Red Letter Agent

It’s not exactly like a time agent or a secret agent.
A few weeks ago, I had a weekend where I was doing a lot of stuff for work, and really needed a break, and after getting to the Five Points area in Atlanta, stopped in at the Star Bar. There was a really good turnout, and they put on a high-intensity show. Red Letter Agent is local to Atlanta, and their current tour includes Los Angeles, parts of NV, TX, NM, AZ, LA, and TN before coming back to GA. Their sound is described mainly as brit-pop, and is reminiscent of Dishwalla, ColdPlay, and Kasabian. The songwriting is very tight, using great hooks that don’t feel like hooks, and guitar melodies that bolster the smart lyrics and strong vocals.

My favorite track from RLA is “Burn the Good Ones Down”. They have had a couple of tracks used in both television shows (Kyle XY) and commercials(an E! promo), so their sound might already be familiar to you.

Burn the Good Ones Down

Watch it all before in the bright lights, do you
Burn the good ones down ’til they’re nothing
But you’ll never keep them out

Could it be the last of the blackouts of the darkness
Heard a young one’s cry for the heartless
They’re bleeding to the bone, alone

Say tonight you’ll listen to their hearts

Watched you bend your knee on a dirt floor, so you
Offer what you have in a spotlight
Never to be shown

We could be the spark to ignite them, higher
Hear this one’s cry for the hopeless
They’re begging to be free, believed

Love is the only cure for you
Love is secure enough for you

Squeezing Badd Lemonade

I ran down to The Loft for what is referred to as “an industry event”. It was put together by a group called Badd Lemonade, which I wasn’t able to find much out about.

The evening featured a rapid-fire sampling of ten bands local to the Atlanta area. The bands playing included:

  1. Leaving Araby
  2. Kalvin Nova
  3. The Rein
  4. Xzamen
  5. 1994
  6. Fact Not Fiction
  7. The Love Willows
  8. Unusual Suspects
  9. The Honor Roll
  10. She Came From Above
  11. Fox Trot November
  12. The Pennies
  13. The Nerd Parade
  14. Auditioning Alice

I missed four of the acts, mostly due to my parking option not syncing well with the event. The staff at the parking deck were chatty and helpful, though. I’ve been to several shows at The Loft over the past couple of years, and it is a good, flexible space for various types of events.

The organizers of the event were ensconced in a roped-off area, and were all hurredly scribbling notes as each act started to play. The format allowed thirty minutes for each band to set up, sound check, play (most of them played about three songs) and then clear off, including equipment breakdown. After seeing a couple of rounds, the personalities of the bands began to shine through, and certain things started to become much more clear. Primary of these things was stage presence, including segue and mic banter. Only having a true ten-15 minute block performing, those small bits of space between songs are the only bits you have to drive home the connection with the crowd you have laid down with your instrumentation and delicately laid lyrics. I’m not certain if the Badd Lemonade people were actively judging for record and promo deals, or if anything was really at stake, but the crowd was full of die-hard fans and family of the bands for the most part.
Here are links I found for several of the bands. I have snapshots, and if you check out this page of unedited photos, you can see the progression of the quality of the pics as I fine-tuned the camera settings, finally getting it everything right for handling upshot stage lighting. I also dug up links for most of the bands in the list, so be sure to check them out if you live in or visit the Atlanta area.

The Love WillowsThe Love Willows Made an impression as they transformed the stage from mostly blacked out to a glamor-splashed, candy-striped high fashion scene. This band played well, and is highly memorable due to the incredible contrast in both visual and musical style from the rest of the bands playing. reminiscent of a Gwen Stefani show, the songs played were very upbeat and loaded with energy, and are ones you could listen to with the kids in the car. They even wrapped up with a song all about having an acute shoe fetish and being okay with that.

The Unusual Suspects have a sound that is very hook-laced and clean, with a careful eye on traditional production values and meter. The track “People, Pills, and Problems” will have you hooked in a single dose.

Athens-based The Honor Roll came in like a thunderstorm… This is the kind of storm where you just want to see how it goes down, a train wreck of hyperbole and angst that is beautiful in its references to our stalking of each other, as well as the social impact of your myspace telling on your fibs. They opened up with “Bedroom Politics”, storming and pacing the stage in barefoot pissed-offedness. And the bass player is kinda nuts, too.

She Came From Above delves into the screamo metal area, though the guitar riffs remind me of the early speedmetal riffs that Metallica and Megadeath popuarized.

Fact Not Fiction really made an impression on me. From Hartwell, GA (outside Athens, at the SC/GA border), their sound is someplace between post-punk, and rolls near the melodics of true indie rock. There is a definite Anglo influence, with well-read lyrics and a mock English accent, you almost get the gist, then they throw another twist in the next song that gives it more dimension. “Here at Hartmin” and “The Ballad of Jack and Amy” get the must-listen tag.

Foxtrot November was much more at ease as a band. They seemed to ruminate and relax as they played, and I think giving off this vibe made the band members seem older and more serious about the music than they were about being seen on the stage. The vocals –for whatever reason– remind me of Kenny Loggins. The general sound of the songs are very unique, but similar to Wilco, and maybe Coldplay. Definitely check out “What if We Don’t Carry On”.

The Pennies This was the last band I saw for the evening, and they got a lot of reaction from the crowd. The sound is solid rock with Irish-inspired female vocals that range between a delicate lullaby and a soul-bearing wail that wends its way to your primal foundation. If you like bands like Evanescence or Dido, you should hear them. Check out “Love Me” and “Shine Within Sadness” for sure.

The Nerd Parade. I had been looking forward to seeing these guys, but had to leave before they finished setting up. Maybe I’ll be able to catch them some other time.

Now that I’ve been sorting the night back out from memory, I’m thinking I should have been ensconced in a roped-off area scribbling notes, too….

An Early Surprise

at the end of the day yesterday at the office, a couple of people came around asking those of us who hadn’t headed for the hills at noon if we would be interested in tickets to the Nutcracker at the Fox Theater in Atlanta. I put my name in the hat, as usual, and thought of how I’d been telling myself for about three years now that I’d get tickets and take the girls to see it during the holidays.

They drew a name from the hat, at the tickets went to the controller in the financial department. I congratulated him and started to get my things together, then he showed back up and said that his son would not be available to go, so he wanted me to have the tickets. It was incredibly nice of him to pass the tickets along.

It was 5:30 at this point, and the girls had been at my parents’ house, and the show started at 7:30 sharp. I called my mom, and asked her to meet me halfway between my work and her house so that we would be able to make it. It being Friday, there seemed to be tons of extra traffic, and being winter, it was already rather dark by then. I was coasting diligently through the four-way stop that is always highly congested, feeling much better about the car because I had to get new tires at the first part of this week. The old ones were suffering from band separation, and could have blown out at any moment. This condition was the cause for a really rough ride, too.

I criss-crossed my way along county roads, bypassing the Friday- and holiday-congestion I knew would be on the freeways heading away from the city, and finally made it to the meeting point. Got the girls and their things, and we were off like a shot. Fridays are more casual in the office, so I had jeans and sneakers on, and a collared long-sleeve shirt. The girls had only been playing all day. The clothes matched, but the shoes were just way off. No stopping now, though.

The seats were incredible, front row of the balcony, just left of center. Perfect for the girls’ first ‘true’ ballet experience.

The show was amazing. The dancers were awe-inspiring, the costumes and sets were fantastic, and I kept seeing inspiration and imagination filling the girls’ eyes as they sat riveted, watching. It could have been the stars glowing from the ceiling, or maybe the snow coming from the rafters, but I thought I saw a little bit of magic in their eyes as well.

synopsis: Pasaquan

The path to Pasaquan was, like most worthwhile journeys, elusive and tenuous. As we left the metro Atlanta area heading south, there was a severe backup of our primary route. There were signs warning of construction happening, but the backup of the freeway suggested that there was also a major accident going on. We were moving along at a glacier-like clip for quite a while, and when we got to the next possible exit, made the detour, and abandoned the carefully picked directions scribbled down the back of an envelope. Turning to the “Georgia” page of the road atlas, we quickly located a full detour route that went though several small towns, all of whom were having a Fall festival of one sort or another, like Barnesville, Thomaston, Talbotton, and Geneva. We also stumbled onto…. The Rock.

View Larger Map

That’s got to be one of the cooler names for a town ever…. The Rock, GA. There was immediate rush of “the rock” quotes, including “Can you smell what The Rock is cookin’?” and “Can’t stop The Rock!”, followed by a stream of references to rock music, Alcatraz island, and various action movies.

It took quite a bit longer to get to Pasaquan than anticipated. Once we arrived, we found that the journey was well worth it. Not only did we get to explore all of pasaquan, but there was also live music, and other folk and local artists displaying pieces as well. I got some really good pictures, shared above.

Walking around Pasaquan, Eddie Martin’s philosophy (a blending of Eastern and western thought combined with a healthy dose of both Shamanism) pervaded. Any place on the whole complex that you would look was enhanced by design: paint, hammered tin, beads, felt, carvings, statuettes… The images of people, gods, suns and moons, planetary systems, cities, flowers, and more. The magnitude of all the thought and effort instantly draws you in. The connection between human mind and nature, between ancient thought and modern thought, and between the beliefs of civilizatons all around the world seem to be fragmented in our daily lives, but at Pasaquan, one can see them all come together in jigsaw fashion, in balance, in Zen.

Yesterday was the last day of the year for Pasaquan to be open to the public until the spring. We’re already planning a return road trip. With three possible routes scribbled on sticky notes, fluttering in the wind.

Artists for Pasaquan

Time for a road trip! The cool weather has returned, and those crisp mornings are calling… Dust off your rucksack and grab a travel coffee mug and a worn-out college sweatshirt!

On Saturday, November 3, 2007, Pasaquan will host artists from all around the South for an exciting day of creative celebration at an event called “Artists for Pasaquan”.

Fifty or more artists – students, amateurs, professionals, eccentrics, visionaries – will participate in the celebration. The varied conglomeration of sympathetic artists will join together at Pasaquan to demonstrate their support for the restoration and preservation of the noted visionary art site. Participating artists will bring their own recent artwork to show and to sell and a lineup of musician friends of Pasaquan will entertain those who attend the gathering.

“Passa-what?” you say? Well, according to Jonathan Railey at Flagpole Magazine:

If you haven’t heard that name before, well, suffice it to say that he’s just about the weirdest cat you never met – so weird he refused to be airbrushed, alloyed, snow-jobbed or beaten into conformity by the forces of authority that get to most of us early on. So bizarre that he took to the open road rather than subject himself to the tyranny of a cruel and oppressive father. So eccentric that when he finally settled down, he tried to make a homestead for himself that suited him and embodied his highest ideals…

Looking at the art at Pasaquan, you immediately get the feeling that you are in a tribal place, sacred, communal. The sense of interconnectedness with nature, philosophy, the human experience pervades.

There is quite a bit of information available online about Pasaquan and Saint EOM (née Eddie Martin), including writeups by Mike Segers and
Interesting Ideas, and there was even a PBS Special!

I should be getting some good pictures, so more on this after the weekend!

Where is it? (Click for Gmap love) Near Buena Vista, GA (between Columbus, GA and Americus, GA), which is also home of Georgia Rural Telephone Museum.

Meet the new prof

Yesterday I took the day off from work in order to appear in court. I was listed way, way down in the calendar, so I spent the majority of the day there, listening to the sordid details of various cases and the circumstances that people (everyone) get into sometimes.
When it came to my turn, I found out that some other legal proceedings had gone under my radar, and that my being there was a moot point.

If I had known that, I’d definitely have taken the opportunity to go to Centennial Park and/or Emory University to see the Dalai Lama.

His Holiness was given an honorary professorship at Emory, and gave a couple of talks, including one on the subject of using guided Tibetan meditation in the treatment of clinical depression.

Check out the video on this page, which is an open press conference/interview with the editors of Emory’s school paper.

Metta, Y’all.

Om Lotus Petal Mandala
Mindfulness and Metta.

Listen for the Ecco

One block off Peachtree Street on 7th avenue sits the unmistakable gem that is Ecco. The restaurant is an European continental dining experience. The whole experience shows influences from French, Italian, and Spanish traditions.
The outdoor seating looked very inviting at Ecco, but the Autumn breezes warned against sitting out there. “Maybe when the weather warms back up. I’m sure we will be back a few times by then.”
“We sure will. Especially if you’re buying,” I smirked.
I found myself a little overdressed once we got inside, but not by leaps and bounds. The Maitre’d was fully prepared, even though we were 20 minutes early for the reservation. It hadn’t taken as long as we’d planned to get into midtown. Probably due to it being mid-week.
We followed the hostess through the dining room, past the open kitchen, where we gawked at the artful creations being efficiently prepared for delivery to their tables. The pizzas looked incredible. I must remember to give them a try next time. Our table was near a corner decorated with framed black and white photos of old-world scenes of daily life and Italian restaurateurs during the turn of the last century. The lighting was dim enough to be called mood lighting, but not too dim.
Our waitress, Lizz, is petite, and looks to be about 18 years old. After asking about some appetizers, I’m impressed with her memory and training, and I decide quickly that she’s a bit older than 18 when she deftly maneuvers the depths of the wine list with absolute aplomb. And she isn’t the sommelier. I decide on a wine that has very freshly been added to the menu: a Mojo de Sangiovese 2005 that was precisely up my alley: dry, red, and with complex undertones.
The mixed drinks were very interesting as well. The lemonade provençal was fantastic and fruity, but with the expected tart lemon taste.
The “main dishes” didn’t have vegetarian options, but Lizz had us covered: “There is a fettuccine and several pizzas that are all vegetarian, but the best way to get a taste of the menu on your first visit is the European way: pick two or three items from the ‘appetizers’ and ‘taste & share’ sections of the menu, and try a bit of everything.”
Lizz is brilliant. This would be a good idea, even if you have a larger party, everybody order two or three, and just go for the full nosh.

I tried the sweet gem salad with the pomegranate, the baby eggplant, and the stuffed Piquillo peppers, and Ecco has earned a special place for me. After talking with the chef and manager, we got ready to leave, and got the bill for dinner. With drinks and the appetizer, the total check was about half what we were expecting, so it was even more surprising and pleasing.
The stuff is sort of along the lines of a baby swiss, with small holes appearing, but it’s not smoky in flavor at all, it’s very delicate.

I’ll not go into too much detail here, but I will say that I have dined at restaurants here in Atlanta that cost three and four times as much on average, and have not had such an amazing experience. The ambiance, attentive staff, inventive menu, brilliant wine and drinks list, and highly reasonable prices, not to mention the convenience of the central midtown location (especially when meeting people who are coming from different parts of town), are all reasons to come and try it out. After you have, you will agree that it’s a great place to keep returning.

The name:
In Italian, “ecco” means something in the range of “here is, here are, there is, there are, comes, here come”, as in something or someone is approaching or making an entrance.
Ecco il bella! = Here is the beautiful one!
Sounds like:
Echo (English, def: a lingering trace or effect).

Dining at Ecco has created a lingering trace that will have me returning for more, and has changed some preconceptions about dining in Atlanta.