Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Have you been to Church lately? Sister Louisa's Church of the Living Room and Ping Pong Emporium

If you live in "in-town" Atlanta you have likely been invited to "Church" lately. Now, we are not talking about getting up early on Sunday morning and repenting your sins.  We are talking about outsider artist Grant Henry's new bar on Edgewood called Sister Louisa's Church of the Living Room and Ping Pong Emporium, Come on in Precious!  Yeah, that's really the name.  And unless you have been under a rock, you too can likely recite at least half of the formal title. But you can just call it "Church," as that's what everyone seems to be calling it.  

I first ventured to Sister Louisa's on a Tuesday night, about 2 weeks after they had opened.  When I arrived there were literally only a handful of people hanging out at the bar downstairs.  Within an hour though, the place filled up (on a Tuesday night) and it was a full-on party both upstairs and down.  I was impressed.  Not only was this new venue pulling in curious folks to sit and have some spirits and conversation, but it was doing it on Edgewood at Boulevard.  I love this part of town and always was rooting for it, hoping it would get that special push that made it more welcoming.  And now right there at the very corner "Church" (along with Sound Table of course) is anchoring a new welcome mat and it is working.  

For the record: I would like to now propose that we call the block of Edgewood between Boulevard and I-85 "Ping Pong Alley" as we now have two venues (The Music Room and The Church) with active ping pong tables.

"Ping Pong Alley"

If you know Sister Louisa's art and are religious, it could definitely make you pray for our souls.  It is blasphemy.  It is satire.  But it is funny and there is a hell of a lot of truth in those words panted across the canvases.  After all, Jesus does love crack whores too.

The Church Organ

If you look out of the windows on Boulevard, you will see not even a half block up is an old Catholic Church.  Rumor has it that a priest from this church visited Sister Louisa's on three different occasions, took photos and told Grant that "we have to talk."  I am not religious and I surely am not Catholic, but personally if a priest walked in, I think I might hide underneath the ping pong table in case lightening struck or he was taking names.  But this is exactly what draws people here.  A light-hearted satire on religion, beliefs, iconic figures and even art.

After all, what kind of businesses does Georgia have the most of?  Churches and liquor stores. Why not offer them both in one place?

Grant Henry: Proprietor, Bartender and Resident Artist

Downstairs is a simple old style wooden bar with ample libations including "Good Wine"  and "Better Wine" selections, a full range of liquor and beer.  Oh yes, and the Sister's famous Sangria.  That is a must try.  It comes with a heap of fruit, so you can act like it's good for you.  They offer a small menu called "the Church Picnic" featuring faves from Homegrown like pimento cheese, hot dogs and potato salad.  And the desert is a Rubik's Cube-sized Captin Crunch/Rice Krispy Treat.  Their drinks and food are pretty cheap - keeping with Sister Louisa's welcoming hospitality.  The downstairs is anchored by a real-life confession booth from the 1800s.  

Upstairs Looking Towards Edgewood
But the party really starts on the second floor.  Upstairs is kinda like the room above your parents garage - if it was huge and if it was decorated by hipsters with a thick budget.  It sports a ping pong table that overlooks the corner of Edgewood and Boulevard, a real church organ (more about this later), church pews and the always coveted comfy sofas.  It's welcoming and warm and makes you feel like you are hanging out at someones home. 

Church Organ Karaoke

So about that Church Organ.  Unlike any other place in Atlanta (and probably the world), on Sunday nights Sister Louisa's turns into something you have never seen before:  A place for church organ karaoke.  What exactly does that mean?  Well, the ping pong table is put away, the church pews are turned towards the back wall and a pulpit is placed in front of the house church organ.

What happens next is quite entertaining.  A list of popular and traditional songs is handed out and a live organist plays music while people step up to the pulpit and sing to the crowd.  And a crowd it was.  The place was standing room only.  Hearing "Private Eyes" (Hall and Oates) and old Elvis songs is pretty standard in karaoke.... but to hear "Black Celebration" by Depeche Mode and "Bad Romance" by Lady Gaga on the Church Organ was pretty darn entertaining.  

I recommend going to watch this at least once. It's unlike anything you have seen.  Below is the list of songs to choose from for the first week.  I am sure more will be added as the weeks pass.

Double Click to Enlarge

Double Click to Enlarge

The Sister is good company and she creates an environment that encourages camaraderie, conversation and relaxed fun.  This place has warmth and heart, something Edgewood (especially the Ping Pong Alley portion) has desperately needed for sometime now.  It's already changing the atmosphere of this area of town in a good way, and I am glad to have it on my list of regular hangouts.  Plus, I have honestly never had so much fun at church.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A Georgia Musicians Challenge for 2011

This is official.

Pink Pompeii are playing Fri Jan 14th @ the Drunken Unicorn

If you are a Georgian musician or local music fan, especially one in Atlanta, we are challenging you.

We all get into a rut of sorts.  Not that we realize that its a rut.  Its just a comfortable pattern actually.  We go out to see the bands we know, with the friends we have on speed dial at the same old places we have been going for a decade.  This is nice.  This is comfortable.  This is community.  And it's one of the things I love about living here.

However, before I knew a soul here, I would venture out to see people I didn't know play in bands I had never heard of before and what did I find? Amazing music made by interesting people that made me want to put my roots down here in Georgia and stay put.

So, what if we go back?  What if we approach things as if we weren't completely comfortable?  Explore our own city through music we have never heard before? Challenge ourselves to show up for the openers, drag out friends that have never seen these bands and listen with open ears and minds.

For the year of 2011, we make this challenge:  Each month, we want you to go see one (yes, only 1) local (non-national) band you have never seen before that is made up of people that are not close friends. It can be the guy who works at your coffee shop or the girl who makes your favorite vodka tonic but it can't be someone you can call up to help you move a couch or you have dinner with on a regular basis.  It can even be the opener of your friends band, but to stay true to the spirt of things it would be really cool if it was a complete bill of bands you had never seen before.

That's 12 bands in 12 months.  It's easy.  It will be liberating.

And we want you to report back!

The Guidelines:
- 1 local Georgia (non-national) band you have never seen before
- Made up of people that are not close friends
- See 12 of these bands in 12 months (average 1 per month)

Resources for shows:
Stomp and Stammer's "Get Out"
Creative Loafing

A few suggestions of where you could start:
Fri. Jan 14th || The NEC @ the Earl Friday
Fri. Jan 14th || Pink Pompeii @ The Drunken Unicorn
Thurs. Jan 20th || Baby Baby @ The Drunken Unicorn
Fri. Jan 21 || Kuroma @ the 40 Watt
Sun. Jan 30th || Tag Team @ The Earl's Dunch
Mon. Jan 31||  Jan The Humms @ the 40 Watt

Let's challenge ourselves while supporting our music community.
January is already half over - Let's get to it!

email suggestions for future shows to andy gish at g mail dot com

Monday, January 10, 2011

REM's Radio Free Europe is Chosen for the Library of Congress National Recording Registry

Contributed by: Andy Gish

The Library of Congress apparently collects 25 recordings each year that they feel should be preserved forever.  REM's Radio Free Europe has been chosen as part of its "National Recording Registry". They chose the original version of the song that was released as a single, not the one that was later released on Murmur.

Thanks to Studio 360  for posting these:

The first clip below is a really cool interview with Mike Mills and Mitch Easter (who recorded it) and Mike Henry (who originally played it on UGA radio) all looking back at Radio Free Europe:

The second is a recording of one of their first shows at Tyrone's in Athens, GA:

REM Flyer from 1981 - Courtesy of Al Shelton

Tyrone's apparently burned down in 1982.  It was located at 110 Foundry Street, very close to where Flagpole Magazine currently sits. 

REM Flyer from 1981 - Courtesy of Al Shelton 

Also check out this site for other REM landmarks.

View Larger Map

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Bringing in 2011, Bringing Myself Home: Abby Gogo, the NEC and The East Pole

Contributed by: Andy Gish

I want 2011 to be different.

Twenty-ten (I like saying it that way) was fabulous, but I want 2011 to be better, more introspective, more loving, warm and "special" in some way.  And where does that start?  Right here.  Right now.  At home.  In my neighborhood and in yours.

I just went on a pilgrimage to see a city that I had heard about in songs and read about in books.  I was so excited to see these things first hand: The streets, the buildings, the music, the people.  It was refreshing, cleansing, joyful.  And when I returned  home I made a decision. To love Atlanta, Georgia through the same eyes through which I loved Winnipeg.

So what does this mean?  This means that me and a few of my cohorts are going to start encouraging each other and encouraging YOU to see through new eyes. To challenge ourselves and to challenge you -- to see and experience more of what our streets, our venues and our people have to offer.  To learn the stories behind the stories.  To tell these stories.  To support each of them, this city and this state.

Thus, we birth this blog which we want to feature people, places and music that make this great state unique.  We will feature them here, introduce them to you and encourage you to seek out the same kind of uniqueness on our streets.

Yep, I suspect this is going to be semi-Atlanta-centric at first, but it's not meant to be.  Part of the challenge is to look beyond the city and challenge ourselves to to venture there too.

And it all starts here.

Georgia Music in My Heart:
I have been playing music in Atlanta for over a decade.  I love, love, love the music that this great state sprouts.  But do I do my part to support that music? Do I still show up for the openers if I don't already know who is in the band?  Do I encourage friends who have not seen these bands to come with me?  Well, sometimes I do.  I did just co-host Canadian radio show and played a bunch of Georgia Music.  But surely I could do more, much more.

So, on New Years Eve this year I decided to turn a new leaf.  To lead by example.  To put on new spectacles and go to a concert where I knew no one in any of the bands and to drag my best friend with me.  Going to the Star Bar was nothing new.  The first time I stepped foot in that place was in 1999 to see Ultra Baby Fat and the Butterflies and I ended up giving CPR to someone on the sticky floor.  She started breathing again and lived.  I thought about never stepping foot in there again.  But 11 years later, I still live around the corner and I am still going there and just like 1999, to see bands I had never seen before.

The NEC @ The Star Bar NYE

What I saw was lovely, encouraging and I was completely entertained. We Georgians are still delivering  really good new music. It was packed, but with very few people I knew.  I know hundreds of Atlanta musicians so how could none of them be there?  I mean it was NYE and there was a lot going on, but is our music scene so disjointed that it does not overlap at least by a few people?  Well if so, that is just gonna have to change.

Abby Gogo @ The Star Bar NYE 2011

If you have not seen Abby Gogo, I encourage you to.  They are pretty darn talented.  They remind me of when I was 15 going to see Ride, My Bloody Valentine and Jesus and Mary Chain on school nights and falling asleep in algebra class the next day (Thanks mom for *knowing* that there was more to life than high school).  It's not that this has not been done before but they do it well and make me proud. Good songs, good stage presence and really lush comfy guitar sounds.  They remind me a lot of the bands I was listening too when I lived in San Francisco in 2008.  It's so nice to have something like this in Atlanta.  We should open our ears to them, support them and encourage them.

I also saw another band that was new to me called The NEC.  They were quirky, shoe-gazy with a dash of surf.  They were energetic and entertaining and totally worth checking out.  The lead singer looks like he is the love child of a bunch of local indie rockers: Matt Glagola (The Liverhearts, the Preakness), Matt Chenoweth (Brain Box, Exiles on Mainstreet) and Jimmy (From Spectralux and our beloved Earl bartender), all of which are cute and talented boys which I adore. So, what's not to love.

It looks like The NEC are playing January 14th at The Earl with Sovus Radio and All the Saint.  You should consider checking them out.

Find more artists like abby gogo at Myspace Music

Find more artists like The N.E.C. at Myspace Music

I wanted to stick around to see the Howlies, but the show was running hours late so we headed to The East Pole as I had never been there before either.  Is it a venue?  art space?  practice space?  Do people live there? I am not sure.  I plan on investigating and reporting back.  It did have a hip atmosphere with the "anti-stage" or sunken dance floor, a fire pit and a clean mens' room (I never did find the "ladies' room"). We drunken-danced to Arcade Fire (which tells you I had had plenty to drink already). So, I should wait for another visit for a formal report.  It seems like a fun place to have a party though.

Still Standing at the East Pole

So this is how I am starting out 2011.  Sitting at Aurora per usual, jittery from my quad-Americano with Dion on the stereo, watching people checking out the mosaic of posters, planning their months around concerts.  Any hint of jadedness has been wiped from my spectacles, a new challenge at hand and a grin on my face knowing 2011 is gonna be different.  I am gonna make it so.

Why on earth did I get the Quad-Americano?