Sunday, December 28, 2008

Coffee shops serve up more than than espresso these days

Ever since Phoebe serenaded her Friends at Central Perk with ‘Smelly Cat’, coffee shops and live music have gone hand in hand. Locally owned coffee shops such as Danneman’s, Aurora, Java Monkey, and Kavarna with their eclectic aesthetics and local musical acts bring a welcome reprieve to a city saturated with Starbuck’s. Coffee house performance spaces are making a comeback on the scene, especially with the increasing popularity of singer/songwriter and folk music. People can see true talent in a small venue and enjoy a chai tea and biscotti with their friends all in their own backyard. Areas such as Decatur, Virginia-Highlands, and the Old Fourth Ward are where many of these cafes call home.

“People just kind of come in and ask to play,” says Kate Pedrick, owner of Danneman’s Coffee in the Old Fourth Ward. “We don’t have a regular schedule of artists, but we do host several events such as Painters and Poets, Tango lessons on the first and third of every month, and Sunday Dinner.” explains Pedrick while making a latte. Sunday Dinner is like a jam session for local DJ’s, where they mix and sample their own, and each other’s, music.

“You’ll just be downstairs [during Painters and Poets] and all of a sudden you’ll hear this loud cheering from upstairs. It’s pretty crazy.” Pedrick says with a smile.

Danneman’s, a renovated old grocery store, has two levels. The Downstairs is a cozy space with couches and a few high top tables, while The Upstairs is where musicians take the stage on the charmingly worn hardwood floors. They even recently hosted a CitySearch event where Missy Gossip & the Secret Keepers was the in-house headliner.

While some places stick strictly to drip coffee and cappuccinos, others such as Kavarna in Decatur offer up friendly baristas, an expanded food menu, and a large selection of beer and wine when just a simple cup of joe won’t do. The stage in the front corner is large and inviting to any artist who is lucky enough to play on the Thursday, Friday, or Saturday nights that the shop hosts entertainment. The art on the walls is a visual seizure, and will inspire even the most tone deaf and lyrically challenged shower singer to grab a guitar and take the stage.

As the days go on, every Atlanta neighborhood will surely have their share of quirky coffee houses with brilliant musical acts. The symbiotic relationship between musicians and coffee houses is strong and will only increase as performance spaces are being factored into the renovations of old buildings, and artists are being booked for bi-monthly or weekly appearances. In the end, everybody wins as local business stay busy, local artists gain new fans, and coffee shop patrons satisfy not just their caffeine fix, but enjoy a tasty treat for their musical sweet tooth.

But that's just This Girl talking...

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Back to square one...

So This Girl got some disturbing news yesterday. The magazine that I write for, Performer Magazine, is just another casualty of the failing economy. I received an e-mail yesterday stating the Performer will no longer exist in the southeast, which means that I am now writing for no one. This does not bode well for my dream of becoming a music journalist, you see. I have thought of my options, contacted a few people, and am not above grovelling to anyone reading this to give me a shot at writing for you. I will accept payment in dollars, Moe's lunches, or hugs. I was supposed to review a show last night and needless to say that didn't happen. I am keeping my fingers crossed that over the next year as things bottom out and then start back uphill in our economy, I will find something or somebody who needs a talented and enthusiastic writer (me for all those wondering) for their publication. Help!

But that's just This Girl talking...

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The greatest band you've never heard of

There are good bands that you have heard of, maybe have one or two of their songs on your iPods; Oasis, Snow Patrol, Linkin Park. Then there are the legendary bands that is a staple on everyone's playlist; U2, The Beatles, Led Zepplin. But what about those bands, the ones that are just as good the first time you hear them as the hundredth time? These are the bands that not everyone has heard of, or even heard on the radio, or even heard at all. These are the bands that are specific to the person who hears it, who makes a judgement whether it's good or bad, if they choose to play the CD or skip to the next. I am here to tell you of your new favorite band, and is the greatest band that you've never heard of: Dayroom.

Dayroom is a funky but softer alt rock band that formed and based themselves out of the college town of Athens, GA in the 90's. Unless you attended a southeastern college during the last decade you most likely do not recognize the line "Come over anytime/We'll open a bottle of cheap wine/Wake up stinking like a wild Irish Rose." I can tell you that this line from Dayroom's most famous song, Cheap Wine, made every college co-ed and frat boy alike line up at the drive-thru of Sam's Package and order bottles upon bottles of Boone's Farm to drink at their apartment before hitting the bars while listening to the catchy tune. The song comes from their second studio album Contagious, which is also host to several other ditties with ridiculous lyrics like "I keep getting older and you keep looking like death warmed over." from Wait a Minute or "Turn the key and push the gas/It's time you move your ass/I've got no time to waste/Your shitty little car's gonna make me late." on Time Bomb where the driver seems to be possessed with a nasty bout of road rage for 6 minutes and 58 seconds.

From the time you listen to the title track, Contagious, you are hooked by the voice of lead singer Michael Winger, who sounds as if he is singing through his teeth in anger, but it comes out like he's having the time of his life. Backup keyboards and an almost whiney guitar keep the song moving and really set the tone for the rest of the album. It is next to impossible to listen to Contagious without getting out of your seat and moving around, or even just crack a smile and burst into laughter. The songs are so catchy and Winger sounds like he's having so much fun singing them that you can't wait to relisten to the lyrics just so you can memorize them and join in the party. As the album continues, there are more than a few references to sex and nighttime fun with tracks like Lying Awake and Come on Over which act as tantric foreplay to the climax of Contagious. It makes you wonder if the songs are about and particular girl or if the band just needed to get laid. Either way, the songs work and put the finishing touches on a superb breakthrough album.

They say it's better to go out on top, and with Dayroom's third and final studio album Better Days, they did just that. The beginning is absolute perfection with Winger's guitar riff and inviting lyrics "Come in and sit down for a while/Come in and I'll sing you a lullaby," in Not Enough. The title track is the type of song that starts a little soft but explodes towards the end and is guaranteed to have you singing at the top of your lungs in your car. This album has a little more depth to it than Contagious, with a few more ballad-type songs and a little less sexual inuendo. There is even a full out love song with Till I Die, which was written for a band member's finace. Keyboardist James Riddle takes his turn on the mic on Condo with a piano led chorus that states, "I eat my soul food from a can/This world is small and it's all in our hands." It's non-sequitors like this that add to Dayroom's charm. They use background noises like car horns, house keys, and even a hint of R2D2 from Star Wars in their songs and this creates an atmosphere of good times with good friends and good drinks.

Crazy is addictive with a sharp chorus of "Bang! Bang!/Slam the door!/It's quarter to 4!/It's time to go to sleep!/I guess I'll sleep on the floor." Are they sending a message to the college students of UGA in Athens, or just merely repeating a story after a night out with the boys? Crazy is to Better Days what Cheap Wine is to Contagious. Finishing with an acoustic sounding Maybe is a genius set-up to the last track Postcards From a Midwestern Salesman. It's like the band knew this was their last album and were waving goodbye with an encore to finish their 8 year career. If Dayroom welcomed you to come in and sit down for a while, then they wish you farewell with "So I get up/It's time to wake up and leave/I put my bag on my back and my heart on my sleeve/I head out the door/And know what I left behind me."

Dayroom is by far one of the most talented bands of the 90's, even if they didn't really leave the CD players of college students from UGA. Their albums can still be found for sale online, and are contributors to many complation albums out of Athens. They can even be found on myspace, even if the members disbanded in 2000, only to reunite once in 2001 for a sold out show at the Georgia Theater (I was there and it was absolutely electric). I suggest buying the albums and use your time stuck in traffic to your advantage: have some fun singing along to Dayroom, the greatest band you've never heard of.

But that's just This Girl talking...