Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Percolations Are Imminent

Charles Walker and the Dynamites will bring their classic funk sound to Atlanta's EARL on Friday, February 29th, and to the Melting Point in Athens on the following night (Saturday, March 1st). When I say classic funk, I mean the sound of James Brown circa 1965, with a touch of the mighty Meters. Walker is a powerful soul shouter, and the Dynamites are a nine-piece band who specialize in chicken-scratch guitar and bass-driven rhythms with a tight horn section, plus the percolating rumble of the Hammond B3 underpinning their original songs. The Dynamites' 2007 debut album, Kaboom, is highly recommended. Here's a taste -- a song appropriate to this primary season:

Charles Walker and the Dynamites: Every Time

Monday, February 11, 2008

I Want My Record Store Back

My local independent record store closed last week. It had been open almost thirty years. The owner has been ill for several months, which may have been the deciding factor in closing the store. But I have no doubt that the store was mortally wounded by the popularity of downloading music, and the stifling grip of the big box retailers (who are now devoting less shelf space to CD's). Only another music nerd could understand how deeply saddened I am about losing my favorite record store.

My twelve year old son is bummed out too, because his favorite radio station is gone. I haven't listened to 99x in years, but my son listened to it every night. Now he gets new music from Youtube, or he hears new songs on TV commercials, movie soundtracks, and video games. Radio stations used to "break" new bands. Then it was MTV. Nowadays, I guess we are all arbiters of taste: anyone can have an mp3 blog, or post a podcast. But once we listened to the opinions of radio DJ's, record reviewers, and record store clerks. Sure, they could be a-holes, but they could also turn you onto something new (or something old) that you would really like.

April 19, 2008 has been designated Record Store Day. It will come too late to save my local record store, but I appreciate the effort to encourage people to patronize independent retailers. Here are some quotes from musicians about why independent record stores are an important cultural resource. I mean that sincerely. Now go buy a record!

Supersuckers: Rock N Roll Records Aint Sellin This Year (buy)
Weston: Record Shop (buy)
Peck of Snide: Record Store Guy (buy)
Fellaheen: Record Collector (buy)


Thursday, February 07, 2008

Twenty Seven Years of Rising Above

Neon Christ, an Atlanta hardcore band from the 1980's, reunited last year to play a series of shows and to participate in a documentary film about the punk scene in Atlanta. The band's final performance was on 2/02/08 at the Treehouse in suburban Lawrenceville, GA. (Read about my first visit to the Treehouse here). There were half a dozen old dudes like me, with eyeglasses and greying hair, mixed in the audience with about a hundred kids.

The final song of the final show that Neon Christ performed wasn't an original song. It was a song that everyone knew, and as soon as the descending notes of the song began, a wave of recognition and camaraderie electrified the room. It was a song known by all the kids -- who were born years after it was first recorded -- and they piled on each other and grabbed for the mic to shout along. And even when you couldn't hear the singer, you could hear the words because they were in your head.

Years before the internet, we read about that song in fanzines. We heard it on vinyl and in record stores and on college radio. We passed it from hand to hand on mixtapes, and learned it from each other to play it in our own bands. It was like one of those old protest songs that was sung around campfires, and at rallies and marches. It has been sung around the world, from the hardcore scenes of sunny South America to the squats of Scandinavia. It is a song of hope and resilience that speaks to every kid and says, "We were born with a chance, and I am gonna have that chance."

Black Flag - Rise Above (buy Damaged) Rest in peace, Neon Christ.