He whipped them out of his cargo shorts and twirled them around his fingers like a cowboy, only to be tapped on the shoulder by an employee shaking his head and motioning for him to cut it out. His jaw dropped as his hands fell, still holding the strings with glow sticks attached to each end.
Atlanta’s newest music venue, Terminal West, is the last place one would expect to see a recess monitor. For more than two years, co-owners Robert Shaw and Alan Sher regularly booked electro-heavy concerts/DJs for 18-and-up crowds inside a King Plow Arts Center gallery space, starting with Pretty Lights in 2009 and ending with Emancipator in January. Such shows helped the Westside complex gain an unusual reputation, deemed the Best Event Space-Turned-Dubstep Destination in CL’s Best of Atlanta issue.
So Shaw and Sher decided to open the 6,700-square-foot permanent music digs to cater to all things electronic, sort of. “It’s definitely going to evolve,” Sher said days before the preview show. Washed Out is set to perform there in May, as Terminal West looks to book “more indie stuff, more rock stuff” and draw a more varied clientele than QUAD or the Sound Table. But for the start of its two-part concert preview series last Friday night, the owners tested out the lights and speakers with former King Plow resident Mayhem, Skrillex-endorsed duo KOAN Sound, and Gemini.
Built on a 100-year-old infrastructure, Terminal West is housed within a former iron and steel foundry. The back patio bar faces railroad tracks running parallel to Marietta Street, and the original boiler remains inside near the rear. Through social media, and Instagram in particular, the venue’s owners have kept people updated of the ongoing renovation in recent months. Without that familiar grainy filter, the boiler called more attention to the daunting newness of everything else inside — its slick concrete floors, freshly painted walls, and coolers stocked with canned craft beers.
A long-limbed dude took off his neon-pink canvas shoes as soon as he entered, then started to run and spin in loose figure eights around the floor — his Sound of Music-style twirling rendered into a drunken rain dance. The rest of the early arrivals didn't seem too intimidated to break in Terminal West, either. Mayhem teased them with sparse glitches and flimsy sheet metal claps until he cut his ambient soundscapes, a la BT's This Binary Universe, completely and cued spastic ATL trapper Future’s “Same Damn Time.” Beats smashed like bowling balls to the floor, and backs snapped like dippy birds to water.
White lights blinded the crowd then dimmed to darkness as Gemini’s own sloppy bounces turned his limbs into cooked noodles. People paused to watch the guy sitting on the floor and staring point-blank at his friend’s LED-gloved fingers, as they curled and uncurled in front of his face. Drops of sweat shot out from the reckless headbanging. Bubbles floated in the air. And yes, glow sticks were out.
Terminal West may have bigger ambitions to become a well-rounded venue. But by all appearances, it’s the house that dubstep built for now.
The next in Terminal West's preview series features Ott. (from London), the Ruination, Isness, and Piper Street Sound. $15. 9 p.m. Thurs., March 29. Terminal West, 887 West Marietta St. NW., 404-876-5566. www.terminalwestatl.com.
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