Much to the delight of glitter eye shadow and knee-brace vendors citywide, the national cheerleading championship tournament returned to Atlanta last weekend.
The event is called Cheersport. Every year, Cheersport brings cheerleading teams from all over the country to the Georgia World Congress Center where they compete to see who among them can produce the most well-choreographed and acrobatic displays of enthusiasm. It's not enthusiasm directed at anything. It's enthusiasm for enthusiasm's sake. It's Enthusiasm: The Sport.
If I had to pick one word to describe Cheersport, the word would not be "cheerful." The word I'd pick is "loud." With 70,000 attendees, it's the city's fifth-largest annual convention and the only one in the top 100 whose attendees are there to either A) stand on a stage and cheer at an audience, or B) sit in an audience and cheer at a stage.
One of my favorite things about Cheersport is the team names. Like comedy club proprietors and hair salon owners, cheerleading-team namers have a weakness for puns and enforced mirth. There's Ashburn, Va.'s Cheer Madness; Pensacola, Fla.'s Flip Factory; Tom River, N.J.'s Spirit Factory All Stars; and Scottsdale, Ariz.'s Desert Storm Elite, which isn't really punny or mirthy, just oddly militaristic.
I visited on Sunday, arriving in the middle, in time to watch the "Junior Medium Intermediate" and "Junior Coed Intermediate" competitions in arenas C and D. Accompanied by pounding dance remixes of recognizable pop songs, each team I saw performed startingly similar routines that invariably combined running, flipping, tumbling and hoisting some of the lightest members of the team high into the air so she could mug at the audience with a "Come on, gang, let's get pumped up!" expression. No exaggeration, all the teams I saw did pretty much the same things as all the other teams. The difference was that good teams with better athletes did them more gracefully and athletically than inferior teams.
All the flipping and mugging got disorienting after a while, so I took a break to wander around. After a few minutes of wandering, I found the Cheersport Mall. The "mall" was stocked with casual apparel and cheerleading training devices like the $45 Mae Flyer II, a wobbly disc that you stand on to strengthen your ankles, and elastic knee bands that work as a sort of reverse Thigh Master.
My favorite gizmo was the $20 Skyliner. The Skyliner is a hand-held device that you spin like a New Year's Eve noise-maker. LED lights on the Skyliner spell out several pre-programmed messages. Most of the messages were cheerful ("Go for it," "Love you," "Bravo," and "Oh yeah!") while others are more practical ("Taxi" and "Help.")
Children of the Monkey Basket: Speaking of punny names, last Thursday, Britpop veterans Supergrass filled up Midtown's the Loft in support of its latest album, Road to Rouen.
Road to Rouen is a radical departure for the group. Mostly gone is the hypermelodic, cheerful punk pop that earned Supergrass 15 or so top 40 hits in the U.K. over the past decade. In its place, the group has recorded an album of largely acoustic and orchestrated tunes.
The show opened with "St. Petersburg," one of the aforementioned acoustic songs, and was swiftly followed by acoustic renditions of some of the group's older, formerly uptempo electric songs "Caught By the Fuzz" and "Sitting Up Straight." Just when you thought you were in for an evening of Supergrass unplugged, though, the band reverted to its normal, hyper self, firing off searing versions of "Sun Hits the Sky," "Richard III" and a stompy-glam reworking of "Rush Hour Soul."
Though the band didn't play its signature hit "Alright" (a bizarre omission -- imagine a Neil Diamond concert where he didn't play "Sweet Caroline"), it did play my favorite tune, "Grace," a thumping song inspired by the playful young daughter of the man who owns the studio where the group recorded its last album. The lyrics "You ate our chips and you drank our Coke and then you showed me Mars through your telescope" always make me smile.
Mike Geier Quarterly Update: Trader Vic's is 30. The tiki-themed restaurant and lounge in the basement of the downtown Hilton Atlanta is celebrating its 30th anniversary with a series of celebrations (translation: clever marketing events) that kicked off last weekend with a special Saturday evening performance by the Mike Geier-fronted Tongo Hiti and the Dames Aflame.
The party's theme was '70s polyester. There were contests and burlesque dancing aplenty, but I have to confess, after two Mai Tais, I stopped taking notes, and after three, I stopped paying attention to anything but the conversations I was having with friends. I don't even remember what I was talking about, really, just who I was talking to. Grant (from Hollis Gillespie's column) Henry was there. He had just flown in from Hollywood, where he's working with Hollis on her effort to turn her life into an HBO series. The editor of this column, Lea Holland, was also there, celebrating her birthday with a rum beverage the size of my bathroom sink. I suspect her memories are even hazier than mine.
B-4: On Sunday night, I stopped by the Atlanta Rollergirls fundraiser at Loca Luna in Midtown. The event's primary activity was a bingo tournament, emceed by two Elvis impersonators (Dean Crownover and Lavon Lacey). Their shtick included making vitamin jokes when B-12 was called, making sex jokes when O-69 was called, and making Alabama jokes when I-20 was called. Good stuff.
For more of Andy's adventures, visit Scene & Herd at andy2000.org.
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