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Midtown Festival, Atlanta,May 1-3, 1998

Music Midtown is a carnival of music, food, people, and fun that takes place in Atlantaonce a year.  There are multiple stages that reflect diverse musical interests likerock, jazz, funk, reggae, country, alternative, pop, and the local Atlanta scene.  Where South by Southwest is an industry event,
Midtown is certainly for the masses.  They come out in droves.  Approximately200,000 attend the three day event.  As always with these festivals, I have tooaggressive plans to see everyone, and due to time, double-bookings, sleeping late, andconflicts of interests with the others in my crowd, I just can't seem to squeezeeverything in.  However, I did get to catch some very cool bands, some that I hadmissed at past events.

Friday night was a beautiful evening and the crowds were already swelling.  The firstband I saw was Memory Dean, a Georgia band with abig following.  They had a nice alterna/rock sound with songs "Pain" and"So Complicated" from their current CD Shake It Up.  Next up was a greatband called Eve 6.    From Los Angeles, with songslike "Showerhead" (something about his girlfriend taking a shower with hisfriend), "Small Town Trap", and "Inside Out", they sound like a GreenDay/Third Eye Blind mix.  Being a fan of neither of those bands, the combination inEve 6 provides a pleasant synergy.  The clincher was a fantastic cover of Peter,Paul, and Mary's "Leavin' on a Jetplane", giving the 60s classic a power punkfeel.  I hope I can get that one on disk.  I just found out that I'd be seeingthem again soon at the Q101 Jamboree in Chicago overMemorial Day Weekend!

After that, things get a little fuzzy.  I remember seeing Son Volt, a very good mellow, country sounding rockband, much like some of the countryish Gin  Blossoms tunes.  However, I don'tremember a darn thing about any of their songs.  Their half hour set pretty much runstogether.  After that, we watched a bit of PaulaCole on the big screen from the hill, as many, many folks were there to see her.  Too much exposure has soured me on Paula, but having seen her before in a moreintimate venue experience has shown me the pure talent she possesses.  Regardless,she was a crowd pleaser at this festival singing all the hits, "Cowboys","Me",and  "I Don't Want to Wait".

On Saturday, I had all the best intentions to make it in early to see Fuel with their new song"Shimmer", but a late night and oversleeping prevented anything from happeninguntil about 3pm.  I did get there in time to see Fastball, the Austin band that Imissed at South By Southwest.  They have a great new song that is getting muchcommercial play these days in "The Way", a true story about an old couple whohits the road in a Winnebago and is never heard from again.  The song has a uniquehook and a chorus you'll find yourself humming all day long (as a matter of fact, myfriend, Curt, just stopped in as I was writing this and he was singing it as he camethrough the door).  From their current CD "All the Pain Money Can Buy",Fastball mixes heavy alternative sounds with introspective lyrics.  My friend, Dean,called their sound by describing it like Dave Edmunds, which was confirmed by the AtlantaJournal-Constitution ("Dave Edmunds singing an Elvis Costello tune").  I only wish I had come up with that comparison (I guess that's why I still writefor a non-revenue web site).  I found a few of their songs to be a bit reminiscent ofone of my favorite bands that is no longer, MaterialIssue.  With songs like, "Sweetwater, TX" and "Slow Drag",this trio proves musical diversity from ballads to the rocking.

After Fastball, Saturday was a whirlwind with Drivin'and Cryin', with memorable tunes "I'm Goin' Straight to Hell (Just Like My MamaSaid)" and "Fly Me Courageous", Drivin' and Cryin' interchanges almostmetal rock with southern rock true to their Atlanta roots.  Later in the evening, wewere treated to the sounds of Sister Hazel,though we could barely get close enough to see the screen (check out my other reviews ofthem in more intimate settings in my Review section) and Foo Fighters, which we again retreated to our hill.  Realizing that David Byrnewas playing the stage right behind us, we decided to check him out.  We were notdisappointed.  David Byrne gave a truly bizarre performance, complete with costumechanges that would make even Reba McIntire proud.  We first see Dave with a tight  powder blue leisure suit, next in plaid tartan kilt and later for his encore ofPsycho Killer in a full body suit (head to toe) that look liked someone peeled his skinoff to exposure his muscular structure.  Pleasantly disturbing!  The TalkingHeads tunes were the highlight.  Afterwards, we ran into a very subdued Byrne at alocal hotel bar with other members of his band.

bigwreck.JPG (8474 bytes)Sunday morning was also filled with good intentions, but again I arrived latefor the Greensboro, NC band, Athenaeum and Letters to Cleo, but just in time for Big Wreck, more like Big Soundgarden Rip Off,lead singer having the Chris Cornell impersonation to a T.  Their one radio song,"The Oaf",  was the most pleasantly melodic of their set, the rest a retroto the Seattle grunge sounds of earlier this decade. 



semi2.JPG (8394 bytes)Now to the highlight ofthe entire event for me, causing me to stay at the festival until I had not another minuteto spare to make my plane back to Houston.  Semisonicis a great band out of Minneapolis with current song "Closing Time".  WhenI first heard it a while back, it rang strongly familiar and I was able to place thevocals to that of a band out of my past, Trip Shakespeare.  I used to listen to themon an alternative station in Ohio and even had some of their CDs.  Well, after muchsearching, I did discover that two of the members of Semisonic had actually been in TripShakespeare, particularly Dan Wilson, lead vocalist.  Finally everything was comingtogether.  Trip Shakespeare is discovered and I get to see them live. Anyway, it was a great set, I loved every song and am absolutely infatuated with Dan.  Hisvocals are sometimes nasal and monotone and others a high falsetto, his appearance that ofan artsy intellectual, making for a mixture that is strangely seductive.  Highlightswere "Never You Mind" with a Star Trek reference as motivation, "CompetelyPleased", dedicated to all the guys who let their girlfriends sit on their shouldersat rock concerts on hot summer days, "DND (Do Not Disturb)",  and anawesome Prince cover, paying homage to a fellow Minneapolian.  With this trio, eachmember of the band displayed diverse talent, each playing the keyboard at different times,thus defining their full sound.  At one point, the drummer was actually playing thekeyboard with one hand and drumming with the other.  Their lyrics are introspectiveyet fun and their sound runs the gamut of hard to ballad and that's all within the samesong.  I must see them again!!! Please come to Houston, Semisonic.  I'mlistening to their CD as I write this and find myself   "Feeling StrangelyFine", which by the way, is the appropriate name of their disk.

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Other moments of the festival included a few popins on Anne Murray, Vonda Shepard (ofAlley McBeal fame), and Kool and the Gang, adding to the diversity of the festival's musicmix.  A great time with fun and music in the sun.  This is the last year at itscurrent Midtown Atlanta location.  Right now they are searching for a new home, butstill plan to be back next year.  Last year's was great as well, so check out myreview of Midtown 97.

On That Note, I'm outta here......


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