Punk vs. metal 

And psychedelic vs. shade

Thursday night saw the return of the legendary punk act X. I was too young to enjoy the first and second waves of punk in the '70s and '80s, so when X regrouped a couple of years ago and came to the Masquerade, I jumped at the chance to catch them live. That show was packed wall to wall, so I was somewhat surprised to find the Tabernacle half-empty for last week's show.

click to enlarge PUNK VS. METAL AT RABBIT HOLE GALLERY: Oh, deer!

This is the band's third trip to town in as many years, so perhaps the novelty of seeing what is, in essence, a nostalgia act has worn off. Even so, there was quite a diverse mix of folks in attendance: from twentysomethings who weren't born when the band started in 1977 to fiftysomethings who hadn't been to a live show in ages.

Things kicked off with a spirited performance by Riverboat Gamblers, a youthful band of punky rockers who kept their energy levels almost as high as the levels of distortion in their guitars. Things were so fuzzy -- between the effects pedals and the lousy acoustics of a near-empty venue -- that when the lead guitarist blazed out a solo, the notes were indiscernible.

The Henry Rollins Band followed. Rollins looked fantastic in his usual stage wardrobe: black shorts, muscles, tattoos and sweat. I like the man, his writings and the band he once fronted, Black Flag, but as he grimaced and posed his way through a set with the Rollins Band, I found myself bored. The music was virtually monotone, with the only thing distinguishing one song from the next being the lyrics -- and even those could use some variation in theme. His mid-set tirade, about how gun control would be pointless in the United States because we'd still kill each other with any means necessary, made most of the audience just giggle. Rollins makes music for guys who seethe with rage about -- well, pretty much everything.

But X made it all worthwhile with a "best of" set -- all the classics the fans wanted to hear, without a single song sending folks out for a bathroom break. Billy Zoom played with stoic effortlessness, but grinned the entire set to show how much fun he was having. John Doe bounced around and smiled like a man half his age, and by the time they wrapped up their encore, half the room was drenched in sweat from dancing along. An excellent show, but it made me wonder why the older folks in attendance couldn't get out and see something new once in a while. C'mon, people, there are talented musicians starving in this very city who need your support!

click to enlarge SYD BARRETT TRIBUTE AT THE EARL: Don't take the brown acid!
  • SYD BARRETT TRIBUTE AT THE EARL: Don't take the brown acid!

SPEAKING OF PUNK, the Rabbit Hole Gallery hosted an opening Friday night with "Punk vs. Metal," featuring works by several local artists working with either the punk or metal aesthetic. For many, these themes are not divergent enough to be considered separate, but for those entrenched in rock culture they represent order vs. chaos, with both rebelling against the music, art and culture of the establishment. The problem with any movement that rebels against the old, be it art, music, religion or even government, is that it eventually becomes codified and, well, established. Punk fashion became less about destroying the mold than about fitting into the new, narrow one the fans had created. It has since been eaten and excreted by the mainstream into Hot Topics in malls across the country.

It was no surprise to find much of the work at the Rabbit Hole using the iconography ever-present in punk and metal -- skulls, guitars, fire, collage, tattoos, etc. The only work that made me stop and wonder was "Deer Slayer" by Charlie Owens, a deer skull mounted onto old wooden planks, something that would've looked more at home in a hunting lodge than in the home of a fan of hardcore. None of this art theory matters because, as with any art opening, attendees stood around outside drinking and chatting. But in place of art snobs in eveningwear sipping wine was a ragtag group of musicians and their fans sucking down PBRs.

SPEAKING OF METAL, did you know Syd Barrett, founding member of Pink Floyd, was once in a band called the Meggadeaths? No, I didn't, either. Thanks, Wikipedia! Saturday the Earl paid tribute to the recently departed Syd. Most people are more familiar with the post-Barrett years of Floyd, but there are enough serious music geeks in town to put together a long show with an ever-rotating cast of musicians playing to a very chatty room full of fans.

click to enlarge GRANT PARK SUMMER SHADE FESTIVAL: Tenement Halls catches some summer shade
  • GRANT PARK SUMMER SHADE FESTIVAL: Tenement Halls catches some summer shade

At times, the bands made it sound as if Syd was some indie/emo rocker whose work could be played alongside anything on WRAS, while others tried to replicate his music (the sometimes-psychedelic, almost-pop he produced in the late '60s) with precision. It made for a nice mix of sound while some escapees from a high school AV club used an overhead projector, some plastic plates and multicolored oils to create a trippy lightshow behind the stage. Groovy, man!

THE DARK CONFINES of the Earl were contrasted with impossibly blue skies over Grant Park for the Summer Shade Festival. This is my new favorite festival, if for no other reason than the impressive lineup of local musicians on two stages over the course of the weekend. The event featured the usual arts and crafts, but in place of the deep-fried nastiness you get at most other festivals around Atlanta, Summer Shade featured local restaurants bringing some of their best fare. The park's huge trees created the shade of the festival's name, providing comfort for hundreds of people lounging on the lawn and wandering the winding walkways, while the cookouts and picnics of the park's regular visitors continued as though it was just another weekend.




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