It seemed interesting that Cumulus Radio in Atlanta (Rock 100.5, 99X, Q100, and 680 The Fan) would put together a series of live remote appearances with some local sports stars at a regional electronics and appliances retailer for a contest promotion. Well, perhaps not interesting in and of itself, but the timing was interesting in that the whole thing went down in the wake of the announcement to move the Thrashers to Winnipeg. Chris Thorburn and Eric Boulton graciously gave their time to meet and greet with fans who wanted to say goodbye and thank you for helping to legitimise hockey in Atlanta. The Thrashers tent consistently had people waiting in line for autographs and photos while seemingly no one cared about meeting Hawks or Braves alumni.
I kinda felt bad for former Brave Mark “The Lemmer” Lemke, as he looked a bit bored since no one wanted him to sign anything, but he was nice enough to sign a bunch of his bubblegum cards for me, and he’s not going anywhere, anyway. Thor and Bolt are picking up and leaving amidst much controversy that left die-hard, loyal fans hanging to dry, so it’s understandable that people would come out in droves.
Anyway, I’m going to refrain from making this an article spewing hate for Atlanta Spirit Group, The NHL, and Winnipeg, because that’s a topic for another day. The point here is that I/we got to say thanks to our players, and get a souvenir of what could be the last time NHL plays in our city. In addition to getting my hockey stick signed, I managed to score a handful of prizes for being able to name more beers than anyone else. One of those prizes was a pair of tickets to see a band called Rehab at Wild Bill’s in Duluth.
Now, with very few exceptions, most of my knowledge of “new bands” ends somewhere around the year 2000, and I’ve always had a sincere distaste for anything labeled “Rap N Rock.” That being said, I can say that the name of the band did not ring a bell when I got the tickets. I asked a couple of my friends if they’d like to attend, to which I got the reply “Oh, hells [sic] yeah! It’ll be redneck-tacular!” or something like that.
For the record, I’m no stranger to being “redneck-tacular.” A few weeks ago, we partied at The Star Bar in Atlanta’s Little Five Points district during their Bubbapalooza music festival: A twenty-year-strong celebration of all things rockabilly from hot rods to barbeque and George Jones to George Thorogood. (The Star Bar also maintains a small Elvis Presley memorabilia exhibit, in eternal tribute to The King.) I grew up in a somewhat rural section of the metro area–before it was truly suburbia—back when it was mostly cow and horse pasture; I like fried chicken and collard greens; and I even drink Budweiser on occasion while listening to Charlie Daniels. I’ve been muddin’; I voted against Roy Barnes because of “the flag issue;” and I own a copies of Smokey and The Bandit, Cannonball Run, and The Dukes of Hazzard TV series (but not season 3 because the hell with Coy and Vance). I must say, though, that in order for me to truly let loose and enjoy being “redneck-tacular” in public, though, usually requires like-minded company and copious amounts of a special elixir colloquially referred to as ‘Merican beer.
All right, so the stage is set: Mary, Jon, and I are going to Wild Bill’s for a redneck-tacular concert by Rehab—who, as I just found out, recorded the “Bartender Song.” You know, the one about the guy who sees his girlfriend with another guy in the trailer park, loses his shit, crashes said girlfriend’s car, and calmly waits at the bar for the police to arrive? That one. This will require more than the requisite pint of ‘Merican beer. We all couldn’t help but notice the gratuitous pre-gaming going on in the parking lot, so we walked across the street to the AM-PM in favour of purchasing cheaper beer rather than paying the often exorbitant costs associated with beer at venues. By “walk,” of course, I mean “sprint across the parkway at a full clip to avoid traffic because there are no crosswalks or effective traffic signals.”
Fast-forward a little bit, and we’re back at the car, each drinking a fo’tee of either Icehouse or Budweiser (yeah, I splurged an extra twenty cents and bought the Bud). Now, lightly buzzed, we were ready for whatever Wild Bill’s had in store for us. After all, with a name like Wild Bill’s, one would expect men in Stetson hats and leather chaps to be bare-knuckle brawling constantly, smashing whiskey bottles over each others’ heads, dropping wagon wheel chandeliers onto poker games, or some such nonsense. At the very least, one would expect scantily-clad women in stiletto cowboy boots cage dancing over a bar, like they allude to on the website.
What we got was something entirely different: simply a large room with a stage on one end, a large dance floor, and a handful of small beer kiosks and bar tables that the other end. There were was a sculpture installed on one wall that looked like it had been built by Andy Worhol’s cousin from Texas (multi-coloured Stetson cowboy hats hanging in a large grid) and, opposite it, several acoustic guitars hanging in line behind a small bar. Let us not forget the brushed chrome, laser-cut stencil of what was apparently the Magnificent Seven hanging on another wall. I shouldn’t fail to mention the marble restroom décor complete with attendant. An attendant that would have probably offered to shake the last drop off for me in his desperate quest for tips. I honestly felt bad for the guy, but it was overshadowed by my disgust at this attempt to be a “classy nightspot.” The paper towel dispensers were, of course, empty, and I wasn’t about to wait in line to pay someone to dry my hands for me. Seriously, I’ve been to trendy clubs in Los Angeles and New York that had more authenticity and integrity. Wild Bill’s, I’m sorry, but you’re just the mirror location of Kennesaw’s Cowboys, and that’s all you ever will be—minus the “dust-sicles” hanging from the ceiling—so let’s not pretend we’re somewhere downtown, please? [EDIT: Apparently, Cowboys is closed as of sometime back in January. I guess that goes to show exactly how much I really cared about that joint.]
[EDIT 1/4/2017: Cowboys is now “The Electric Cowboy”, one of a chain of such establishments across the South]
Even this place has a restroom attendant now. What the hell?
All right, about the show. We missed the first act, RITTZ, because we were still trying to get Jon to finish his fo’tee, but that’s quite all right. Just for the record, I checked him out online, and it’s everything I was expecting and less. In fact, I just want to tell Jon thank you for enabling us to miss one of the crappiest rap acts I’ve never heard of, and I’m from the 1980’s! Hell, I remember Blondie’s “Rapture” and the “Super Bowl Shuffle” in all their cringe-inducing glory!
When we finally got inside, though, there was an amazing band, fronted by this really hot chick simply wailing on stage. Very high energy players, great musicianship, dynamic vocals, and a lot of flash! The three of us were immediately pulled in, completely absorbed in this hard rock band that we had no idea ever existed! Turns out that this band, Needeep, is a local act that has, according to their Facebook page, opened for Motley Crue, Sevendust, Theory of a Deadman, Godsmack, Buckcherry, and Shinedown (among others—these were the bands I recognised)! It seemed like everything they did was pure showmanship, but it was backed by actual talent—which, it seems, is harder and harder to come by in the rock scene. Not only do their vocalists have some seriously trained pipes, their drummer slaps some mean rhythms, and their guitarist has even been known to play behind his head (a laJimi Hendrix). Needeep is a lot of fun, and the music is simply great.
Then came the headliner. After a fairly nominal set change (about 20 minutes), a small instrumental band took the stage, offering a rather hard-hitting cover of the “Mission: Impossible Theme.” On the last chord, a skinny hipster in aviator sunglasses, mint-condition baseball cap, blue hoodie, and cargo shorts took the stage across from some sloppy fat white boy in a matching baseball cap, oversized t-shirt, and cargo shorts waddling across the stage pumping his fist and yelling something unintelligible into his microphone. The Fat One stumbled over to the drum riser and set down his beer before starting the next song. Apparently, this was Rehab.
If you ignore the Fat One, the show started pretty decently, as far as this type of act goes. The hipster proved himself to be a formidable rapper, and, along with the instrumentalists, made a decent little “rap n rock” act—for what it’s worth. Then the Fat One stumbled around with his beer and overmodulated microphone rambling things that I couldn’t even understand. Then I heard the sound effects. Call me a purist, but I feel like prerecorded sound effects have no business in live music. They’re questionable on studio albums, but—and let me make this abundantly clear—have absolutely no place in live music. Putting in sound effects makes the performance sound fake, and, in my opinion, relegates the act to the ilk of Ashlee Simpson and Milli Vanilli. I was willing to be nice and emphasise the band’s merits, but it’s much easier to act like you have energy when you’re not actually playing your instrument. They were even wearing their own shirts! I mean, Rehab was wearing t-shirts from Rehab’s current tour! Didn’t these guys ever learn The Rules? You NEVER wear your own band’s shirts; you can wear shirts of bands you like (preferably unsigned bands, to help promotion), but you NEVER, EVER wear your own band’s shirt! Honestly, I haven’t seen a musical act that I despised so much since Bling The Children Back Home weaseled their way into a set list with the great retro-core acts The Neskimos and The Hill Valley Preservation Society! We ended up sitting through about fifteen minutes of Rehab’s bullshit before deciding to leave, hitting-up Face’s Lounge in Marietta for some good ol’ fashioned karaoke.