For more than a decade, Corndogorama was viewed by many as an Atlanta indie rock institution — the only homegrown music festival with street cred. For many summers it actually was the only local music fest, aside from the pot fests that used to go down in Piedmont Park and, of course, Music Midtown. But after flopping two years in a row and failing to materialize for two more, a scaled-back Corndogorama has returned from exile for two nights at the Earl.
"It's just going to be a fun party," Patrick Hill of the Earl said when I talked to him about the return. "We're not trying to reinvent the wheel or anything like that — just give people an excuse to drink beer and listen to good bands."
It all started at Dottie's — the defunct dive bar on Memorial Drive — as a birthday party for local music fixture David Railey in October 1996. According to legend, one year someone brought a bunch of mini corn dogs, which were immediately used as projectiles, thus christening it "Corndogorama."
The formula was simple: Pay a few bucks at the door to see as many local bands as Railey could squeeze onto the stage, along with some extracurricular activities in the parking lot (dunk tank, flip-flop race, eating contests). And it worked for years. Eventually the festivities moved to the Earl, then to Lenny's, where the deep-fried fun grew.
But after hosting what turned out to be an epic Mastodon spectacle in 2007, Corndogorama got a little too big for its britches. Although the lineups for the following two years never lived up to Atlanta's mammoth-size metal heroes, ticket prices remained elevated while attendance dropped by 1,000 in 2008. After another weak return amid the heat wave of '09, the fest went out with a whimper.
While some bands blamed Railey for mismanagement and money hoarding, hurt feelings prevailed as some acts were paid and others weren't. Today, Railey attests that in '08 he lost more than $60,000 of his own money on Corndogorama and had to sell his prized '72 Gretsch Roc Jet guitar, among other possessions, to pay his debts. When I asked him if it was too harsh to call Corndogorama a failure in hindsight, Railey responded, "Yes, too harsh. Fuck me for trying to do something cool."
On July 6, with just three weeks notice, Railey and the Earl announced the rebooting of Corndogorama, scheduled for the weekend of July 28-29. Since the announcement, every aspect of the festival's branding, promotion, lineup, and, most notably, the $10-per-day ticket price have been managed with less flamboyance than previous years. The price is a steal for a weekend packed with 30 older and newer bands — including Noot d' Noot, Snowden, Stallone, and Royal Thunder, plus one DJ, Speakerfoxxx — even for a local rock scene spoiled each week by a regular itinerary of free shows.
For some, bringing back Corndogorama doesn't seem wholly necessary amid a summer packed with more music festivals than you can shake a stick at — including Little Five Fest, Counter.Point, ONE MusicFest, Music Midtown, Atlanta Indie Fest, 808 Fest, and so on. But the Corndog has its own identity, and what gives it credence again is a return to simplicity. After all, rebooting Star Trek was the best thing that could've possibly happened to the franchise. For newcomers, it's a chance to embrace Atlanta's musical heritage and, as Railey often says, "people in Atlanta are always looking for an excuse to party — just give them a reason."
I have heard that answer since I went to Bonnaroo in 2003.
MTV doesn't own it.
"Konkratulakions, Kimye!!" LOL
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