails.
Ch-ching: A platoon of Billionaires For Bush, the political activists/performance artists who criticize the Bush presidency by caricaturing his wealthiest backers, brought their show Midtown on Saturday. At around 6 p.m., several Billionaires held up banners, shouted their pro-billionaire slogans and "discouraged" passersby from going to see Fahrenheit 9/11.
The genius of the Billionaires shtick is that they never break character. Granted, it's not a particularly convincing character. Actual billionaires seldom wear eyeglasses with dollar signs for lenses. They're Billionaires in the Thurston and Eunice Wentworth Howell mold. They introduce themselves with names like Countess De Monet and Leona Gotrocks, and chant slogans like "Leave no billionaire behind" and "1-2-3-4, we make money when there's war."
Judging by the smiles, the bulk of the passersby both understood and appreciated the Billionaires' routine. Several stopped and chatted, while others signed petitions offered by non-billionaires.
Double double, toil & trouble: The National Black Arts Festival started last week and runs through Sun., July 25. Put away your Eye of Newt and Amethyst Gem Elixir. It's not that kind of black arts. This festival is about art and artists of African descent.
Last Sunday afternoon, I visited the festival's Artists' Market at Greenbriar Mall. The two rows of booths, running the length of the mall, were broken up only by the mall's regular booth-style stores selling baseball caps demanding "Mo' Butt No Gut," T-shirts celebrating I-20 and Langford Parkway, and faux-diamond-encrusted bling jewelry (Billionaires For Bush, take note).
Thankfully, there was also much in the way of excellent art. Atlanta's Stacey Brown, whose booth is in front of Happy Land (a store that gives off the smell of baby powder mixed with ear wax) had some gorgeous paintings made of broken glass. He shapes the glass pieces, paints them, then mounts them in a glass window box frame so they're floating. Another fantastic artist I saw was sculptor Woodrow Nash of Akron, Ohio. His cast metal African figures have a fantasy-meets-archaeology vibe. His booth is down by the Classy Sassy clothing store.
Typical Atlanta City action - much ado about nothing. Strain at a gnat and swallow…