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Lions and tigers and beers 

Oh my!

Last Tuesday, I joined other members of the press, hangers on, friends, family and fans at the Dames Aflame summer show preview performance in the new Laughing Skull Lounge (located in the back of the Vortex in Midtown).

click to enlarge COCO OF DAMES AFLAME: I'm cuckoo for ... well, you know.
  • COCO OF DAMES AFLAME: I'm cuckoo for ... well, you know.

"It's not burlesque, it's ... different," said performer Mike Geier after the show, and I understand what he was trying to say. The show features a lot of vaudeville-style humor, both between acts by MC Lucky Yates and within the individual dance numbers. It has what you'd expect from burlesque -- absolutely luscious women stripping down to little more than pasties and G-strings -- but the performances are more about costumes and laughs than catcalls and lurid acts.

We were treated to routines ranging from a pirate girl who used a treasure map as a dress and tore chunks off piece by piece, to a man in a revealing chicken costume emerging from an egg to cavort with two dancing girls. An old-time strongman lifted weights and showed us more muscle than expected while his monkey-girl assistants danced the Monkey. A drunken flight attendant handed out mini-bottles of booze, a gladiator battled a lion, there was a piano-playing sailor, singing clowns, belly dancing -- it was a heck of a show.

But with a cast that large, you can't expect to pay a mere $5. Instead, tickets range from $25 to $75 for a VIP table for two to $150 for a VIP table for four with complimentary champagne. Since the venue is "intimate" -- 70 seats in a space about the size of an elementary school classroom -- there are no bad seats. But it's probably worth dragging three friends and pitching in for the stage-side seats with champagne. If that's not enough to wet your whistle, you can bring drinks in from the Vortex as well.

click to enlarge NOTOBERFEST: Presenting ... (drum roll, please) ... beer!
  • NOTOBERFEST: Presenting ... (drum roll, please) ... beer!

Dames Aflame performs two shows, 9 and 11:30 p.m., every third Friday of the month, May 19-Aug. 18. Visit www.damesaflame.com for more.

Once upon a time, beer and I had a long, casual and mostly happy relationship. Sure, she left a bad taste in my mouth when we first started going out, but once I acquired the taste for her, I grew to enjoy her company. As I aged, my metabolism slowed and my workaday job involved no more exercise than pushing a mouse. Beer's effects began to wear on me like a spare tire (around my gut). One day I stumbled onto a website listing the caloric content of various alcoholic beverages and decided beer had to go. One year later, I'd lost 10 pounds. Did I miss beer? Not really. I'd started hanging around with beer's leaner, sometimes meaner cousins: rum and whiskey -- half the calories (if you enjoy them straight or with soda only) but with all the same great intoxicating effects that got me interested in beer in the first place.

Once in a while, I get a hankering to call up the ex and see what beer has been up to lately. Thus, I found myself at Notoberfest, East Atlanta's beer festival, Saturday afternoon.

Beer's many lovers, friends and matchmakers lined up to pay $25 to sample dozens of beers from around the world. Since beer and I were more friends-with-benefits than an old married couple, I can't go into details about the many moods she presented at the festival. Some of my other friends yammered on and on with language ranging from technical jargon to colorful metaphors to describe each beer they sampled. But for me, beer comes in three flavors: beers I like, beers I don't like, and light (which falls in the same category as tofurkey, fat-free cheese and Saddam's WMD program).

click to enlarge OCTANE: DJ T1 -- more soul per gallon than modern hybrids.
  • OCTANE: DJ T1 -- more soul per gallon than modern hybrids.

A group of people wearing Earthshaking Music shirts played drums and other percussion instruments, hammering out exotic beats to a field packed with beer-swilling Atlantans, surrounded by table after table of brewers from mass market to microbrews pouring samples of their wares. A few booths sold hot dogs, hamburgers, grilled cheese and peanuts, but most folks seemed content to just stand around drinking beer. Later, local band Entropy set up on the small landing that served as a stage and did some jazzy funk and hip-hop tunes, some original and some covers such as Naughty by Nature's "OPP" and that hip-hop tune that samples Parliament ... you know, that one.

At one point, the saxophonist yelled to the crowd, "I need all the pretty women down here in front." Not a single woman responded, so he changed his shout-out: "OK, all the ugly women ... ." Suddenly, a line of women appeared, some of both flavors in my opinion, and began dancing. As the afternoon wore on, people loosened up and a group formed a circle a la "American Bandstand," where each person took a turn in the center showing off their sweet moves. I am often terribly embarrassed to be white, and this was one of those occasions.

By the end of the event, I'd found my favorite beer. Greenville, S.C.'s Thomas Creek makes a red ale that is a fine beer for summer afternoon drinking. Not good enough to tempt me to hang out with beer regularly again, but a fun afternoon quickie.

After a little rest, I hit up Octane, a coffeehouse/lounge on the west side of town where DJs T1 and Agent 45 were spinning old R&B and soul records, a large percentage from Georgia artists and recording studios.

They pulled 45's from boxes one after another as if this fantastic music had been lying around unnoticed at some yard sale. Agent 45 contributes to www.georgiasoul.com, a site that documents the history of this mostly ignored treasure trove of music. The site also has a blog where tunes are posted in MP3 format, complete with all the info they can find about the song, artist and label. I can't recommend their show, or their site, highly enough.

Octane has some excellent coffee, soup and finger foods. It offers free WiFi, so there are always several people staring into laptops and sipping coffee. But due to the lack of flashing Budweiser signs in the windows, not a lot of folks realize Octane also serves good beer on tap.

As if that's not enough, there's always interesting art hanging on the walls and there is a gallery right next door. So check it out if you find yourself on the "rapidly gentrifying" west side of town.

scene@creativeloafing.com

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