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More Goodies for you 

The welcome return of an Atlanta favorite

Smith's Olde Bar, March 9 -- "We all made a pact to have a good time tonight," said guitarist Tom Branch, as Legend of the Giant Squid -- his mysteriously named quartet, featuring Gib Fenning on vocals and guitar -- began creating murky ocean waves of tough, late-'70s-influenced guitar rock during an unadvertised set beginning a little after 10 p.m.

While not quite legends, '80s-music scene vets Branch, formerly of Insane Jane, and Fenning, who once led the Athens-based Silent Peas, played to a growing and politely applauding crowd. More akin to a moody Chris Verene photo than a fantastic tale by Jules Verne, these potent sea serpents navigated the always turbulent "walk-in" slot with a slippery professionalism.

Next up were the Mayflies USA, who have been swimming along head and shoulders above the rest of the college-rock guitar poppers for several years now. However, the Chapel Hill quartet's live shows only recently have started to match the promise of their impressive catalog of albums.

The youthful Mayflies -- the logical heir to the throne of their producer and fellow North Carolinan Chris Stamey -- opened their set with "For Keeps," a satisfying mid-tempo tune. Stamey, the revered founder of the dB's (once the critic's choice for kings of intelligent and expertly crafted pop music) can rest easy in his recent retirement from public performing, knowing that his legacy will continue to prosper in the Mayflies' hands.

Combining their optimistic visions of love and other abstract emotions, the Mayflies USA managed to rock recklessly one moment (the galvanizing "Straight Line") then gently harmonize the next (the sweet love story of "The Greatest Thing").

Smith's was getting noisily crowded with Friday night revelers as the usually reserved Mayflies had a communal beer-swill during a pause in their set-closer "1, 2, 3." Then -- in stark contrast to the almost reluctant stage personas of the Mayflies -- headliners the Goodies got off to a noisy start, stomping on stage in top hats and tails, as if they'd just stepped off a hell-bound stagecoach.

Back in crowd-pleasing good form after a lengthy hiatus that some considered a permanent breakup, manic frontman Holiday Childress again worked his crowd like a seasoned vaudevillian. The Goodies offer a spin-dizzy mix of rock, blues, funk and a very odd assortment of covers. Drawing heavily from their jokingly titled '97 album, Greatest Hits, the Goodies had the crowd singing along to the familiar tunes as if they were indeed great radio hits. (Childress promised that the band now is working on new material.)

But how many bands can get away with covering Barry Manilow and Charlie Daniels in the same set? The sly huckster Childress sells songs like snake oil. And the crowd buys them by the case. With his Brad Pitt good looks and gonzo charm, Childress -- with able backing by Michael Allen on a massive drum kit with clangy cowbells and Pat Kelly on bass -- is like a Kraft Music Hall Ted Nugent. An incredibly gifted guitarist and hysterical storyteller, he makes the most of every situation. When he accidentally unplugged his guitar, he included it in his rambling history of Van Halen-esque hammer-on techniques that concluded with "You Really Got Me."

Their unusual originals, including "Super Slave" and "Plastic," feature Childress' eerie, often high-pitched squeal. But nowhere was his freaky performance more appropriate than on "Heaven," from David Lynch's disturbing film Eraserhead.

After Childress shook hands, kissed babes and sold CDs, the inebriated audience dispersed to the downstairs bar, and Branch's good-time promise continued, long into the night.

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