A brief history of Kirkwood Ballers Club

It’s About Time’s Nathan Emerson performing at Eyedrum. Photo by Chad Radford

What might the last few decades of Atlanta’s underground music scene look like if beer sales weren’t a factor in determining who gets booked to play a show? If the cover charge at the door was simply a donation of whatever you wanted to give? And, most importantly, performers showed up specifically to play something new that they’ve been kicking around, all for an audience that’s hungry for adventurous music — the wilder and the more challenging the better?

The Kirkwood Ballers Club experimental open mic night at Eyedrum Art & Music Gallery every third Thursday each month opens a window into just such an intrepid world of creative music.

Tight Bros. Network promoter Randy Castello christened the Kirkwood Ballers Club at Lenny’s Bar on Memorial Drive (now the site of the live-work-play condo building dubbed The Leonard) in March of 2004. But the idea was initially hatched in the late ‘90s, while hosting late-night parties in the basement at KBC co-founder Unisa Asokan’s house on Martha Ave. in Kirkwood.

“We had a sign in the door that said “Kirkwood Ballers,” Castello says. “Playing music was always the center of attention and the reason for getting together there.”

Castello even recalls one late-night gathering during Kirkwood Ballers Club’s early years in which composer and indie rock/avant-garde luminary David Grubbs (Squirrel Bait, Bastro, and Gastr del Sol) came back to stay at their house after performing at Eyedrum with cellist Nikos Veliotis earlier that evening.

“It was late at night, he was on the road, and we started playing right beneath his room, it had to be so loud,” Castello says. “It got to a point where he came downstairs — he was so cool about it — and said, ‘guys, can we just keep it down.’”

From the beginning, Kirkwood Ballers Club’s mission has always been to, “provide an open forum for experimental musicians and performance artists who’ve found it difficult to get shows elsewhere around town,” Castello says. “I also wanted to create an idea incubator that would allow others to perform and experiment with each other musically, and to create and nurture new creative ensembles.”

In its various incarnations, Kirkwood Ballers Club has created an environment where generations of avant-garde musical energy and talent has flourished throughout periods of existence and inactivity.

During its early years at Lenny’s, a parade of local punk, hip-hop, jazz, and indie rock musicians would sign up to perform including everyone from garage punks and avant-garde musicians Cole Alexander of the Black Lips and Bradford Cox of Deerhunter to Grammy-winning saxophone player Kebbi Williams of Tedeschi Trucks Band. All utilized the format to create music in-the-moment that expanded upon their typical repertoires.

Kebbi Williams. Photo courtesy KBC

“The Kirkwood Ballers Club was always a place of pure freedom,” says Kebbi Williams, who often showed up with large ensembles of musicians who lit up the room with an explosive freeform skroking jazz set.

Years later, Williams facilitates a similarly-minded Sunday evening jazz jam at Gallery 992 in West End, building upon the energy he tapped into while performing during KBC nights.

“I learned from Kirkwood Ballers Club at Lenny’s and from the scene at Eyedrum how to be free,” Williams goes on to say. “I saw some of the most original and provocative things at the Kirkwood Ballers Club, and it totally affected my life as an artist.”

Kirkwood Ballers Club has also drawn the attention of nationally touring acts who happened to be in town for the night. King Khan’s first Atlanta show was a KBC night.

“I remember introducing myself to Arish [King Khan] and he sprayed me in the face with Silly String,” Castello says. “It caught me off guard, and I didn’t know what to say, but it turned out to be a great night!”

Over the years, KBC changed locations, setting up at other now defunct venues along the way, including 11:11 Teahouse, The Highland Ballroom, and The Big House. It even settled in for a late-night incarnation at The Star Bar in Little Five Points for a stint.

Oftentimes other promoters including Matt McCalvin, Waylon Pouncy, and Matt Greenia stepped in to keep it going.

Brad Hoss of Hoss Records and Ryan Rasheed of LebLaze and Prefuse 73 launched a New York version of KBC at Brooklyn venue Zebulon Concert Cafe in 2011.In Atlanta, mashup artist Greg Gillis, aka Girl Talk, songwriter Jana Hunter, and even John Dwyer of psych-punk outfit Osees have also made KBC appearances.

Kirkwood Ballers Club host Sun Christopher. Photo by Chad Radford

In 2021, the rebirth of Eyedrum Art & Music Gallery at its current location brought with it a wholly new iteration of the Kirkwood Ballers Club. Sun Christopher hosts the monthly event as Castello settles into his evolving role as Eyedrum’s Facility Manager.

In the modern era, KBC’s spirit has been embraced by a wholly new generation of musicians, signing up for a 15-minute time slot, all under the evening’s long standing tagline: “Bring an instrument, record, beat, turntable, laptop, prepared piece, song, film score, voice, bag of blood, agenda, youth rebellion …”

Ipek Brooks at Kirkwood Ballers Club. Photo by Chad Radford

Castello adds that, in the past, he never used the term “open mic” in relation to KBC. “I was worried that it would bring out a lot of singer-songwriters playing cover songs, which has happened from time to time.”

In Eyedrum’s new home at 515 Ralph David Abernathy Blvd., a wholly new set of faces has picked up the mantle, ranging from artists reading poetry, gorgeous minimalist piano compositions, blazing industrial beats, and free-form art-rock ensembles have filled out the roster.

Of the more recent staples of KBC’s monthly rounds Mikey and Hoff of the band Upchuck perform regularly with various new outfits. Another next generation fixture is noise artist Nathan Emerson, who performs sometimes solo, sometimes with an ensemble, under the name It’s About time.

It’s About Time’s sets have taken shape as screaming, squelching displays of noise, clanging metal percussion, and feedback, punctuated by blasts of fireworks, and Emerson writhing on the floor in a half-naked state. It’s a blend of real-time catharsis cut from abstract emotions — all set to the tune of old school industrial clatter and confrontation. It is the bleeding edge of the creative spirit that KBC has always nurtured, with precisely the type of DIY pyrotechnics that wouldn’t fly in most small club settings.

“When I first pulled up to Kirkwood Ballers Club I didn’t really know how my act would come across,” Emerson says. “I actually kinda intended to rile people up and maybe stir up the audience a little bit. Which of course did happen, but I think most folks kinda dug what I was doing. It’s so surprising to have a space where someone like myself can perform an explosive act, flogging myself and screaming bloody murder, and not even receive the slightest of heckles. There is simply not a more open and accepting space in Atlanta, in my opinion,” he adds. “Literally all sorts of people can perform whatever their hearts desire there. I’m eternally grateful to have gotten my career started there and continue to perform there whenever I can.”

For Castello, it’s this engagement with the community, and the love of music that keeps Kirkwood Ballers Club coming back.

“Getting something started, getting people to come and maybe they’ll want to start a band or a new project, or just to play music,” Castello says. “That’s what we do here, and that’s what we do it for.”

This article originally appeared in the May issue of Record Plug Magazine.

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LIVE REVIEW: Ministry, Melvins, and Corrosion of Conformity at the Tabernacle, March 22

Al Jourgensen of Ministry at the Tabernacle. Photo by David Batterman

The third time’s a charm! Over the last two years, Ministry’s “Industrial Strength Tour” had been rescheduled twice due to COVID spikes. The show was billed as the 30th anniversary tour for 1989’s The Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Taste, a landmark album that set the music world ablaze with its fusion of thrash guitars and industrial-grade synth and percussion.

Legions of imitators followed, but few lived up to the high standards set by Al Jourgensen and an evolving cast of collaborators who sprung mostly out of Chicago’s Wax Trax Records scene.

If you were hanging around record stores circa ‘88-’92, you know that Jourgensen’s influence was ubiquitous — Ministry was a dark horse rising alongside Sonic Youth, Fugazi, Nirvana, Pavement, et al. But despite many fans’ vocal disdain, each new record plunged the group’s contrapuntal rhythms and new wave leanings deeper into the dark side of metal.

Uncle Al had an angst-ridden, politically astute, and heavy as hell vision, and he’s stuck to it all the way through 2021’s Moral Hygiene. But on March 22 at the Tabernacle, Ministry opened a window into that circa ‘88 era, capturing the height of Jourgensen’s creative output when he was functioning at peak performance.

Corrosion Of Conformity opened the show while the sun was setting over Downtown Atlanta. Along the walk from the MARTA stop at State Farm Arena where Justin Bieber was performing, there was a shift in atmosphere. The banter of passersby, mostly teenaged girls dressed in bright hues of pink and yellow, faded into more world-weary and black-clad men and women migrating toward the thunderous roar of C.O.C.’s “Bottom Feeder (El que come abajo)” and “Paranoid Opioid” echoing off of nearby buildings and across Centennial Olympic Park.

Inside, the group tore through a set of middle-period C.O.C. crowd-pleasers, including “Vote With A Bullet,” “Wiseblood,” and “Clean My Wounds.” On stage, the group embodies the kind of wise intensity and earnest demeanor that only a band weaned in the original era of Southern punk and hardcore knows.

Buzz Osborne of the Melvins. Photo by David Batterman

Melvins were massive on stage. No banter. No nonsense, aside from bass player Steven McDonald’s rock god maneuvers. He tests the limits of what’s acceptable, but why fight it? His on-stage swerving and reaching for the heavens adds excitement to the Melvins slow roar, and he backs it all up with a monster sound that’s tailor-made to boost singer and guitar player Buzz Osborne and drummer Dale Crover’s surly dirges.

The Melvins are masters of evoking an ecstatic-molasses state — they create an ambiance that summons feelings that fall somewhere between confrontation and meditation. Their set was bookend by “The Kicking Machine” from Nude With Boots and “The Bit” Stag. In between, they drew out their trademark crawling, teeth-gnashing atmosphere with “Civilized Worm” from (A) Senile Animal along with “Hooch” and “Honey Bucket” from Houdini. They even tucked a cover of Redd Kross’ “Charlie” from the Born Innocent LP in there as well.

In terms of sheer power, Melvins delivered a demonic show that was a solid counterpart to Ministry’s on-stage spectacle.

Jourgensen took the stage with his bandmates — guitar players Cesar Soto and Monte Pittman, bass player Paul D’Amour, drummer Roy Mayorga, and keyboard player John Bechdel — to a glowing backdrop of “Ministry Stands With Ukraine.”

The show began with a parade of hits. “Breathe,” “The Missing,” “Deity,” and “Stigmata” — a set list pulled pretty much straight out of In Case You Didn’t Feel Like Showing Up, the live VHS tape that so many of us wore out in high school. They even brought the chain link fence back to the stage.

From there, it was the dream-come-true setlist that so many of Ministry’s fans have always demanded. First came “Supernaut,” the Black Sabbath cover that Jourgensen delivered circa 1990 under the name 1,000 Homo DJs. Then came not one, but two Pailhead songs — “Don’t Stand In Line” and “Man Should Surrender” — from Trait, an EP on which he collaborated with Ian MacKaye of Minor Threat and Fugazi.

Jourgensen has surrounded himself with a coterie of top-notch players. Guitarist Monte Pittman has played in Madonna’s band for ages, and even taught her how to play guitar. The rest of the group’s collective resume covers everything from Killing Joke to Prong. They delivered seamless renditions “N.W.O.,” “Just One Fix,” “So What,” and “Thieves,” and, if anything, funked them up at an only slightly perceptible level.

Al Jourgensen of Ministry. Photo by Chad Radford

Ministry’s long career is marked by extreme highs, and devastating missteps. Tales of Jourgensen’s drug-fueled debauchery and near-death experiences have not been exaggerated (just read his autobiography). Along the way, he’s released a few truly unlistenable records. Rare is the artist who can bounce back from that. Jourgensen has defied expectations in the years leading up to Moral Hygiene.

He closed the set with three numbers from the new record — “Alert Level” followed by a cover of Iggy Pop’s “Search and Destroy,” and “Good Trouble,” an ode to civil rights activist Rep. John Lewis. In the middle of the song he led the audience through a chant of “we want our country back,” which seemed to mirror a sense of getting Ministry back on track.

Revisionism aside, stepping back into the worlds created by Ministry’s The Land of Rape and Honey, The Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Taste, the songs of Pailhead, and so on,  even if just for one night, was a refreshing and empowering reminder of just how truly brilliant Jourgensen can be. — Chad Radford

The print version of this review can be found in the April issue of Record Plug Magazine.

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John Doe explores ‘Fables In A Foreign Land’

John Doe. Photo by Todd V. Wolfson

The ambience, the tales, and the characters encountered throughout John Doe’s latest album, Fables in a Foreign Land, occupy a mysterious time and place in the imagination. They could have been plucked from the pages of John Steinbeck’s great dust bowl novel “The Grapes of Wrath.” Or they could describe the American landscape of the here and now — post the COVID-19 pandemic.

When discussing his latest solo album over the phone from his home in Austin, the co-founding singer and bass player for Los Angeles punk icons X clarifies that it’s the imagery of pre-industrialized America that lines up with his vision for this conceptual outing. According to Doe, the title for the record materialized after most of the songs had already been written, each one serving as different chapters from an unwitting hero’s journey across the country amid the late 1890s. The narrator, a 17-year-old kid, has left home because something there went horribly awry.

“There is nothing left of home to return to,” Doe says. “These songs are their adventures: what they do, what they hear, and what they see while making their way toward the West.”


All of the experiences and all of the places chronicled in songs such as “Never Coming Back,” “El Romance-0,” “The Cowboy and the Hot Air Balloon,” and “Travelin’ So Hard” are ventures into the great unknown. The narrator must keep moving forward to find food, shelter, and enough money to get to the next place.


“The reason this might resonate with what’s been going on over the last couple of years is because there’s a lot of isolation, loneliness, and hunger in these songs,” Doe says. “That was somewhat coincidental.”

The seeds for the album were planted in 2018. The song titled “Missouri” was the first to materialize, followed by the first single, “Never Coming Back.” It was then that Doe realized that he had a good song on his hands, one that could open up the rest of the stories that he wanted to tell.

And like all songwriters, there is a veiled autobiographical element hiding just beneath the surface of every note and every lyric.

“Like a lot of people, I am sick of modern devices, learning curves, and things like that,” Doe says. “I use them, I’m glad that technology is here and I can stay in touch with my friends and things like that. But I don’t think what we’ve gained through technology outweighs what we have lost. At one point, I realized that a lot of these songs could take place before there were cars, before electric lights, before all that stuff,” he adds. “I was disciplined enough to stay on that track, which became kind of an adventure in itself.”

Fables in a Foreign Land, out May 20, marks Doe’s first solo release with Fat Possum Records, following the label’s 2020 release of Alphabetland, his band X’s first album with its original lineup in place in 35 years.


For Fables in a Foreign Land, Doe is joined by bass player Kevin Smith, who’s on loan from Willie Nelson’s band, and drummer Conrad Choucroun. Together, they are affectionately dubbed the John Doe Folk Trio, crafting a sound that Doe quickly describes as his version of folk music. That’s not to say that he’s done an academic dive into creating traditional folk music by the numbers, but he does draw out a songwriting style that takes lessons equally from folk music, americana, punk rock, et al. — none of which are mutually exclusive.

THE JOHN DOE FOLK TRIO: Kevin Smith (from left), John Doe, and Conrad Choucroun. Photo by Todd V. Wolfson

Other guest writers contributing throughout the album include Shirley Manson of the band Garbage, Doe’s X bandmate Exene Cervenka, Louie Pérez of Los Lobos, and outlaw country singer-songwriter and painter Terry Allen.

One of the more poignant numbers from Fables in a Foreign Land taking place in the modern era is “Guilty Bystander.” Built around lyrics such as, “We came into town to watch the ponies race, we spoke not a word when a master whipped a slave, there was blood upon his back, he was trembling inside, we turned away from the terror and fright,” the song is a brutal account, written as a response to seeing George Floyd’s murder at the hands of Minneapolis police in 2020.

Doe explains, “I was thinking a lot about slavery, who’s a master and who’s a slave, and does it apply to people? Does it apply to relationships? Does it apply to the way people treat their fucking pets? That’s not to say these things are the same, but it’s about the idea of dominance, and it was sparked by George Floyd.”

“After the Fall” paints a picture of one of the album’s characters hiding in a pool of water, surrounded by reeds and cattails, and looking down to discover their own blood is dripping out into the water, and realizing that they’re in big trouble.

“Throughout the album, there are a lot of references to spirituality, leaving the earthly plane. I’m sure that’s because of my age,” says Doe, who turned 69 years old in February. “You have to confront mortality, think about what it means, and hopefully do it in a positive way.”

“Destroying Angels” is an honest-to-goodness murder ballad, the lyrics for which were mostly penned by Garbage vocalist Shirley Manson. X had done a tour playing shows with Blondie and Garbage. “At some point, Shirley said to Exene and I, ‘We should write a murder ballad.’ I thought, fuck yeah! You’re dark, why not? Then nothing happened.”

A few months later, they crossed paths again. Doe asked whatever happened to that murder ballad they’d talked about? Shirley replied, “I’ve got the lyrics,” and sent them over the next day. Originally, the song was written as more of a traditional folk-style murder ballad. Garbage layered it with chords, and imbued it with a big, heavy, gothic sound. “I wanted to reclaim it for this record, because the story was a good one, and it fit right into this, to this time, this era,” Doe says.

Over the past two-and-a-half years, the John Doe Folk Trio led the way in terms of playing numerous live-streaming shows. But now that the pandemic is receding, it’s time to take the show on the road, which is an essential next step as he prepares for the arrival of Fables in a Foreign Land. But getting back out there is easier said than done.

One of his first shows between COVID spikes was playing in the East Bay area near San Francisco, and the experience was somewhat overwhelming. “I was 30 seconds into the first song, and I had to stop playing, because I was so choked up,” Doe says. “This tsunami of gratitude and love coming towards me, and me feeling that back in the audience… It was somewhat embarrassing. But there’s a reason why people have done this for years and years,” he adds. “There’s a sense of community in music that you just can’t get anywhere else.”

Having time off and working with Smith and Choucroun to create the songs and the sound of Fables in a Foreign Land was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. But the lack of scheduling and of traveling made the prospect of retiring seem all the more appealing.

“I could be very happy taking the money that I’ve got, buying a piece of land with a house on it outside of Austin, where I could fool around with my horses and just chillax. But I need to work,” he adds. “It’s a daunting task, and not having done it for so long, you get rusty. But now people can go out and see live music again, and nothing can replace that.”

This story originally appeared in the May issue of Record Plug Magazine.

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A conversation with Kevn Kinney and Clay Harper

Kevn Kinney (left) and Clay Harper. Photo by Chad Radford

Since the early 1980s, Clay Harper and Kevn Kinney have left an indelible mark on Atlanta’s musical landscape. Harper first garnered significant attention as the voice behind the Coolies’ twisted and bombastic second album, 1988’s Doug: A Rock Opera And Comic Book. Over the years, he has released various collaborations with the likes of Wreckless Eric, Moe Tucker of the Velvet Underground, and Ian Dury. He’s also a co-owner of the Fellini’s Pizza and La Fonda Latina restaurant chains.

Over the years, Harper has rolled out a string of solo recordings leading up to his fifth and latest album, They’ll Never Miss A Five, a meticulously paced and quietly grand meditation on growing up near the Georgia and Alabama border.

Kinney, of course, is the frontman for Southern alternative rock juggernaut Drivin N Cryin. He has also released various solo recordings including his 1990 solo debut, MacDougal Blues, The Flower And The Knife (with the Allman Brothers’ guitarist Warren Haynes), and A Good Country Mile with The Golden Palominos.

Together, Harper and Kinney appeared on Not Dogs … Too Simple (A Tale of Two Kitties) and The Slippery Ballerina — both fall somewhere between children’s albums and rock operas. They also collaborated on the original score for a film that does not exist, titled Main Street.

After pairing up for a two-night stand at Gallery 378 in March, Harper and Kinney sat down to talk about their long history together.

Chad Radford: How did the two of you meet?

Clay Harper: We’ve known each other for at least 35 years — through Fellini’s, I guess.

Kevn Kinney: Fellini’s was the first restaurant I ever went to in Atlanta. I came to town in 1982. I was living on a campground in Marietta, in a trailer in someone’s backyard. We came into Atlanta and we were like “Fellini’s Pizza! That looks cool!” It was the first time I ever had pizza by the slice. Why would you want just a slice? In Wisconsin, where I’m from, everyone gets their own pie.

I’m actually one of the few people who never worked at Fellini’s.

CH: Tim Nielsen, Drivin N Cryin’s bass player worked there in the beginning. He was really good and competent. I always liked working with Tim. 

When did you start playing music together? 

KK: We haven’t ever played music together. Clay would give me some basic demo tracks and I would sing over them. Then when they came out there were all of these instruments and all of these people on them. I didn’t know Moe Tucker was going to be on Not Dogs. And I didn’t know Ian Dury would be on there.

CH: Ian did his parts in London. He already had cancer. And Slippery Ballerina had Ian and Wreckless Eric.

I remember when we were on the way to Ian’s to record. Eric was late, his car was fucking up and running out of gas, and I had him pull over because I had a full on panic attack. We stopped into a pub and the Stranglers were playing there that night. I really wanted to stay for the show!

You mentioned Main Street, which is a soundtrack to a film that doesn’t exist.

CH: When I was a kid, I listened to things like How The West Was Won,  and sometimes they had little snippets of dialogue. So I wanted to do a record like that, but there was no movie. I liked the idea of “the original soundtrack” and “motion picture” — I liked using those words. Then I wrote these songs that sort of fit together. You think there must be a story there, but really I was interested in working with Kevn on something that was different for both of us. At that time I wasn’t that far removed from the Coolies, and it was so loud. This was a different story. 

KK: We were both getting divorced at the same time, so we were commiserating and we were both staying at the same broken down hotel, the Biltmore Hotel, when it was like a ghost town. They had like eight rooms open. 

CH: Kevn got divorced a little before me. So when I had to leave my house and go stay in a hotel, not only did Kevn recommend the Biltmore, he recommended the room with the best water pressure in the shower. 

I remember one day seeing Kevin walking down Ponce de Leon, so I picked him up and said “What are you doing?” He said he was getting married the next day, so we went and had a little bachelor party, just me and him!

KK: He took me to the Clermont Lounge at 3 o’clock in the afternoon.

That was the bachelor party.

Kevn, I recently found a CD by your late ’70s/early ‘80s Milwaukee punk band, the Prosecutors.

KK: [He looks at the CD.] Look how cute I was!

That cover photo was taken at a little basement club called The Starship. Everybody played there: X played there, we opened for the Ventures there. It was only there for a few years. That stage is actually where Liberace started, back when it used to be a steak joint. One night, maybe on the night of this photo, Frank Zappa walked in and sat at the bar. There were like four people there that night.

I don’t know if the Prosecutors ever played for more than like 12 people. And that was usually other musicians who were also playing that night [laughs].


Let’s talk about the artwork for They’ll Never Miss A Five. My mind starts connecting the dots when I look at it … The ice machine is a nice touch. 

CH: I asked Kosmo Vinyl to do the artwork. He asked, “Is it another record about a fucked up America?”

I said, “Yes, it is.”

There’s a line where I sing, “I found myself in Phoenix, Arizona living next to an ice machine.” I was remembering some shit hotels where I’d stayed, and he picked up on that. He also picked up on another song that says, “She looked up at the clock and said, ‘oh boy.’” He loves lyrics, and he picked up on them.

What about the rest of the artwork?

CH: I’m not sure what in the Hell is going on there, but it’s his vision of a fucked up America, and I think it’s fantastic. It blew my mind when I saw it. He’s a serious artist, and he’s never done anything halfway.

You didn’t give him any other direction on the artwork?

No, you don’t give Kosmo direction, you’re just sorta grateful that he’s working with you.

The music feels like a bit of a departure for you? It is spacious, but also up front — I hear a bit of an Ozark Mountain folk music influence in there. 

CH: You don’t want to just recreate what you’ve already done, right? Kevin’s got it right, he says it sounds like “crystal meth music” [laughs].

It reminds me of some Ozark music in how it’s spacious, almost folk music, and it feels like a more ethereal approach.

CH: I’m not quite sure what ethereal means. 

I mean it has a rich atmosphere; the sounds are bright and up front, but there’s space between the sounds.

I look for as much space as possible, but I still try to find a groove. In some songs it’s there, and in some songs it’s just kind of implied.

KK: My brother Mick Kinney plays Fiddle and banjo on the record. He’s an established musician — playing music from a different era. He’s five years older than me.

CH: He got what I was going for. The space was premeditated, and I didn’t really have to tell him anything.

KK: Our great grandfather, or our grandfather’s uncle or brother, I don’t know … GC Kinny was a tent preacher in the Missouri area. I wonder if some of that Ozark Mountain sound creeped in through that.

I first noticed it with the album Bleak Beauty, which moves like the opening scene from The Godfather. It tells you right up front, this is going to take some time.

CH: I worked my way up to that, and I’ve been going in that direction. Having a studio in your house and being able to take as much time as I want with it is how I found what I was looking for 

KK: And if I could interject, Clay will record an entire album. It’s done. Then he’ll scrap it and start over from scratch.

CH: It’s kind of like a puzzle. Kevn has heard an earlier incarnation of almost every song on the album that’s been recorded and re-recorded and changed. Then I’ll go with the lyrics and a melody, and it just doesn’t sit right when I try to mix it. Then I’ll take it out and find what does sit right. Then I’ll start over again. 

KK: It’s something you wish you could do, but you can’t do it with a rock band when you have a record deal. You wind up with an albatros — that one record where the drums were done a month ago. It’s not mixed, and it’s not working. It becomes the song that nobody likes, and you’re never gonna play it live. It could have been great, if only you could go back and record it again.

Have you considered that? Cheetah Chrome did that with the Dead Boys’ Young Loud and Snotty. He took “Hey Little Girl” off of the record entirely. He said he hated that song, and it was never supposed to have been on the record. 

KK: If I could actually stop writing I would do that. I have wanted to re-record Fly Me Courageous because it has that ‘80s production. It says “play loud” because you have to … The quieter you play it, the worse it sounds. It sounded great on the radio because they compress it and match it with everything else. 

I have never seen Fly Me Courageous on vinyl.

It came out on vinyl with a white sleeve only with a sticker. I drew all of the covers. It’s a very limited edition of maybe 200 of them. I had about 50 of them but I think someone found my storage locker. All of a sudden I was like, “Where are all of my CDs?” Then they all showed up for sale online.

CH: I have listened to Kevn’s upcoming album a million times, and it’s great. You shouldn’t do anything but move forward with that record. 

KK: It’s called Think About It. It has two versions of “Think About It,” and neither one has anything to do with the other. It’s gonna come out someday. The first side was recorded three Januarys ago, right before the pandemic started in March. I recorded with Kevin Scott, Darren Stanley, and Peter Buck. We cut a lot of it in Athens over four days, then the pandemic hit. I finished it myself using Brad Morgan from the Drive By Truckers.

I’m singing very low, very quiet, and there’s a lot of spoken word on it.

You’ve been doing spoken word for a long time. There’s a spoken word piece on the Prosecutors CD.

KK: I just read that here in the liner notes, and I’m like, “What is that?” My friend Clancy Carroll put that out on Splunge Communications, Inc. He’s one of the only guys who’s trying to preserve Milwaukee music. One of the reasons that I like to put a lot of stuff out is because I’ve run into people who had a punk band in the ’70s/’80s, they made records, and they’ve got the tapes, but they won’t let you listen to them because they think someone will come along and pay them $20,000. But it’s just gonna wind up in a Goodwill someday. Just let us hear it.

There are so many great freaking records underneath people’s beds. Clancy has wrestled some great stuff away for that label.

My new record definitely has a side one and a side two side. Side one is Kevin Scott, me, and Darren Stanley. Side two is me, David Barbe, and Laur Joamets.The string section will make you laugh and it will make me cry. It’s Kevn Kenny, but presented in a different way.

Peter Buck plays his original R.E.M. Rickenbacker on it. He also does some e-bow stuff and puts a lot of atmosphere on the record. 

Tommy Dean from Thermos Greenwood plays bass on Clay’s new record.  

CH: I really love that guy, and to me, that’s what the record is about, being Southern. He’s a Southern gentleman. Super talented, super gracious, and has a style that’s halfway between upright and electric.

Can we talk about the song called “One More Lie And Cry About Everything?”

CH: That’s one of my favorite songs on the record, and it really means the most to me. And it has a big, heavy hip-hop beat that’s implied.

That’s one of the songs that I scrapped completely at least three times, and then recorded it again with a completely different set of lyrics and a different melody, and decided I didn’t like it and started over and found this version.

It means so much to me because I stuck with it enough to find it. I didn’t give up on it, so it’s like the dog that got away in the campground in Colorado and somehow made its way back home.

I like the song “They’ll Never Miss A Five” as well. When I was 16 years old, I worked at a Magic Market in Newnan, Georgia. The songs is loosely about a woman who worked there with me.

She was a victim of smalltown, Georgia,  and she got through it the best she could. We worked in a Magic Market — later called Quickie Food Store. The song starts off: “She was selling head and day-old bread,” and that’s exactly what she was doing.

I was a drunk kid,16 at most, and I worked at several Quickies. They’d just leave you in there alone all day and then threaten you with inventory. It was a vague threat, like inventory is gonna show everything I’ve done, and all of my shoplifting is gonna come to light, and my manager would walk in with the cops.

The song is about that. “I ain’t lived this life to be some nobody’s ex-wife.” That’s her. “I’m gonna take what mama leaves and I’ll be gone.” It’s an endless, fruitless struggle to escape your shit reality in a convenience store in Noonan, Georgia.

So “They’ll Never Miss A Five” is about stealing a $5 dollar bill from the register. 

She stole five bucks, and she figured they’ll never miss a $5. She skimmed a bit. I went a little further.

This interview appeared in the April issue of Record Plug Magazine.

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Lenny Kaye discussing his new book, ‘Lightning Striking,’ on Wednesday, March 9

Lenny Kaye. Photo by Ulf Hoberg.

Over the years, A Cappella Books has been honored to bring Elvis Costello, Rush’s Geddy Lee, Rosanne Cash, Run DMC’s Rev. Run, John Doe of the band X, Kristin Hersh, Patti Smith, and more to Atlanta.

So we couldn’t be more delighted to extend our Zoom programming on Wednesday, March 9, for an exclusive virtual event with founding member of the Patti Smith Group, guitarist Lenny Kaye.

Kaye will be in conversation with yours truly, music writer Chad Radford, discussing his latest book, Lightning Striking: Ten Transformative Moments in Rock and Roll. The book examines 10 critical flashpoints that have defined rock ‘n’ roll, spanning Elvis’s early days in Memphis in 1954 to the commercial rise of Seattle’s grunge scene in 1991 on the heels of Nirvana’s breakthrough, Nevermind.

As a musician, writer, and producer, Kaye has worked with several legendary artists, written extensively for publications such as Rolling Stone, Melody Maker, Creem, and Crawdaddy, and hosts “The Lenny Kaye Program” on Sirius XM’s “The Underground Garage.” And many of you music nerds are familiar with his seminal anthology of ‘60s garage and psychedelic rock, Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era, which is widely regarded as defining the genres.

Join us on Wednesday, March 9, at 7 p.m. (Eastern time), for what promises to be an edifying conversation on music history.

It is free to sign in.

A Cappella has copies of Lightning Striking featuring a bookplate signed by Kaye available after the event, which you can pre-order here.

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Keith Morris on the 40th anniversaries of the Circle Jerks’ ‘Group Sex’ and ‘Wild In the Streets’

Circle Jerks: Zander Schloss (left), Greg Hetson, Keith Morris, and Joey Castillo. Photo by Atiba Jefferson

Southern California hardcore punk icons Circle Jerks are celebrating the 40th anniversaries of their first two albums, Group Sex and Wild In the Streets — both albums were recently reissued by Trust Records.

On Friday, July 22, the group’s current tour with 7 Seconds and Negative Approach stops at the Masquerade, marking the Circle Jerks first Atlanta show in over 16 years. Before heading out, vocalist Keith Morris took a few minutes to talk about revisiting the songs, drummer Joey Castillo playing them even fast, and what’s in store with his other band, Off!

Chad Radford: Have you had any new realizations about the Circle Jerks songs now that you’re singing them again after so many years?

Sometimes I question some of the lyrics. Why did I write that?

I wrote “Paid Vacation” about Vietnam. When I graduated from high school, I was almost 17 and-a-half. You don’t get drafted until you’re 18. I’d go to parties and at the end of the night the police would be outside questioning all the guys: “How old are you? Have you registered for the draft? I had a handful of friends spend the weekend in jail because they hadn’t registered. 

When they filled out your paperwork in jail they automatically registered you for the draft. 

I had a few friends that went to Canada. I had a few friends that actually went to Vietnam. I was fortunate because the draft ended maybe six months after I graduated.

One day, my dad said: “You’re not going to Vietnam, are you?” My dad was a staunch Republican. I don’t know if he was “a bomb those fuckers into oblivion” Republican, but he was a Republican on a business level. We didn’t converse much. He was basically telling me, “If I was your age, I wouldn’t register for the draft. I wouldn’t go to Vietnam.” Maybe my dad had the wherewithal to understand what was going on at the time. 

It doesn’t matter if it’s a Republican or a Democrat in office. I think there’s a scenario where the incoming president gets pulled aside by all of the military and mighty industrialists who say, “You’re gonna continue doing what your predecessor did, who continued doing what the president before him did, just like the president before him. You’re gonna keep greasing our wheels. You’re gonna keep making us bigger and fatter and even more horrible than what we are right now. If you go against us, we, along with the CIA, will do to you the same thing that we did to JFK. 

So, I look at “Paid Vacation” and think to myself, that is still as relevant today as it was when I wrote it. 

The last time that you and I spoke was when I was writing a story about Bob Glassley (R.I.P.) who had recently revived his old band the Cheifs, with an all new lineup.

Yes, that’s when they came out here and played some shows. It was great seeing Bob. And that band was great. No one can ever take anything away from them. They had their shit together, musically speaking, and it was totally happening.

You know, Bob apologized to me, and I said, “Bob, it is not necessary.”

Why did he apologize to you?

At one point there was competition between our bands. I know there’s not supposed to be competition amongst us. We’re all supposed to be supportive of each other, unless you’re a dick. We could say it was a friendly competition, but at times it was a competition. And he apologized to me stating: “We were all friends. We were all growing up together. We were all drinking beer together, going to shows, and hanging out. For us to be snobby and say, “We were here before you. We should be playing before the headliners instead of you. And just all of that kind of stuff. … It never mattered to me. We’re just supposed to be alive and excited about it, and we’re supposed to be happy that we’re playing, and we don’t care where we are on the bill.

Just hanging out with Bob was great.

But he apologized and was so cool about the whole thing, and it was totally unnecessary. We were younger, and we were all aggressive and overly excited about some of these things.

What has playing with drummer Joey Castillo brought out of the Circle Jerks? 

We wouldn’t be the band that we’re supposed to be if we didn’t have him adding his energy. He wants to play the songs even faster than what we’re playing them, and it’s like, come on Joey! We’re older guys!

Sometimes I find myself trying to catch up with my lyrics, which I don’t mind because it’s like a train coming down the tracks and it’s rambling and shaking and it’s gonna jump the rails. There should be a sense of danger with punk rock. There’s chaos, and that’s good.

Our bass player Zander will say, “This song has to groove, the bass and the kick pedal need to be doing the same thing.” But I’m like, “You figure that out.” I can’t worry about stuff like that. I’m 66 years old, and I’m gonna have points in the set where I need to take a break to catch my breath and have a couple of swigs of water.

Joey brings something that’s much needed, and he loves us! He grew up with us, he’s in South Bay, a couple of cities east of where Greg Hetson grew up in Hawthorne. He knows our songs better than we do. 

He asked, “Do you want me to play the song the way that Lucky Lehrer played it on the first album, or do you want me to play it how Kevin Fitzgerald played it? It’s like, wow, thank you for doing your homework.

At this point, you’ve also logged a ton of hours playing shows with Negative Approach on this tour.

Yeah, and the John Brannon scenario: He comes out on stage, and all he wants to do is sandblast your face off, and make your ears bleed. They do an amazing version of Sham 69’s “Borstal Breakout.”

I saw the show at the 40 Watt in Athens — and I’ve seen Negative Approach every chance that I get — his scowl, when he looks at the crowd … Who know what kind of primal rage he’s gonna bring out of the person standing next to you? But at the end of the night, when he is at the merch table, he’s like the nicest guy on the planet.

He’s working class sweetheart. And when they come out on these tours — they’ve also toured with Off! — they, they can’t be a nicer group of guys. They can’t be more appreciative. Their whole outlook is like: We are honored to be able to do this, and it keeps us busy. We’re working and we’re doing something that we wanna do.

What’s the latest with Off!?

Off! is releasing our new album in September. We’ve recorded all of the songs, and for me it sounds amazing. We’re stepping out of our punk rock and hardcore box to do something different that’s gonna make the cavemen of our genre say, “I don’t like this. They’re not supposed to do this.”

Are you taking a more avant-garde approach with the songs?

We listened to a lot of Throbbing Gristle, Hunting Lodge, Can, Einstürzende Neubauten, Herbie Hancock’s Head Hunters, Miles Davis. We spent time with a character named Enid Snarb who was in Bastard Noise and Man Is the Bastard. He turned us on to some of George Harrison’s work after he visited India.

Our engineer mixer guy worked with Kyuss and he mixed over half of Spiritualized’s Ladies and Gentlemen We’re Floating In Space. We went to a lot of different places, rather than the Bad Brains, Blue Öyster Cult, and Stiff Little Fingers.

Autry Fulbright is playing bass, and he co-manages Thundercat. Our drummer Justin Brown plays drums with Thundercat, so now we’ve got a jazz drummer playing rock, and you’ll hear it. There are times when he’s all over the place, and we really have to pay attention to what he’s doing to play what we’re playing. 

If your mind is free enough, and you’re able to see all of the different colors that we’re using, you’ll get it. There’ll be a lot of people that don’t, but we have no control over that.

What’s the label experience like now that Circle Jerks are working with Trust Records vs. what you experienced with record labels in the ‘80s?

The scenario with Trust is that we love them. Have you seen the Group Sex reissue?

Yes, I have a copy that came with the zine signed by you and Greg.

They’re willing to go to that length, where a lot of record labels won’t. Their sales pitch was: “We’re willing to bet that your royalties from all of the recorded work with all of those labels is probably so minimal that you could hold it in one hand. We want to change that.” They gave us an advance that was beyond ridiculous for a band of our stature.

They’ve been on time and they’ve done everything. The Wild In the Streets reissue is just as cool as the Group Sex reissue, and that’s one of the reasons why we’re playing shows. It was originally to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Group Sex. Now we’re also celebrating the 40th anniversary of Wild In the Streets

As for all the labels we were on in the ‘80s, it was all a crapshoot. We weren’t getting hit up by any major labels, and being opportunistic, when somebody makes you an offer you could sit around with your thumb up your ass waiting to hear what the other offers will be. But your thumb could be up your ass for quite a while. We dealt with some really cool people and we dealt with some really horrible people. I could get into details, but I won’t because I don’t believe that any of these labels exist anymore.

This interview originally appeared in the March issue of Record Plug Magazine.

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This is Gang of Four

Gang of Four. Photo by Jason Grow

Gang of Four drummer Hugo Burnham recalls reading a quote from his former bandmate, guitarist Andy Gill some years ago. Burnham had parted ways with the group in 1982, only to return for a brief stint between 2004 and 2006.

Fast forward to 2012 — Gill and Gang of Four vocalist Jon King announced that they would no longer work together, leaving Gill as the only remaining original member still performing with the iconic Leeds, U.K. post-punk outfit.

During an interview around that time, a writer asked Gill about moving forward with a new lineup. His reply, as Burnham recalls, was that Gang of Four is more than a band, it’s an attitude and it’s about ideas. “I don’t even need to be in the band for it to be Gang of Four,” Gill told the writer.

“I had never really thought about what that meant,” Burnham says.

Gill died suddenly in February of 2020. Since then, the gravity of his words has taken on new depth for Burnham, as he reconnects with the band’s legacy, and its incendiary attitude and ideas.

A recently released box set, titled 77-81 (Matador) makes clear its assertion that despite nearly 40 years spent releasing dozens of albums, Gang of Four turned out its most commanding works between 1977 and 1981. Those first five years encompass the group’s first three albums: Entertainment!, Solid Gold, and Songs of the Free. Throughout each of these albums, Burnham, King, Gill, and bass player Dave Allen — the latter of whom was replaced by Sara Lee for Songs of the Free — crafted terse anthems that sharpen their teeth and claws on everything from Marxist philosophy and the dangers of materialism to the trappings of love and maximum entropy.

Songs bearing titles such as “To Hell With Poverty,” “Not Great Men,” “Damaged Goods,” and “I Love A Man In A Uniform” are propelled by muscular rhythms, avant-garde grooves, and the jagged energy and freedom that their British punk rock forefathers in the Clash and the Sex Pistols had exposed.

Alongside British counterparts such as the band Wire, and American band Mission of Burma, Gang of Four’s first three albums have come to define the post-punk canon.

Following Gill’s death, Burnham and King have reconvened under Gang of Four’s banner to bring the group back to the stage. But who could fill Gill’s shoes playing guitar and bring the songs back to life?

They had their eye on a handful of potential candidates. Marissa Paternoster of New Brunswick, NJ trio Screaming Females was in the running, but the pandemic complicated the group’s early efforts. Then, in the midst of their search for Gang of Four’s next guitar player, Burnham’s friend Patrick Ferguson, a drummer with Athens, GA’s indie rock band 5/8, got in touch.

Ferguson hosts the Crash and Ride podcast, which had recently featured David Pajo as a guest. “Patrick said, ‘My god, I’ve just interviewed David Pajo!’ I hope that David forgives me for this, but I said, ‘Who’s that?’” Burnham laughs. “‘Cause you know, he’s a youngster!” 

Pajo’s resume boasts of playing and writing with dozens of seminal early ‘90s indie rock luminaries such as Slint, Papa M, The For Carnation, Tortoise, Stereolab, and dozens of other acts.

“So I started digging and listening, and thought, oh god, this guy is good,” Burnham says.

As a founding member of Slint, Pajo is aligned with the early beginnings of math rock in the ‘90s. Semantics aside, his musical DNA blends quite well with Gang of Four’s rigid, angular songwriting style. 

Ferguson introduced them to each other via email. After exchanging a few messages, Pajo recorded videos of himself playing guitar along to three of the group’s signature numbers, “Natural’s Not In It,” “To Hell With Poverty,” and “What We All Want.”

“It was chronically, cripplingly obvious that this was the only choice to make,” Burnham says. “We really didn’t want to have just another boring or predictable old white guy in the band,” he adds. “David is neither boring, nor predictable.”

Pajo instinctively adapted to Gill’s percussive style, and how the guitar parts intertwined with the group’s fast-paced rhythmic presence. “He was digging deep into the recordings, alternate versions, and different live things, trying to get [Andy]’s take on everything,” Burnham says. “I said, great! Learn the songs as [Andy] would play them, but make them your own. We are not a Gang of Four tribute band,” he stresses. “This is Gang of Four, here and now. David is in the band, and it’s as simple as that.”

Burnham, King, and Pajo were in place, but bass player Dave Allen opted out of rejoining the group for a round of North American tour dates.

Former bass player Sara Lee was the obvious choice to complete the lineup. After leaving Gang of Four circa ‘84, Lee had gone on to perform as a member of Robert Fripp’s band the League of Gentlemen, and has played with everyone from Robyn Hitchcock to the Thompson Twins, as well as with Georgia acts, the B-52’s and the Indigo Girls. Her 2000 solo debut, Make It Beautiful, was also released by Ani DiFrancos’ Righteous Babe label.

“When I called Sara, I didn’t quite know how to get to the point. Finally she says, ‘I’ve been sitting here on the phone, waiting for you to ask me if I’ll play!” Burnham laughs.

Gang of Four. Clockwise from top left, Jon King, Sara Lee, Hugo Burnham, and David Pajo.

With Lee in place, Gang of Four took on a new configuration, and started breathing new life into the music. On their current tour, the group is sticking mostly to the classic material from those first three albums, but they’ll pull out a few numbers from later albums as well, including “I Parade Myself” from ‘95’s Shrinkwrapped LP. “We’re not being assholic about any of this,” Burnham says, “We’re playing that song because it’s such a great song. But there is such a breadth of stuff that we can dive into from those first three albums, which is more like ‘77-’83.”

The million dollar question: Will Gang of Four record new material with its new lineup? Burnham pauses with a sheepish, tight-lipped smile before joking that for a million dollars he’d record with any lineup. “I hate to hyperbolise, but this has been a lot of fun,” he says. “There is no stress, no anger, no overwhelming control issues. David is a versatile and disciplined player who has done seriously great work leading up to joining us,” he adds. “It would be silly not to make the most of this lineup, even if it’s just for ourselves. We’re not kidding ourselves into thinking that the world is waiting for new stuff — but we’re waiting for it.”

Gang of Four and Pylon Reenactment Society play in Hell at the Masquerade on Friday, March 11. $29.50 (adv.). 7 p.m. (doors).

This story appears in the March print issue of Record Plug Magazine.

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R.I.P. Tom Smith, Jon Kincaid, and Robert Cheatham

REST IN PEACE: Tom Smith (on the far left, with Frank “Rat Bastard” Falestra). Photo by Chad Radford. Jon Kincaid (center) photo courtesy Amy Potter. Robert Cheatham (right) photo by Tara-Lynne Pixley.

There’s an old African proverb that says: “When a person dies, a library burns to the ground.”

Point being, when someone dies a lifetime of knowledge, experience, and context is lost forever, and the world is left a poorer place in their absence.

In January, Atlanta music quietly suffered through three profound deaths: First, news spread that Jon Kincaid, longtime 91.1 FM / WREK DJ and host of Sunday nights’ “Personality Crisis” radio show had died on January 4. He was 57 years old.

A week later, On Jan. 11, word spread across social media that former Eyedrum Art & Music Gallery Executive Director and avant-garde music and art scenes fixture Robert Cheatham had died at the age of 73.

Another week later, post-punk journeyman and noise music provocateur Tom Smith died as well. He was 66 years old. All three men represented somewhat different but primary eras and enclaves of Atlanta music. And while it may not be immediately obvious, each of their respective influences played an indelible role in shaping the city’s musical identity.

For more than 30 years, Kincaid hosted “Personality Crisis,” giving a platform to countless fledgling alternative rock, post-punk, underground, and Southern rock luminaries. In the early days of their careers, Atlanta-based acts the Indigo Girls, Drivin’ N Cryin’, and countless others benefitted from his steadfast dedication to music, and his encyclopedic knowledge.

Check out the backside of Mission of Burma’s 1988 LP Forget, and you’ll see bass player Roger Miller sporting a WREK T-shirt. It’s a good bet that Jon had a hand in Roger owning that shirt.

Jon explored every type of music known to humankind through his work as a WREK music director, and by creating his own experimental music under the name Sequence 3.

Cheatham led Eyedrum through its defining eras; he was Executive Director when the venerable arts institution was awarded a $30,000 grant from the Warhol Foundation in 2006. Cheatham also hosted Eyedrum’s long-running open improv nights, which became an institution for outsider and experimental arts. His band Tinnitus was well known for cranking out squelching, heavily-amplified noise and feedback created with the expressed intention of driving everyone out of the room.

His Brahvar Large Ensemble would often corral as many musicians together as possible — once even crowding more than 20 performers onto the tiny stage in the basement of Eyedrum’s original Trinity Ave. location for a massive improv blowout. Connections were made, new ensembles were formed, and wholly new configurations of musicians perpetuated the community. Cheatham’s brilliance lied in his merger of skronking, careening free jazz, and untethered exploration of sound as art without restraint.

Tom Smith reveled in a more confrontational aesthetic. With his groups To Live and Shave in LA, Peach of Immortality, and Boat Of, he placed elements of noise, the avant-garde, and sleazy rock ‘n’ roll on a level playing field. He wove them together seamlessly, while hopping around the globe — from Atlanta to Washington D.C. and finally Hanover, Germany. Along the way, he amassed collaborations with everyone from Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth, Andrew WK, Harry Pussy, Bill Orcutt, and more.

Kincaid, Cheatham, and Smith were all driven to create by exploring, not just rest on the past. Their sense of creativity, their dynamism, and their willingness to open up to the new — and the old — left a lasting mark on the city. Atlanta was made richer by their presence and their contributions, and the world suffers a tremendous loss with each of their passing.

On Fri., Feb. 18 (3-9 p.m.) and Sat., Feb. 19 (1-9 p.m.) Gallery 378 (378 Clifton Rd. in Candler Park) will host a two-day celebration of Jon Kincaid’s life and history at WREK. Video installations featuring broadcasts from “Personality Crisis” and more from the WREK archives will be playing throughout the gallery. On Saturday night, several acts including the Nightporters, the Chant, Kevn Kinney and friends, Current Rage, Will Rogers, and more will take turns playing songs on the stage downstairs.

Read more in the February issue of Record Plug Magazine.

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Meet the Bakery’s new performance venue

Daniel DeSimone (left) and Willow Goldstein of the Bakery. Photo by Chad Radford.

Inside the dilapidated remains of a Chosewood Park warehouse that, in the distant past, was home to the offices of the Yellow Cab Company of Atlanta, Willow Goldstein and Daniel DeSimone point toward a concrete riser emerging from the shadows. “This is where the stage will be for The Bakery’s new venue,” DeSimone says.

As he looks up, rays of sunlight catch clouds of dust, shining through a long gap where the wall and the ceiling don’t quite meet.

“Of course, there will be a build out,” he adds. “We’ll seal up the wall, and do quite a lot of work in this room.”

DeSimone is the venue manager for the Bakery, a multi-purpose DIY gallery and venue space that Goldstein launched with her mother Olive Hagemeier in the Fall of 2017. Over the years DeSimone has run sound for live shows, worked the door, and booked shows under his Face Of Knives Productions company, all while performing various other roles there.

When asked about her title, Goldstein ponders several possible descriptions before settling on “owner, operator, and creative director.”

She has final say in pretty much all aspects of the Bakery’s business, although she gives a lot of freedom to DeSimone and Amanda Norris, who handles much of their press and public relations. The Bakery also works with teams of volunteers.

Gyan Riley at The Bakery in 2018. Photo by Chad Radford

Everyone involved wears many hats when it comes to the full-time endeavor of running the DIY institution that has hosted countless art openings, workshops, film screenings, dance parties, Southern Fried Queer Pride events, and live concerts. Guitarist Gyan Riley (son of minimalist composer Terry Riley) played there while supporting his 2018 album, Sprig. Guitarist Nels Cline of Wilco (performing in a free jazz trio with percussionist Gerald Cleaver and sax player Larry Ochs) played there.

Scores of younger indie rock, hip-hop, electronic, hardcore and post-punk acts including Upchuck, Misanthropic Aggression, and DeSimone’s blackened metal outfit Malevich also graced the stage there.

On June 30, 2020, just as the COVID-19 pandemic was coming to a head, The Bakery’s three-year lease on the warehouse space at 825 Warner St. ended and was not renewed.

Soon after, the building was demolished, making way for a new Trees Atlanta facility.

Since then, the Bakery has carried on, settling into a gallery space at 92 Peachtree St., a block away from the Five Points MARTA station in South Downtown. There’s also the Bakery’s private artist studio spaces inside the BuggyWorks complex near downtown East Point.

The latest endeavor, though, is the multi-purpose venue at 249 Milton Ave., in a development that is tentatively being called Yellow Studios.

For now, the Bakery’s performance room is a 5,000 square-foot space filled with dozens of dust-covered office chairs, toppled empty filing cabinets, broken glass, and other bits of debris — remnants of what was once a thriving taxi cab headquarters, now in ruins. Still, the potential the space holds is undeniable.

Outside, the sounds of a chainsaw cutting through an old fence, the beeps of heavy machinery, and a chorus of hammers and nail guns hitting the roof fill the air.

Just down the road, more construction can be heard as towering condominiums are being constructed along the BeltLine.

Both Goldstein and DeSimone talk at length about partnering with fellow DIY arts venue Mammal Gallery co-founder Chris Yonker who found the location and is spearheading the project. Yonker plans to open a Morning Mouth Tattoo studio as well as a recording studio in the building. Mammal will also be promoting live performances and other events there. Kyle Swick of Irrelevant Music will book shows in the Bakery’s new venue. There’s talk of various other collaborations as well, including the possibility of working with their kindred spirit at Eyedrum Art & Music Gallery, with whom Goldstein is a former board member.

There are also plans for a coffee shop, and a second, more intimate performance space, and other businesses will utilize office spaces elsewhere in the building.

The plan is to have the new space open and hosting live performances by Spring 2022.

Willow Goldstein (left) and Daniel DeSimone of the Bakery. Photo by Chad Radford.

“Ultimately, the goal is to bring the most professional level of production as possible to nontraditional events, non-traditional curators, and provide a space where people who want to challenge the status quo, or show what an event or a concert could be, have a space where feel like they can stretch out,” DeSimone says. “It’s a space for musicians who might not feel like they jive with the status quo of Atlanta’s music scene.”

DeSimone goes on to describe their vision for the room as being more than a bar, while keeping its activities art-focused, across disciplines.

“Intersectional artistry! We encourage people to incorporate non-musical components to their musical performances, or musical components to their non-musical events,” DeSimone adds. “Bring a DJ to your art show, bring an aerialist to your concert. If something’s happening at the Bakery, there is an understanding that it will be something more than what you could get somewhere else. We want to build our own niche while not chasing the tail of de rigueur — doors open at 8 p.m. and you’re out at 11 p.m. We can’t do that. We don’t want to do that. And the city doesn’t need another of that.”

Donate to The Bakery’s GoFundMe campaign.

This story originally appeared in the February issue of Record Plug Magazine.

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Jeff Parker and Steve Gunn at Terminal West. Wed., Dec. 8.

Jeff Parker (left) and Steve Gunn at Terminal West. Photo by Chad Radford

Jeff Parker walked onto the stage at Terminal West on Wed., Dec. 8, to polite applause followed by silence — the kind of explosive silence that’s felt just seconds before an orchestra strikes up and fills a symphony hall with its opening salvo.

Parker drew out the silence, and communed with the quiet tension before tangling his fingers around the neck of his guitar and slowly unwinding them along the fretboard. The guitarist and co-founder of Chicago’s post-rock luminaries Tortoise, stands atop a body of solo recordings and collaborations that traverse everything from mutant funk and hip-hop beats to skronking free jazz, minimalism, and drones. 

At first, the sounds he created seemed ill-shaped. But loops were being created, and within moments notes percolated and collided into one another as Parker’s singular musical style revealed itself in tones and textures that were instantly familiar, yet guided by wholly new, next-level composition.

Jeff Parker. Photo by Chad Radford

Much (if not all) of the material he played throughout the night comes from his latest solo guitar album, Forfolks (International Anthem Recording Co.). But this was a solid three days before the album was released. As such, Parker offered a preview into one of the most pleasantly challenging chapters of his career. Smoke machines  hissed quietly somewhere in the darkness. The slow rumble of a train rolling along the tracks behind Terminal West almost felt scripted, as Parker created long, sustained tones that rung out for so long they started rattle, revealing the intricacies inside the sounds of his amplified steel strings. When rhythm and melody are taken away — acoustic feedback is a beautiful thing.


In the midst of his deep dive into the avant-garde, Parker subtly weaved in the melody of “Jetty” from Tortoise’s 1996 masterpiece, TNT. This reimagined take on the song appears on Forfolks under the name “La Jetée.” 

Steve Gunn. Photo By Chad Radford

Steve Gunn joined Parker for a short collaboration before closing out the night with a solo set. Gunn offered a cover of British folk singer and guitarist Michael Chapman’s “Among The Trees” before delving into a stripped down rendition of “Way Out Weather,” the title cut from Gunn’s 2014 album, which set the tone for his performance. Gunn leaned into “Fulton,” “Good Wind,” “Morning River,” and “On the Way” from his 2021 release, Other You (Matador).


On record, these songs are the backbone of Gunn’s most ambitious work to date. On stage, they flowed with the cool quietude of the seemingly effortless Zen-like vibe that has come to define his strongest songwriting. It was also a grounding agent that balanced out an evening of acoustic, psychedelic, and forward-thinking music.

This review was first printed by Record Plug Magazine.

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