MUSIC MIDTOWN 2003 | AN ATLANTA FESTIVAL

Music Midtown | Atlanta, GA | 05.02 - 05.04

Photos: Adam Gulledge

Les Claypool

Eenor

Skerik

The Colonel
My first review outside Athens took me all the way to a place called Atlanta, GA. I arrived at the Music Midtown festival Friday afternoon wearing my “vixen vamp” outfit, which consisted of a black skirt with exposed white stitching at the seams, and a matching-exposed white stitching-tank top, black bra ($100 retail-$10 new on ebay) straps exposed. The first musical act I wished to see was Les Claypool's Frog Brigade. The Frog Brigade brought their unique style of electrified quirkiness. You take away all the lyrics, all the costumes, all the physical actions and there is still something humorous about this band. The actual music kind of made a smirk come across my face. Ain’t no Steven Wright monotone comedy either. Claypool’s funny sound had muscles to it. At one point in his set, he busted out a skinny funny looking bass; unfortunately for our ears the gag didn’t go. This bass seemed to give Les electrical shocks due to the rain that had just begun. Oh well. I took it as a sign to see what else was out there. Getting a little groove in my step, I maneuvered my way through the thousands all the way to the complete opposite side of the festival grounds.

I arrived at the Fox 5 stage for the very end of Particle’s set. Particle brought their high energy “space porn.” At least that is what they call it. I however didn’t see any lunar licking, nor asteroid aching, not even a simple star tickle. But I may have heard it. The particle boys got an extra wave of energy (as if they needed it) from the oncoming storm. Lightning, dancing rain drops, and roller coaster gusts of wind came cruising from the back side of the stage and through to the other side where the crowd hopped on for the ride. The combination of the music and weather had everyone in the crowd getting down. And up again. And then back down. 'Cause they were dancing, you know? So, what I saw of Particle was good. They most certainly have found a spot for themselves in what the kids seem to be calling the "trance-rock" genre.

Next up: a DJ and then The Disco Biscuits. Unfortunately the woman upstairs wasn’t having any of it. She threw down rain pellets by the gazillions. Flashed her flashlight, and got thunderous strike after thunderous strike in her revamped bowling alley (it is now a rock-n-roll bowling alley). Two yellow and white tents were left empty. No one really knows what they were originally for. Now they made a perfect spot for keeping dry. Between the two tents, maybe 100 of us stayed rain free. Most of the other folks left the festival. The rain did not let up. Sometime around one or two hours later, the group I was with decided to leave. They said they got word that the festival was going to be cancelled for the night. I walked my friends to the gate to see what the deal was. After realizing that no one knew, I said my goodbyes and headed back to the tent (solo- and drenched). When I got back, the same folks were in the tent, but they told me that just a minute before they all had moved the tent from it’s current location on the side about row 50 to 10th row center. All this happened, and the tent was brought back to its original location in the short time I was gone. I didn’t believe it, but in a few minutes I would find out that they weren’t lying. It was about two hours into the delay when the brilliant folks in my tent decided to once again pick up our rain shelter and transport it to a prime location for The Biscuits. I walked in the now mobile tent to its destination 10th row center. I walked out when the tent again became stationary, only to find the rain had stopped. Security took the rain shelter back to its proper location just in time for The Biscuits to take the stage.


Brownie waiting for the rain to stop.
From rain shelter to note shredder. Yes the man they call, “Barber,” big hair, big guitar and all came out shredding. The Biscuits exploited the crowd's freshly rested, and soggy bodies and caused 'em to dance. Shit, I don’t dance to just anything. A music must invite me to dance in polite form. It must ask Ms. Madeline Modeliste’s hand to the ballroom dance floor. Either that or it must grab my hand and run like hell. Biscuits did the latter, because before I realized what was going on my legs were bouncing (yes, those legs, the one’s you just couldn’t stop staring at). There is something eerie about The Disco Biscuits music but at the same time fun. Something that brings the dark side out but puts a sly grin on the face of that darkness. The Disco Biscuits' music is trick. To take a phrase from the Wolof Language in Africa - I “dig.” I dug and kept on digging until I had to leave. Physca-trona-delica with a human pulse that just won’t stop thumping. They thumped, and thumped, and thumped 'til they woke all of Music Midtown up.

I got my get, and got on. Bisco still pulsated through my adorable little body, but I still had to leave. You see, Bob Dylan supposedly had started his delayed set. And I thought that the B-52's (my personal all time favorite band) were on as well. Unfortunately for my stupid ass neither of them had started and I missed the end of The Biscuits set for nothing! By the way, no one else is allowed to call me a stupid ass. I am the only dumb ass allowed to do that.

So, I get down to where Dylan is supposed to be on. But it isn’t Dylan at all. It is something very, very different. Something bad. Something so mediocre I could almost puke. Finally I did. The music of Sheryl Crow actually made me puke. But I still looked good. Shit, I had just finished puking and boys were still hitting on me. At any rate, I had to leave the area, I had to get away from Sheryl Crow, and I mean far away.

Photos: Adam Gulledge

Hunter Brown | STS9

Vince Herman

Drew Emmitt
I stumbled around, cheap beer in hand, and fell upon a gem. It was the end of Steve Winwood's set. Randall Bramblett was up on stage with Winwood’s band. And they were playing them some "Low Spark." Well actually not some "Low Spark," but all of "Low Spark." Crisp beautiful rendition, which led them into a great version of "Dear Mr. Fantasy," which led me out of that stage area and back to where Dylan was set to come on.

Dylan was Dylan is Dylan. Always has been Dylan (except for when he was Robert Zimmerman), and always will be Dylan (unless he marries me and becomes Mr. Bob Modeliste- huh?). Anyway, Dylan. It’s hard to critique someone of that statue so instead I’ll just throw the idea of a Mad Mode Dylan marriage out there.

Before Dylan could finish, Mad Mode got her Athens boogie back and wandered back to the stage where the B-52s had already been rocking for some time now. D’oh! Oh well. What I saw wasn’t much different than when I reviewed them here. Which is just complete 70’s swamp funk, groove child, ageless, timeless, goofiness with a groove. Talking Heads meets “Monster Mash.” Shit was on. All in the crowd felt that fun from the front of the stage. The Athens rockers apologized for the short set due to the rain delay, and then asked what we would like to hear "Love Shack" or "Rock Lobster." "Rock Lobster" pulled in about 98% of the vote and hasn’t made its way out of my head sense.

Unfortunately didn’t make it back to the Bisco stage to see Sound Tribe Sector 9. Couldn’t make the trance-rock trio: Particle, Biscuits, STS9. But Saturday will bring a bunch more musical madness.

On an Athens Scale of 5: Particle got two and half energy boosts to go in their smoothie at Planet Smoothie. Not that they need any.

Biscuits got 4. Four, well Biscuits and gravy from Weaver D’s. You know that shit is automatic. Automatic for Mad Mode’s readers.

Sheryl Crow gets 1 chunk.

Steve Winwood and his band gets a 3. Three tapioca balls at the bottom of my bubble tea from Infusia on Broad.

Bob Dylan gets.... Wait a minute, I ain’t ranking Dylan that’d be a disrespect to everything that is American.

And the B-52s get a perfect 5, which is virtually impossible to get out of the Athens area, but they did it any way. They get five bricks. Five of the bricks that make up the wall that holds in the roots of the tree that owns itself just a few blocks outside of Athens downtown area.

Photos: Adam Gulledge

MMW

Billy Martin

John Medeski

Chris Wood
Day two of Music Midtown found Mad Modeliste dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, and sneaks (I didn’t feel like dressing up again in front of so many folks. The constant attention that young boys were giving me was getting annoying.)

I braved the rain again, to go hear Jorma Kaukonen. The handsome strong chested looking man sung and played his guitar with gentile qualities. His band was called Jorma Kaukonen and Blue Country. Though it only consisted of him and a mandolin player. I believe the mandolin player has a more traditional name, but for now we’ll just call him Blue Country. Jorma and Blue Country played quite a few blues tunes that had that ragtime feel. The funny blues as I like to call it. Nothing better than some ragtime in the rain. He put a hic-cup in your step without ever scaring you. In other words, the music stuck with me for a long time. It was a good pick me up, for a long day ahead.

The next band I caught was none other than Die Trying. And on this cloudy Saturday at Music Midtown, they did just that, they died trying. This band was bad. It was sort of like Papa Roach meets my toilet. Kind of like how Papa Roach must have sounded at their very first rehearsal. Unfortunately for everyone in the crowd, this Sacramento based outfit was not in their rehearsal space. In fact this must have been there very last show ever. I do not know this for fact, but by listening to it for ten minutes I am pretty sure that Die Trying will never get up on stage in front of people ever again. Or at least I hope not. I did get a cool Die Trying sticker out of the deal, though!

By the time my sorry ass made it to the Z93 stage, Leftover Salmon was already on their last song. It sounded good, but I wouldn’t dare critique a band on a one song performance. Two songs- of course, but one song- not a chance in die trying hell.

Next on stage came a three-piece jazz band. It consisted of a stand-up bass player, a piano and keyboards player, and a drummer/percussionist. Of the three I’d have to say the mad scientist look went to the keyboard player. Not just his look but what he was doing with them keys too. Weird, fun stuff. The bass player grooved, with thick aggressive thumping bass lines, and the drummer was all over the place, seeming never to repeat a drum cycle in the exact same way. They went by their last names, something like Martin, Woodley, and Manchester. Or even sometimes by just their initials MWM? Something like that, I just forgot. What? What’s that? I hear you yelling at your computer but can’t make out what you are saying. Oh. MMW. I got it now, Medeski Martin & Wood. I know, I know, I was just messing with you. MMW, stayed in their groove for most of their set, not really ever getting too abstract (which could very easily happen at an MMW show). Their music was so rich on this day. It was thick and rich and proved to everyone Medeski Martin & Wood's musical achievement as a unit.

Photos: Adam Gulledge

G. Love

Joe Cocker

Crosby

Stills

Nash
At this point I tried to make my way over to the V103 stage, but the boys would not leave me alone. I swear. I’d take two steps and a boy would come up to me like he knew me. He knew he didn’t know me; he just wanted to stop me to see if he could win me over. Ha. Nice try, got going again, but then, d’oh, another boy, another pathetic pick up line. And another and another. I kid you not, my trek to the V103 stage should have taken me five to ten minutes, my beauty had other ideas. Better luck next time Justin, Jason, Tito, Balou, Christian, and Boonkie Boonkie.

Finally I escaped just in time for Morris Day and the Time. Oww! Man, these guys were the funk. Not that I thought they actually played the best funk music- but they reacted like they did. They most certainly put on an entertaining show.

On my lovely little way cross fest-grounds to see Tony Bennett, I heard a tad of Saliva. I won’t even comment on Saliva. In fact the word Saliva belongs nowhere in this review, so take it out, pretend I never said Saliva. This review is officially 100% Saliva free. By the way, I think they sucked.

But Tony Bennett most certainly did not suck. From the second he dared to take a lounge step forward on the same stage that The Disco Biscuits tore it up on, you knew it was on. Tony and his band played the first song with monitor speakers on only (if that), barely anyone in the crowd could hear anything. But Tony and the band just kept on. Kept on smiling and playing like there was no technical difficulties at all. Many in the crowd shouted, “Turn on the speakers, turn it up!” “Your mic's not on, Tony!” “Die Trying Sucked!” and so forth and so on. Maybe 40 of the thousands there could hear him. Yet the man still managed to give the crowd a sly lounge style “thank you” after a normal crowd clapping part of the song. But then, second song, we had full power. Now everyone got the real Tony Bennett. His voice, band, and entire show were quite impressive. The only trouble I had with his show was trying to stop my laughter. Great time.

Before it was over I went back eastside (actually I have no clue which direction it was) to see Crosby Stills & Nash. The legends just didn’t stop at this festival: Bob Dylan, the B-52s, Tony Bennett, Saliva, and now Crosby Stills & Nash. Mixing new with old, CSN won over the crowd early. Like early, not early in the set, but early in everyone’s lives. Of course CSN won everybody over, everyone loves their music. This being said, and knowing this going in, I’d like to say that they did sound like they sound, which is exactly how I wanted to hear them. Thumbs up to CSN, wait a minute I don’t do that stuff, I do the Athens scale of 5, and on an Athens scale of 5 CSN gets a 3 and a half.

Three shots of their choice at City Bar, and the half broken heart I had when I found out that Neil Young was not going to join 'em.

Jorma and Blue Country get 4. Four minutes with me out on the town!

Die Trying gets negative 10. Give me my goddamn wasted 10 minutes back.

MMW gets Three. Rebecca, Steven, and Olivia, my three ski-bum neighbors who won’t stop talking about the snow, “Powder, dude, it’s so sweet.” So friggin sweet, then move back to Colorado!

Morris Day and the time get a 2. Two cheesy chicken wraps from Gyro Wrap.

Tony Bennett gets 3. Three Marvelous Uptown Stuffed Filet’s from Harry Bissett’s New Orleans Cafe.

On the final day of the fest, I saw a few really interesting musical acts, but all of these could be put in a shopping cart and rolled down a dead end street “straight to hell” for all I care. Sure, the Drive-by Truckers kicked mine and all the other fuckers in the crowds’ arses with reckless abandon (but that is nothing new). And sure Drivin-n-Cryin put on a top shelf performance as they usually do. Susan Tedeschi impressed the shit out of me. Not literally, I waited for that 'til I got home. But all this didn’t matter. All these great Sunday performances were an after thought for me. It wasn’t that they weren’t excellent, because some of them most certainly were. In fact I ran into our friend Jomo down there, and he told me that the Truckers had him rocking harder than he’s ever rocked before. However, there was one band that caused me to forget all of this. This band forced me to forget all that happened that day, except for them.

Photos: Adam Gulledge

JJ Grey

Bob Weir

Matt Abts

Warren Haynes
It all started with a bottle of red. Then my trek down to the ole fest grounds. Got down to the stage just in time for Gomez. Now I had never seen this band perform before, but it didn't make a damn difference either way. These boys from Britain came out with the sun. They shone their tunes on me, in me, all over me. Their music at a glance sounded like good ole earthy roots rock and roll. But with voices like that, you know they are from England. Then as if trying to confuse me, they threw a modern twist to their old age rhythmic sounds. There is nothing more annoying to me than a band that’ll throw ten gamillion different kinds of music together in a show just to prove they can do it. Nothing more annoying than the look on their faces saying, “Ha, see I told you we can do it.” Now, let me assure you, this was not the case with Gomez. They do indeed, touch the tops of old and new rock and roll, but all there music is distinctively Gomez. In the likes of great roots rock and roll bands such as Widespread Panic or the Band, these guys continually pay homage to the depths of the genre while simultaneously creating their own unique sound.

Their dynamics of instrumentation also was something to write home about (or in my case, write JamBase about). The show started off with a drummer, a percussionist, a bass player, two guitarists, and a singer. However, by the second song in the set, the singer picked up his guitar. Then by the next song, one of the guitarists switched to keyboards. The dynamics of their voices also was Mad Mode approved. Lead vocal duties were pretty much tossed around between three of them. All of which were intriguing. Did I mention they jam? Well at least on songs that called for it. But not in the “lead guitar noodling to nowhere” kind of jams. There jams were focused, all energy flowing, unit jams.

I could already hear it, “Damn Mad, you had nothing bad at all to say about Gomez’ set.” Well that ain’t true at all. It became so hot, by the end of the set, that I almost passed out. But I kept my composure and did not sit down on the grass. I would have if I wanted to, but I knew that if I did there would be some boys near by that might lose any kind of control that they may have once had, by seeing me sitting or laying down on the grass. So I remained standing. Other than that, Gomez rocked the shit super hard.

On an Athens scale of 5, Gomez got a 5. What?! Huh?! But Mad, ain’t that impossible? Don’t you have to be from Athens, and in Athens to receive a perfect 5? Well, duh, yes. Of course, unless you are called Gomez. Five weeks of recording at John Keane's studio here in town.

Words: Madeline Modeliste
Photos: Adam Gulledge
JamBase | Georgia
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[Published on: 5/21/03]

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