PHOTOS: Wire at Variety Playhouse Saturday, March 7

Wire photo by Mike White of Deadly Designs.

Before Atlanta shut down over the COVID-19 pandemic, Wire played a show at Variety Playhouse on March 7, 2020. It was a Saturday night, and it was the last show I was lucky enough to catch before statewide shelter-in-place orders became too urgent to ignore.

It had been a few years since the British post-punk legends last made an appearance in Little 5 Points. For this show, co-founding members singer and bass player Colin Newman, guitarist and vocalist Graham Lewis, and drummer Robert Grey, along with guitarist Matthew Simms—the latter of whom has been a member of Wire since 2010—were playing shows on the heels of releasing their most recent album at the time, Mind Hive.

Striking a balance between intimacy and intellect—punk reflexes and avant-garde instincts—lies at the core of Wire’s singularly introspective brand of art rock in the post-aughts. There’s a tactile energy between Newman and Lewis’ words and the drawn-out musical atmosphere that billows around them. Channeling this for the Variety Playhouse’s mostly full 1,000-seat room is no simple feat. But on March 7, Wire reached deep with a 19-song set underscoring the strengths of Mind Hive, while breathing new life into a handful of classic numbers as well.

Perhaps one of the most stunning moments of the night’s performance—aside from “Oklahoma” being an absolute barnburner—was the spacious reinvention of “Over Theirs.” The song, which originally appeared on Wire’s 1987 LP The Ideal Copy, is a barbed and paranoid lurker, cut from the digital textures and sparse rhythms of an era when synthesizers were still a new thing for a foundational British punk band to push forward. At Variety Playhouse, “Over Theirs” went to a dark, muscular, and more cavernous place than its Reagan/Thatcher-era origins, showing off wholly new depth and nuance in the song’s menacing nature. When placed alongside both older and newer numbers such as “Be Like Them,” “German Shepherds,” and “Ex-Lion Tamer” the song unfolded like a cautionary anthem for the darkness that still lies ahead.

Mind Hive has been a solid contender for album of the year, at least in my book. That is, until yet another Wire album arrived in June, titled 10:20. The new album is a collection of upgraded rarities, distilling Wire’s post-2010s stylistic growth into an exquisite and wholly new offering that’s bursting with self-references that reach all the way back to 1978’s Chairs Missing LP. More on that later, but sure enough, the freshly reinvented “Over Theirs” appears on the B-side in all of its ominous glory.

Photographer Mike White of Deadly Designs was there, too, and captured these images from the show.

Setlist
“The Offer”
“Be Like Them”
“1st Fast”
“Cactused”
“Morning Bell”
“Question of Degree”
“Over Theirs”
“German Shepherds”
“I Should Have Known Better”
“Patterns of Behaviour”
“Primed and Ready”
“Ex Lion Tamer”
“It’s a Boy”
“French Film Blurred”
“Oklahoma”
“Hung”

Encore:
“Outdoor Miner”
“Former Airline”
“A Touching Display”

Gallery 992 Improv. Jam, every Sunday evening

Photo by Chad Radford

Gallery 992‘s Sunday night free improv jams are back!

For the time being, every Sunday evening from 6-10 p.m., the weekly jam has moved just a few doors down to the lot near the corner of Ralph David Abernathy Blvd. and Peeples Street, where there’s plenty of space to get spaced out. Under the direction of alto saxophone player Quinn Mason and percussionist Dallas Dawson, an assemblage of the city’s finest players lock into each other for a massive and seemingly telepathic group improv blast before opening up the stage. They’ll play for as long as the law allows—the noise ordinance kicks in at 10 p.m.

In this new, temporary outdoor setting, the weekly jam has taken on a whole new vibe, summoning a rejuvenated sense of community spirit in the West End. These performances are about catharsis, purgation, and finding mental and spiritual balance in the shadow of a world in turmoil.

Witnessing so much energy, and engaging with live music on such visceral and cerebral levels, after so many months spent in lock down is a powerful and emotionally riveting experience that’s not to be taken lightly—you need it more than you know.

Bring a lawn chair—it’s outside, but wearing a mask and maintaining that six-feet of social distance makes everyone feel a safer, and little more comfortable.

NIVA calls on congress for financial relief for independent music venues

The National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) is calling on congress for financial relief for independent music venues across the the United States. The organization currently includes nearly 2,000 members in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. A recent survey of NIVA members revealed that, without financial assistance, more than 90% of the country’s venues face going out-of-business permanently. As result, NIVA is rallying behind a campaign that’s been dubbed Save Our Stages, and is pulling for the RESTART Act (S. 3814) to be included as part of the next financial relief package.

The bipartisan RESTART (Reviving the Economy Sustainably Towards a Recovery in Twenty-twenty) Act is led by Senators Michael Bennet (D-Colorado) and Todd Young (R-Indiana). If passed, the Act will expand upon the Paycheck Protection Program to work for businesses that have lost revenue while remaining closed as a measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Among other benefits, RESTART will also extend the PPP’s eight-week loan forgiveness period to 16 weeks for businesses whose revenue has declined by at least 25%.

Read NIVA’s letter to congress below, and click here to tell your legislators to save independent music venues.

A GoFundMe to support The Masquerade staff

Heaven at The Masquerade. Photo by Elena de Soto.

On March 16, The Masquerade announced that it was suspending operations to aid in the effort to slow the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus. Since then, the Downtown Atlanta music venue has canceled and postponed more than 100 shows in all three of its live music rooms — Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory. Many shows are being rescheduled for the fall and winter months, but the doors remain closed indefinitely.

The Masquerade is the city’s largest independently-owned music venue. Each night, the club brings more music to Atlanta than anywhere else, ranging from hip-hop, trap music, punk, hardcore, heavy metal, and jazz to DJ nights such as Torch DNB and the LA-based Emo Nite.

This means an awful lot of bartenders, sound engineers, loaders, caterers, box office staff, security, and administrative personnel are without work for the time being.

To help its employees pay the bills, a GoFundMe page is set up with all proceeds being distributed to the club’s employees, and there are donation perks.

Contributions of $50 or more will receive a pair of tickets to an upcoming concert.
Contributions of $100 or more will receive an invitation for you and a guest to attend a welcome back party with complimentary drinks, along with a pair of tickets to an upcoming concert.

The list of available shows will be posted on The Masquerade’s website as soon as it looks like the world will start moving again.