The Fest was dubbed Mega by its organizer, Bishop T.D. Jakes, because it combined events that in the past were held separately -- namely the man-themed ManPower conference and the lady-centric Woman, Thou Art Loosed, which in 1999 drew 85,000 women to the Georgia Dome by itself. But wait! There's more! Mega Fest also featured concerts, the UniverSoul Circus, the "Just Churchin'" Comedy Jam, a speech by Oprah's boyfriend, and, inescapably these days, an annoying "American Idol" finalist.
I spent about six hours at Mega Fest in the Dome, starting Saturday morning. I missed the 7 a.m. "Sweating in the Spirit" religious aerobics routine because I was "Sleeping in the Bed" after a late night of "Drinking in the Bar." I did, however, make it in time for some thunderous acoustic rock praising God. That God didn't strike the performers down in retaliation for using his name to justify the awful noise they made is evidence that he's either very merciful or wasn't paying attention.
ManPower started at 10:30 a.m. as conference poobah Bishop Jakes took the stage in a white suit with dark pinstripes, a black shirt, red tie, red hanky and black sandals. WWJD is clearly not something he asks himself before getting dressed. Walking across a stage emblazoned with the word "He-Motions," the bishop didn't do much more than warm up the crowd before passing the mic to Bishop Noel Jones.
Bishop Jones' sermon started off slow and quiet and then rose to a crescendo listing of problems plaguing men, book-ending each problem with a rhetorical "How will you know?" Paraphrased example: "How will you know that your quick stop at the liquor store with your buddy would land you five to 10?" I'm no theologian, but I think the ski mask and pistol should have been a clue.
I ducked out for a couple of hours to cover the eating contest at the zoo (see next page) and returned at 2 p.m. for a speech by Bishop Jakes. Disappointingly (to me, anyway), Jakes spent the bulk of his speech promoting his books and cassettes. In addition to being one of the country's most popular preachers, he's the author of 11 best sellers, including Woman, Thou Art Loosed, Loose That Man and Let Him Go!, The Lady, Her Lover, and Her Lord, and God's Leading Lady. Throughout his speech, he'd give out free copies of his tapes, causing a mad rush to the stage.
Finally, with just a few minutes left in his allotted time, he let loose a sermon. I really don't remember what it was about. All I remember was that, on the floor in the Dome, I was surrounded by thousands of screaming, shouting, vibrating, crying, convulsive people, all of whom were presumably making a connection with God with the help of Jakes' words. When he finished and the tears were dried, he brought the "Sweating in the Spirit" lady out and we all did the electric slide for eight minutes, supposedly breaking the world record for largest line dance.
A different kind of ManPower: The other big event in town last week was, of course, the Atlanta Pride Celebration, the annual weekend of all-things GLBT and sometimes Y. I devoted my Sunday to it, starting with the parade.
The parade was the usual fun mix of corporate, political and raunchy, with the political element louder this year because of the national and state gay marriage debate as well as the general horridness of the Bush administration. The most surprising political element of the parade was not the "Dykes for Licking Bush" sign, though. Instead, it was Tom Ford, a man who promoted his candidacy for Fulton County Superior Court judge by showing off his tanned, amply-pecced, shirtless torso through the sunroof of a Lexus. Not very judgelike, if you ask me, although if elected he would give the phrase, "See me in chambers," an excitement it currently lacks.
Organ meat: For those interested in neither Pride, nor women who art loosed, Zoo Atlanta once again hosted the Atlanta leg of the Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating qualifying contest. For the second year in a row, the winner was Atlanta's own Dale Boone. Though his performance (15.5 hot dogs in 12 minutes) was lackluster by international standards, he won easily and retained his spot as the eighth-ranked competitive eater in the world. Boone will represent Atlanta in July 4's world championship match at Coney Island, where Japan's digestive dynamo Takeru Kobayashi is again favored to win. Kobayashi holds the hot dog record, eating 50.5 in 12 minutes. He also has the record for cow brains, eating 17.7 pounds of them in 15 minutes.
If it's not Scottish: The only vaguely routine event I covered last week was the final show of Scottish rockers Franz Ferdinand's U.S. tour at the Cotton Club. The sold-out show drew fans from far and wide, including some nice people who drove from New Orleans, and a scowling woman who threatened to vomit on me when I stood in front of her to take pictures.
I like the band's self-titled debut CD OK, but I was floored by how good they are live. On record, they're a little cool, but live the sound is more hot. They tap into the same infectious, indie-rock disco vibe that Blur did with its "Girls and Boys" and Roxy Music did with "Love Is the Drug," only Franz Ferdinand does it song after song after song. And they're cute, Scottish and named after the man whose assassination sparked World War I. Really, what more could anyone ask from a band?
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