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Friday, May 20, 2011

Tunes From the Tombs: A music festival for the living and the dead

Heather Luttrell
Can anything top two full days of music in a cemetery? Tunes from the Tombs feeds the souls of the living and the dead with more than 100 acts on five different stages in the beautiful Historic Oakland Cemetery. The whole thing was crafted by Atlanta music promoter Pete Knapp to bridge his lifetime passions, music and Oakland Cemetery. Having lived in Cabbagetown, Knapp developed a deep admiration of the cemetery and reached out to the Oakland Foundation board members with a concept that could benefit the historic property through music. Since many of the families of the buried residents have died off and the city doesn’t have the funds to maintain the grounds, the music festival presented a great opportunity to ensure the beauty and allurement of the park.

If the idea of dancing and singing among gravestones makes you uncomfortable, take solace in the fact that Oakland Cemetery is a Victorian cemetery, meant for both the living and the departed. “The concept of a Victorian cemetery was that people would visit on Sundays and have picnics while they also tended their family’s plots, Knapp explains.” The Oakland Cemetery was designed to be enjoyed and admired, so rest assured, you won’t be offending the spirits that occupy this art-laden garden.”

In and among the exquisite mausoleums, sculptures and gravestones, Tunes from the Tombs showcases a vast array of musical styles from acoustic, rock, punk, jazz-fusion and bluegrass. “I wanted to show Atlanta’s diversity,” Knapp adds. “Oakland Cemetery has 70,000 souls buried in it that come from all walks of life. I think it’s the festival this town has been waiting for.”

Several of the 100+ acts playing this weekend are particularly momentous. Smoke That City, with members from the original Cabbagetown band Smoke, will play all the old Smoke songs. Slim Chance & the Convicts bring their long-standing country act to the stage, as well as a special appearance from Intergalactic Cowboy, one of the first Atlanta loop artists who masquerades as a cowboy.

Bagpipe players, harpists, and other artists will be playing inside mausoleums and around the gardens. The Atlanta Sacred Harp Singers share the vocal tradition of the primitive Protestant churches of the South with unique harmonies and a human metronome flair. Then there is Phillip Roebuc, aka the Banjo Ninja, who plays in the subways of New York.

The rambunctious and vogue can get their fill at the Pretty Ambitious Records stage, featuring Howlies, Predator, Shathouse Rats, Oryx and Crake, Mermaids, The Coathangers, and others. Georgia Music Magazine, 1690 (WMLB-AM) “The Voice of the Arts,” and the Community Center of Atlanta are also sponsoring stages throughout the event.

Tunes From the Tombs takes place at [DELETED "THE"] Oakland Cemetery Sat.-Sun., May 21-22, from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. $10 at the gate for each day or $15 for a two-day pass, and 100 percent of the money goes back to the Oakland Cemetery Foundation. All ages ($5 for children under 12). Get the full lineup and more at www.peteknapp.com.

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