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APRIL 27, 2016 · VOL. 30 · NO. 17 · FREE
t’s e k r a M e h t g i D New Digs p. 12
Athens Streets p. 8 · Refugees p. 10 · Alabama Shakes p. 14 · Human Rights Fest p. 20 · Advice p. 31
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this weekâ€™s issue
Joshua L. Jones
table of contents Pub Notes . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 Movie Reviews . . . . . . . . 19 Capitol Impact . . . . . . . . . . 6 Flick Skinny . . . . . . . . . . 19 This Modern World . . . . . . 6 The Calendar . . . . . . . . . 20 City Dope . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 Bulletin Board . . . . . . . . . 26 Refugees . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 Adopt Me . . . . . . . . . . . . 26 Indie South Fair . . . . . . . 12 Art Around Town . . . . . . . 27 The Locavore . . . . . . . . . 13 Classifieds . . . . . . . . . . . . 28 Alabama Shakes . . . . . . . 14 Crossword . . . . . . . . . . . . 29 Iris DeMent . . . . . . . . . . . 15 Sudoku . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29 Threats & Promises . . . . . 17 Local Comics . . . . . . . . . 30 Record Review . . . . . . . . 17 Advice . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31
from the blogs âˆ? HOMEDRONE: A local writer reflects on Princeâ€™s final concert, which took place in Atlanta Apr. 14. ď“ą IN THE LOOP: ACC Police released body-camera video of last weekâ€™s officer-involved shooting. ď†? HOMEDRONE: Pylon has released a single in advance of a two-LP live album that chronicles a 1983 concert at Athensâ€™ Mad Hatter club.
athens power rankings: APR. 25â€“MAY 1 1. Human Rights Festival 2. Pylon ďˆą 3. Hope Zimmerman 4. New Madrid 5. Matthew Hicks
EDITOR & PUBLISHER Pete McCommons ADVERTISING DIRECTOR & PUBLISHER Alicia Nickles PRODUCTION DIRECTOR Larry Tenner ADVERTISING SALES Anita Aubrey, Jessica Pritchard Mangum, Carey McLaughlin MANAGING EDITOR & MUSIC EDITOR Gabe Vodicka CITY EDITOR Blake Aued ARTS EDITOR & DISTRIBUTION MANAGER Jessica Smith CLASSIFIEDS & OFFICE MANAGER Stephanie Rivers AD DESIGNER Kelly Hart CARTOONISTS Lee Gatlin, Missy Kulik, David Mack, Jeremy Long ADOPT ME Special Agent Cindy Jerrell STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Joshua L. Jones CONTRIBUTORS Bonita Applebum, Lauren Baggett, Tom Crawford, Chris Hassiotis, John Huie, Gordon Lamb, Bobby Moore, Drew Wheeler, Marci Mendel White CIRCULATION Charles Greenleaf, Emily Armond, Will Donaldson, Thomas Bauer WEB DESIGNER Kelly Hart EDITORIAL INTERNS Madeline Bates, Kat Khoury, Maria Lewczyk COVER ART by Missy Kulik (see Art Notes on p.â€‰12)
Athens Power Rankings are posted each Monday on the In the Loop blog on flagpole.com.
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Change Is All About Us Gardens, Laughs, Soul Food and High-Rise Students By Pete McCommons email@example.com
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Garden Tour Features Pulaski
Soul Food Leaves Piedmont
The Boulevard Gardening Club knows how to make digging and delving (almost) fun. They certainly have a good time with their annual Roving Garden Party, and the 2016 outing is concentrated along Pulaski Street, which has evolved into an intriguing mix of the old with the new, including gardens. And, as usual, your ticket includes food and drinks. They’re not going to wait around on you, though. Show up at Pulaski Heights BBQ, 675 Pulaski St., at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, May 1 to get your ticket. The tour is 3–5 p.m.,
Alas, Piedmont College’s Café on Prince is closing Wednesday, Apr. 28. Piedmont needs the space for its nursing program and its library, which have been housed off campus. The Café is the cafeteria staffed by cooks who used to work at Wilson’s Soul Food before it closed on Hot Corner downtown. This is where you could get macaroni and cheese delivered from Heaven every day, along with fried okra, squash casserole, green beans, stewed cabbage, your choice of meats, cornbread, cobbler, etc.
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The Pulaski tour includes Stan Mullins’ repurposed industrial site, containing his residence, studio and Italian garden.
and no more tix will be sold after 3 p.m. Tickets are $15 for club members and $20 for non-members. For $30 you get the tour and your annual membership in the club. Tickets are limited and can be purchased on the day of the tour or in advance at boulevardgardeningclub.com. For information, call 762-728-0575. This ramble through one of our most interesting intown neighborhoods happens rain or shine, but not for kids under 12.
Three Performances Only If you have felt the twinges of age or know somebody who has or you just enjoy a good play performed by good actors, remember that Town & Gown’s A Month of Sundays runs Friday and Saturday, Apr. 29 and 30 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, May 1 at 2 p.m. And that’s all. This is a busy time with a lot of good stuff happening all over town, and this play is well worth considering in the mix. Lots of laughs, some tears and some whiskey help us smile at the inevitable. Tickets are only $5 and are available at townandgownplayers.org. The Athens Community Theatre is behind the TaylorGrady House at the corner of Prince and Grady avenues. And, yes, the director makes me smoothies most mornings.
Is there no restaurant in need of a readymade staff with loyal customers eager to follow them to a new location? Maybe that’s just what we need at Flagpole: newspaper offices upstairs and The Café on Prince downstairs. Feed the mind; feed the body.
The College That Ate a City This one is about Texas State University and its hometown, San Marcos, TX. Several people shared it on Facebook recently, and you can read it on nextcity.org. There’s a lot of other good stuff on that website, too, about getting urban living right. San Marcos, like other college towns, has been overrun by student housing, so this is a cautionary tale for Athenians, too. A common thread in the San Marcos story as well as our own is how local government just sat by and watched the city irrevocably change practically overnight and did nothing. Very late in the game, the San Marcos citizens are finally waking up and electing a government that will respond to their needs. Any chance of that happening in Athens? The concentration of downtown luxury high-rise student apartments is a response to a complex set of market demands not specific to Athens. But our response, or lack thereof, is definitely specific to Athens. f
APRIL 27, 2016 · FLAGPOLE.COM
PSC Should Tell Georgia Power ‘No’ the Utility Wants to Build Another Nuclear Plant By Tom Crawford firstname.lastname@example.org
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Imagine that you are the loan officer at the local community bank. A person sits in front of your desk who wants to borrow money. He’s a developer who builds expensive McMansions for high-end homebuyers. You look at his credit history and discover that the first McMansion he built was so shoddily constructed that the bank foreclosed on it. The one he is currently building is so much over budget and so far behind schedule that it’s probably going to be foreclosed as well. He tells you he is applying for a loan because he wants to build a third McMansion. If you have an ounce of common sense, you not only tell him, “No,” you tell him, “Hell, no.” Clearly, a person with that business history should not be given any more money. You’d have to be extremely dumb or overwhelmingly corrupt to approve a loan. Or perhaps you’d be a member of the Public Service Commission. The PSC has been burned twice over the last 35 years by Georgia Power because it approved nuclear projects that cost the ratepayers billions and will cost them billions more. When Georgia Power built its first two nuclear units at Plant Vogtle during the 1980s, those reactors were originally projected to cost $660 million. A tidal wave of cost overruns drove up the final tab to nearly $9 billion. The utility is now building two more nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle. The project is about $1.7 billion over budget and 39 months behind schedule. With that kind of construction management history, what is Georgia Power proposing to do? It wants to build a third nuclear facility, of course. The company submitted a plan to the PSC earlier this year
that included the possible construction of another nuclear plant on 7,000 acres along the Chattahoochee in Stewart County. Georgia Power said construction on the nuclear plant wouldn’t begin for another 10–15 years. But the utility wants ratepayers to cough up $175 million right now to pay for site studies and an application for a Nuclear Regulatory Commission license. The PSC held its first hearings last week on the proposed resource plan. In a rational world, the commissioners would have laughed Georgia Power’s attorneys right out of the hearing room for putting forth such a ludicrous idea. They would have told the utility to forget about launching a third nuclear project. They would have held a news conference to reassure Georgia Power’s customers they wouldn’t be burdened with higher monthly bills to pay for such a harebrained scheme. The PSC doesn’t operate rationally, however. Georgia Power will move ahead with preparatory work on the Stewart County nukes because the commissioners are congenitally unable to say no to the state’s most powerful utility. It’s obvious that Georgia Power is incapable of building nuclear plants that are finished on time and under budget. That doesn’t mean they’re bad people—they are just not capable, for whatever reason, of successfully managing such a complex construction project. That has been amply demonstrated time and again. This inability creates a larger problem: Georgia Power wants to pass along all the cost overruns to its customers in the form of higher monthly bills. If the PSC members were doing the job they’re elected to do, they would crack down on the utility and require its shareholders to eat part of those cost overruns. f
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APRIL 27, 2016 · FLAGPOLE.COM
Joshua L. Jones
Saving the West Broad Garden Plus, Prince Flags, Chase, Newton, Human Rights and Public Art By Blake Aued and Kat Khoury email@example.com Two weeks ago, Ted Gilbert, associate superintendent at the Clarke County School District, gave a presentation on plans to renovate the long-vacant West Broad School into administrative offices. The plans presented confirmed what Flagpole had already reportedâ€”that they called for paving over a popular community garden on the property and moving the garden to a much smaller parcel thatâ€™s now a parking lot across Minor Street. â€œWe think this is a pretty good effort at this point to balance the two needsâ€?â€”the garden and parking, Gilbert told school board members. Not so much, many community members responded. About 20 peopleâ€”just a small fraction of those whoâ€™ve chimed on social media and in conversation all over townâ€”turned out to a subsequent school board meeting Apr. 21 to complain about the plans, including several residents of the neighborhood surrounding the garden. Those residentsâ€”some of them older African American women who attended the segregated school as childrenâ€”told administrators and the board that they felt left out of the process. â€œCommunities know whatâ€™s best for them, and they have a right to be at the table in a meaningful way,â€? said Daniela Aiello, who works with a group fighting gentrification in the Hancock Corridor neighborhood. This is a group of people thatâ€™s seen governments disinvest in their neighborhood for decades. As the school and its grounds sat empty, residents say it became a haven for crime. That changed when the Athens Land Trust, seeking a way around zoning laws that prohibited agriculture in residential areas, partnered with the school district to start the community garden and a farmers market on the property in 2013.
â€œItâ€™s beloved in town even though itâ€™s only been here a few years. Itâ€™d be a real shame to see it lost,â€? said Bertis Downs, an influential education activist whoâ€™s ordinarily a staunch supporter of Superintendent Philip Lanoue. Itâ€™s been a fruitful partnership. CCSD is on the cutting edge of the farm-to-table movement (see The Locavore on p. 13 for an example). Students work in the garden, and food grown there is served in schools. Neighborhood residents grow food there and sell it at the market, and other farmers and small-business owners come in from outside the area, too, to sell their wares. Not to knock the Athens Farmers Market at Bishop Park (personally, my family goes to both), but the West Broad Market Garden has a very different feel to it. â€œItâ€™s one of the few places where I get to see diversity,â€? Chad Whitley said. Johanna Gardner, whoâ€™s lived in the neighborhood for nine years, said the market garden has given it more of a sense of community. â€œItâ€™s affordable and friendly,â€? she said. â€œNo one is priced out, and everyone is welcome.â€? Kathleen Falke was more direct: West Broad is not â€œall upper middle class white people who can afford to pay $4 for a bunch of kale or potatoes,â€? she wrote in a letter read by Lou Kregel. Since the garden is so important to them, residents are suspicious of why CCSD would want to dig it up, especially when other alternatives may be available. Donna Thurman, a representative from nearby Hill Chapel Baptist Church, said the congregation already has an arrangement with the district for overflow special event parking and would be open to a similar agreement for central-office staffers. Some have wondered if district employees are scared to walk through the
Agatha Coggins speaks to the Clarke County Board of Education about the West Broad Market Garden.
neighborhood. â€œGod forbid you might want to cloister yourself locked up in that space,â€? market vendor Willa Fambrough said. â€œI hope thatâ€™s not the case.â€? Lanoue tried to reassure the 100-plus people there that the $6.2 million plan isnâ€™t set in stone by any means. He outlined the reasons why the administration is moving: The headquarters on Mitchell Bridge was too large for a downsized central-office staff, too out of the way and too expensive to maintain, and he wanted to be â€œcloser to the city, where we should be.â€? CCSD will appoint a stakeholdersâ€™ group at the appropriate time, he said, but the district hasnâ€™t even hired an architect yetâ€” the plan thatâ€™s been circulated is merely one proposal by one firm, and the board hasnâ€™t made any decisions. In spite of Lanoueâ€™s efforts, this is another public-relations disaster for CCSD. Eastsiders are still raw about the handling of the alleged sexual assault at Cedar Shoals High School, and now westsiders have a reason to be ticked off, too. Board members, however, literally gave Lanoue a vote of confidenceâ€”they renewed his contract at the meeting, too. [Blake Aued] More School Stuff: Another speaker at the meeting, Tommie Farmer of the Clarke
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County NAACP, called for an independent investigation into CCSDâ€™s handling of the aforementioned sexual assault at Cedar Shoals, where Tony Price, currently on administrative leave, wonâ€™t be returning as principal, district spokeswoman Anisa Sullivan Jimenez confirmed last week. The board also tentatively approved its $137 million budget, which includes employee raises, 16 new teaching positions and additional security. Public hearings will be held at 5:30 p.m. May 11 at Alps Road Elementary, May 18 at Gaines Elementary and May 26 at H.T. Edwards, and the board will vote to finalize the budget June 2. [BA] On the Streets: Athens-Clarke County Commissioner Melissa Link will propose her own option for bike lanes on Chase Street at the commissionâ€™s May 3 voting meeting, she said at the Apr. 19 agendasetting meeting. The Transportation and Public Works Departmentâ€™s plan calls for a new crosswalk at Chase Street Elementary and bike lanes roughly from Boulevard to Newton Bridge Road. But the Chase PTO wants the crosswalk moved to a different location closer to Dubose Avenue, and several Chase residents who live between Boulevard and Rowe Road told commissioners they oppose eliminating the center
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turn lane there to make room for bike lanes because turning into their driveways would become more dangerous. Link told Flagpole she plans to meet with stakeholders and transportation officials to find a compromise. Closing the block of Newton Street between Meigs Street and Prince Avenue for an outdoor cafe is a no-go, at least for now, because the Bottleworks’ owners (and some tenants) oppose it, and commissioners want to see how Parkside Partners plans to develop the Bottleworks parking lot into senior housing. “At some time in the future, we can reconsider it, but at this time, this is not something that should divide this commission,” said Commissioner Mike Hamby, a proponent of the idea. Commissioners generally praised a $575 million deal for Atlanta-based Piedmont Healthcare to purchase Athens Regional, which will require commission approval next month, and signaled that they’ll likely approve the 100 Prince mixed-use development at St. Joseph Catholic Church, redevelopment of the Eastside Kroger and a Kroger gas station on Baxter Street. But they raised concerns about a $240 million, 20-year water and sewer plan because it includes $20 million to study and buy land for a potential future reservoir, questioning the need for it when residents continue to conserve and growth projects are often too optimistic. Manager Blaine Williams said Athens—which shares a reservoir with three other counties but ordinarily takes drinking water from rivers—could need its own reservoir during a future drought, but it’s far from a done deal. “There’s lots of discussion to come,” he said. [BA] RIP Prince Avenue Flags: Last year ACC set up stands at two dangerous Prince Avenue crosswalks with orange flags for pedestrians to wave (or throw) at cars as they crossed. Hilarious memes aside, the flags didn’t work—a study found that, while waving the flags made people look silly, it didn’t make cars stop for them—so ACC is no longer replacing them when they’re stolen or misplaced (as 220 have been so far). Back to carrying rotten fruit in our pockets… [BA] Public Art: Athens is gearing up for some new public art projects, attendees learned Thursday, Apr. 21 at an Athens Cultural Affairs Commission public art input session at the Lyndon House Arts Center. A survey of public opinion concerning art was conducted by the ACAC and then presented at the open house, revealing that many respondents look to cities such as Asheville, NC, Greenville, SC and Chattanooga, TN for inspiration. The types of art most desired are murals, sculptures and infrastructure such as bike racks. Todd Bressi, an art consultant visiting from Philadelphia, has been working with the ACAC since August to garner community input and help orchestrate new public art throughout Athens. “In order to keep the creative juices flowing, you have to let artists bring their own ideas, because they might have ideas about doing things in a way no one ever thought of. I think that if you’re doing public art that’s what you’re looking for. You’re looking for artists to do something fresh and innovative and unexpected,” Bressi said. Bressi has helped to bring three renowned artists to visit Athens, to give their input and help connect with the
community. The first two artists were Seitu Jones and Matthew Mazzotta. Here since Monday is Wing Young Huie, a Minneapolis photographer whose project is “chalk talks.” Huie’s vision is to bring people out of their bubble by photographing them with a chalkboard on which they write the answer to a personal question that a stranger asks them at Huie’s prompting. Since his arrival in Athens Apr. 18, Huie said he’s interacted with about 70 people in Athens, from veterans in restaurants to students at Cedar Shoals High School and UGA to the Sparrow’s Nest, a local Christian ministry. “I was confronted by my own assumptions and biases,” Huie said, reflecting on the hundreds of people he’s photographed in his career, and he hopes his subjects have the same reaction. His work is under consideration by ACAC, which is still figuring out how and where they want to display his project. UGA is considering turning it into a mural. You can see his “chalk talks” by searching the hashtag #athenspublicart on Instagram. While public art has always been an important part of Athens culture, with the help of Bressi the ACAC has developed an Athens Public Art Master Plan. The plan incorporates some features of the Downtown Master Plan but encompasses a larger geographical area, the idea being to bring public art to all areas of Athens. Athens-Clarke County Commissioner Diane Bell said she agrees strongly with the vision, believing that “letting each area have their own identity” is important for inclusion of all residents of Athens, adding that “I want us to do more to tie in with the university. We need more connectedness with all the interest groups.” Nine ACAC projects are underway, paid for through SPLOST, the commission’s main source of funding. The ACAC has a national request out in order to find an artist to design an interactive feature for the upcoming World of Wonder playground replacement at Southeast Clarke Park. They also have money to begin work on the Firefly Trail and Greenway extension around Dudley Park, which should see some revamping soon. An early May meeting will decide the direction for these projects, says ACAC Commissioner Helen Kuykendall,. Potential SPLOST projects also include bus shelters and bike racks and a downtown cultural trail showcasing Athens’ history through art. “The Downtown Master Plan identifies some of the downtown areas as priority corridors for public art,” read the information posters presented at the open house. It also calls for improved links to downtown like walkways and greenways. “Public art is an opportunity for businesses to sponsor, artists to produce their ideas, a way of making Athens prettier,” Bell said. “We have so much art that needs presenting.” [Kat Khoury] Human Rights: The 38th annual Human Rights Festival is taking place Apr. 30–May 1 in College Square (see the Calendar on p. 20 and athenshumanrightsfest.org for more), and the schedule is chock full of political speakers on topics ranging from immigrant rights to ethical eating, as well as bands and other entertainment. On May Day, Sunday, Athens for Everyone has organized a workers’ rights march starting at 1 p.m. Marchers are pushing for protections for LGBTQA workers, a higher minimum wage and better conditions for farm workers. [BA] f
APRIL 27, 2016 · FLAGPOLE.COM
feature Joshua L. Jones
Esther Htoo, a refugee from Myanmar, settled in Athens eight years ago and now owns a home.
Refugees Have Been Resettling in Athens for Years By Marci Mendel White firstname.lastname@example.org
hen Athens resident Esther Htoo arrived in the United States in 2008, she’d been living in the Mae La refugee camp in Thailand for 10 years. She arrived in the camp as a 12-year-old girl with her parents, brother and sister, after fleeing the civil war in Myanmar (aka Burma). Htoo tells of how her family lived in a small mountain village in Myanmar and how, as the battles got more intense around her village, bit by bit, everyone started to leave, traveling over the border of Thailand into refugee camps. She recounts in halting but serviceable English: “My country was so bad because of the civil war. The government fighters were fighting with the Karen soldiers.” (Karen is the ethnic group she comes from.) “They were fighting day and night. We can’t go to school to have our education, and at night we can’t sleep, because they are always fighting.” For the next 10 years, Htoo lived in the camp with her family. Mae La refugee camp is the largest camp in Thailand, with over 40,000 people crammed into an area about a half-mile wide and three miles long.
Coming from Camps Refugees entering the U.S. from anywhere in the world have spent an average of nine years at a refugee camp. Many refugees spend far longer in the camps, and only a tiny fraction of the world’s estimated 19.5 million refugees are given the chance to resettle in another country. Of the approximately 150,000 refugees referred for resettlement by the UN Refugee Agency annually, the U.S. normally
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accepts 70,000—far more than any other country. For 2016, due to a sharp spike in worldwide refugees and the brutal war in Syria, President Obama has raised that number to 85,000. The application process for resettlement takes an average of 18–24 months. Htoo was able to complete the process in a year. After a person goes through the United Nations’ process and is referred for resettlement, the applicant is interviewed by the U.S. Department of State and then the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. If a refugee makes it through all of the interviews and background checks, he or she has to pass a medical screening. The camp where Htoo and her husband, Sawdaw, grew up was safe, but options are severely limited. There are no legal employment opportunities, and residents are confined to the camp, which is surrounded with a barbed wire fence. There are schools in the camp, which is how Htoo knew some English when she arrived, but higher education is not a possibility for most. Refugees are not citizens in the countries they reside in, and they have few of the rights and protections of citizens. “I didn’t want to live there, because the education is so low,” Htoo says, softly. “Also, you don’t have a job. It is so poor. Sometimes my son, who was just 2 years old, wanted to have a snack, and I was so sad because I didn’t have money to buy [one] for him. It is so difficult to live in a refugee camp. That’s why I want to live in another country. I want to work; I want to make money; I want to give my son more food.” The housing in Mae La is very basic and densely packed, with six or seven people sharing a small, one-room hut made of bamboo and leaves. There is no electricity or running water and, needless to say, no privacy. But beyond the
lack of material commodities, the main problem in refugee camps is the lack of opportunity and choice. “Living as a refugee in the camps means having a very uncertain future,” says Jennifer Drago, who has worked with refugees at Jubilee Partners—a Christian service community in Comer, about 10 miles east of Athens, that offers hospitality to refugees—for 20 years. “There’s a lot of boredom, with nothing productive to do; a lot of hopelessness. They also suffer from having very poor health care,” Drago says.
Southern Hospitality The Htoos arrived in the U.S. eight years ago when their son was 3, and Esther was pregnant with their second child. Asked what is the hardest part of resettling, she says, “Only the English. That is the hardest thing. Sometimes I wish I could talk like I do in my own language, but it’s hard because my English is so little.” While it’s much easier to learn to adjust to a new culture when you know the language, the main thing refugees need when they arrive in their new country, says Drago, “is a friend, and I mean an American friend, to help them navigate all these different systems. Things that are hard for us to do, like deal with the Social Security office, medical offices… I mean, those are overwhelming for us, but for people who have never had to deal with those kinds of bureaucracies and don’t have the language for it… It’s just impossible.” As the refugee health coordinator at Jubilee, Drago knows what frequently happens. “Often when there’s a medical need, people don’t go, and if they do go, they don’t
know how to follow up,” she says. “If they have insurance, many don’t understand what their insurance will pay for, so they don’t go. Sometimes they can’t get off work, or don’t have transportation. It would be wonderful if every family could have someone who can be a friend and advocate for them.” Htoo’s family found one such friend in Athens resident Matthew Hicks. As a graduate student at Emory, Hicks had worked with Jubilee on a project. “Ten years later I was out in the work world, and I started thinking about how I could participate in Jubilee’s mission a little more fully,” he says. As a real estate investor and owner of New Ground Realty, he saw that he had the ability to help refugees out with housing. “What they do at Jubilee is fantastic, and it works, but usually refugees are only at Jubilee for a couple months. My thought was that we could work with a few families to give them a chance to catch their breath, figure out where they are and find work,” he says. Hicks decided to make one apartment available to a refugee family, offering free rent for a year. He contacted Drago to find a family to take him up on the offer. “Matthew was offering a very nice two-bedroom, twobath apartment. For him to offer free rent for a year was incredibly generous, but even so, it was hard to find a family for that apartment,” Drago recalls. “The problem was that no one wanted to be the first in Athens. They were used to living in groups, near other families like them. Who would help them to accomplish all the different things they need to accomplish? And though it was a tremendous offer, Matthew wasn’t promising anything but the apartment. “Well, finally I found a family who I convinced to come look at the apartment. It was a family of seven, with the grandparents. When Matthew walked in, the grandmother of this family walked over to him and hugged him. That’s when I knew it was going to work. It’s hard to be a pioneer, to be the first ones to step out of your comfort zone.”
I wish is that our culture was more empathetic towards refugees that need a place to settle in,” Hicks says. “If I were a father living in another country, and my children weren’t safe, I would do everything I possibly could to get them to a better place. Who wouldn’t do that? Refugee resettlement has become a political hot button, and that’s unfortunate.” When the Htoo family moved to Athens, they became part of a small group of pioneers. At first there were five families, all related to each other. Then five more came, and there are now at least 10 refugee families settled in Athens—all ethnic Karen and Karenni people who fled the long civil war in Myanmar—and dozens more in Madison and Oglethorpe counties. For eight years, Hicks has continued to be involved with the five families he provided housing for. He no longer owns the apartments they initially lived in, but he went on to assist three of the families in buying their own homes. “I found houses for them and put my own money up,” he recalls. “They do repay me with interest, but it’s not an exorbitant interest.” Two of the three families managed to pay their houses off within four years and now own them outright. “It’s amazing,” says Hicks, “More than anything, I think it’s a story about them and their ability to quickly adapt. And it does take some help; it does take people taking a risk.”
A New Home Esther and Sawdaw Htoo, along with their two children and her parents, are one of the families who have paid off their home. Esther states proudly that they made their last payment this past December. It’s a neat brick, one-story, four-bedroom, two-bath house in a quiet neighborhood filled with similar houses. Inside it’s clean and uncluttered, with sparse, tasteful furnishings. Two other refugee fami-
Joshua L. Jones
The Htoo family and friends share a traditional meal.
That first family was Sawdaw Htoo’s parents, along with one of their daughters and her children. Matthew encouraged them to invite more families and made a total of three apartments available, eventually helping five families by offering a limited time of free rent while they adjusted to their new town. What motivated Hicks to help refugees? “Certainly my faith has something to do with it,” he says, “and my belief that people who live in very bad conditions in other parts of the world should have a chance to resettle here.” That’s not an attitude shared by everyone, as many conservative politicians and pundits have called on Obama to stop accepting refugees for fear that, in spite of the rigorous application process, some could be terrorists. “What
lies live in the same neighborhood, and the rest of the families are clustered together in houses about a mile away. All of the adults in the family work at the Pilgrim’s Pride poultry plant. Esther and her father work the night shift, while her husband and mother work the day shift. They do it this way so someone can always be home with the children. Most refugees living in Athens and Comer work at a poultry plant—the industry that provides the most jobs for refugees in Georgia. It’s tedious work and physically hard, but the poultry plants pay $10–11 an hour, more than you can get almost anywhere else for unskilled labor, and that makes it hard to leave. Esther stands on her feet for eight hours, five or six nights a week, cutting chicken in the cold
factory, moving fast to keep up with the conveyer belts. One day she’d like to get a job that’s not so hard, maybe in a retail store or daycare. “We don’t have much time to be social,” says Esther, laughing, “because sometimes we work 60 hours a week. On Sunday we go to church, and then the whole week is finished.” Last year the International Rescue Committee (a nonprofit refugee resettlement agency) proposed setting up a small office in Athens and bringing 150 refugees here, but it was rebuffed by local government leaders. Subsequently, an ecumenical group composed of clergy and other citizens formed Welcoming Athens, a group “working to nurture a culture of welcome for all people in Athens and the surrounding area.” Among other things, the group is advocating for the city to let the resettlement office come. The main reason Mayor Nancy Denson gave for not wanting IRC in Athens was that resources are stretched thin, and her priority is “to take care of the people who are already here,” citing issues with homelessness and panhandling. But some in the U.S. also resist taking refugees because of a concern that some refugees coming in might be criminals, violent radicals or unable to adjust successfully to American culture. “That’s not why they’re coming here,” says Drago, emphatically. “They’re coming here to work, to go to school and have a better future. Now, after having been here awhile, they’re also part of humanity, and some people do commit crimes, but no more than people from any country. But to say that people come here to sow discord and terrorism in our country, absolutely not. They’re fleeing that! They’re coming here because they want to live in a peaceful place. “In fact, many refugees are afraid because they’ve heard about American gun violence, and so many refugees do live in big cities where crime is more common. And they are often the victims, because who could be more vulnerable than a new refugee who often won’t call police because they’re too afraid and can’t explain what happened?” Hicks pushes back against the idea that refugees drain resources. “You know, our local government says that there’s not housing, that there are no jobs, but that’s simply not true,” he says. “Of the group of refugees I’ve been working with, three families own their homes. They live in nice houses in nice neighborhoods, and they did it working at the chicken plant. They work and go to school here and pay property taxes.” Esther Htoo is grateful for the help she and her family have received. “American people are so kind,” she says. “Matthew helped take care of us and he is very kind. I’m so happy. Our lives are changing. Before I’m so poor. Now I have a job and what I want, I can buy. I can buy things for my children.” Htoo says initially she thought she wanted to live in a big city, but now she prefers a smaller town. “The main thing is that in the big city everything is more expensive. The apartment is more expensive, so here we can save money. Also, school is close; everything is close to my house.” Drago chimes in: “Sure, and there’s less crime. It’s easier to get around. It’s only a 10-minute drive to their jobs. Some people commute from Atlanta to work at the poultry plant. “Since she’s lived here for a while, Esther is able to see the whole picture and all the benefits. But when you first get to a country, you have no idea. Who do you trust and how do you know where to go? These folks have never had bills; they’ve never been in debt. There are very few money exchanges when you’ve been living so many years at a refugee camp. “The refugees do have drive and vision and hope. They want a good future for themselves and their kids. They’re willing to work hard, but they do need a lot of help, especially at first. “The ones who make it are true success stories, and the amazing thing is that there are so many who do,” says Drago. “To see the tremendous resiliency and inner strength they have to rebuild a life, to start all over from scratch, with nothing, I get to witness that unfolding all the time.” f
APRIL 27, 2016 · FLAGPOLE.COM
arts & culture
A Decade of Handmade Markets Indie South Fair Moves Downtown and Across the Southeast By Jessica Smith email@example.com On the brink of regional expansion, Indie South Fair has grown from a humble, locally-focused market into a tremendous manifestation of founder Serra Ferguson’s vision for a curated, open-air craft festival. This weekend, more than 100 vendors will assemble downtown beneath iconic white tents for one of Athens’ most popular artist events, the ninth annual Springtacular. From handmade jewelry by Laurel Hill and Rhys May to natural bath and body products by Pale Blue Dot Soap and Forest Things, snacks by Piedmont Provisions and Nicobella Organics and sustainably made clothing by Ekkos and Maelu Designs, you’ll literally find everything under the sun. Indie South is admirable for its adaptability; from Ben’s Bikes to the Jittery Joe’s Roaster to its most recent residency in the lot near the intersection of Chase Street and Prince Avenue, its markets have explored various locations in search of the perfect balance between peak visibility and logistical accessibility. Though Indie South tested the waters by presenting the Springtacular in conjunction with the Human Rights Festival last year, this is the first time the market has been held independently in the streets of downtown after receiving permission from the Athens-Clarke County government. Taking place on West Washington Street between Lumpkin and Pulaski Streets and spilling over onto a portion of Hull Street, the location is significant in that the market is returning to the same end of town from which it was launched a decade ago. The idea for Indie South grew from Ferguson’s experience in designing jewelry and apparel that she sold in Remnant, her tiny boutique specializing in handmade items. “This was in the infancy of what I think of as the modern handmade movement, back in 2002. My shop was way ahead of its time, especially for Athens. There was no social media, and Etsy had not even been founded yet,” says Ferguson. Through her business, she began connecting with other artists in other cities, and at her peak was participating in 14 markets a year all over the country. “I went to the second ever Renegade Craft Fair in Chicago, and it was a revelation: I was part of something way bigger than my boutique or my town,” she says. “For the first time in my life, I felt like I belonged in a community. That was a big deal for someone like me who has always felt like an outsider socially.”
Going above and beyond your average artist market, Indie South has grown into a well-rounded, multi-faceted event by incorporating live entertainment and activities like kids’ crafts, workshops and demos. The hope is that everyone, regardless of whether they intend to shop or not, will feel welcome to stay awhile and engage with the artists. Several food trucks will be rolling into town for one or both days of this year’s Springtacular, with the culinary lineup including Chay J’s, Katty Wampus, Holy Crepe, Mac
the Cheese Truck, Charbucks, Wheely Grilly, Taza Foods and Speakcheesy. Athens Free School, a skill share learning network, will lead workshops in screen printing and sticker making, while DJ Mahogany and DJ Pip of Hits & Misses provide the aural backdrop. Guests can also tour Atlanta’s Serena Tiny House, a 224-square-foot home. “Marketplaces are the oldest way humans have acquired goods from one another, so obviously it’s endured since ancient times for a reason,” says Ferguson. “There’s just something about purchasing an object from the person who made it or collected it that you don’t get in a store setting, and I think that’s intangible. I love the excitement of discovery, the idea that I may be the only one who gets that particular piece, and also that I am supporting a person directly instead of going through a middleman.” Indie South has made huge strides in establishing smaller-scale events throughout the year, including a Handmade
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Lovers Valentine’s Market, Back to Cool Market and the vintage-centric Eclectic Bazaar. Now approaching its 10th year, the time has come to buckle down and take the show on the road. Earlier this month, Indie South presented a two-day artist market featuring 30 vendors in Columbia, SC, and already has plans to return in September. The following weekend, Indie South hopped over to Atlanta to host a market in conjunction with the first-ever Food-oRama in Grant Park. After the Springtacular, Indie South will hit the highway for Uptown’s Riverfest in Columbus, GA. Ferguson intends to plant roots in five cities outside of Athens by the end of the year. “When I changed the name to Indie South Fair [from Athens Indie Craftstravaganza] about five years ago, it was purposely to make it more expansive and inclusive. I knew then I wanted to get beyond Athens and expand to a regional level, but I wasn’t quite sure how to go about it,” says Ferguson. “So, the idea of being in other cities has been gestating for some time, and my motivation is the same as my motivation here in Athens but on a larger scale: I want to knit together a network of makers, artists and curators and give them a forum to market their work while building a community of supporters.” As nationwide interest in handmade items has continued to increase over the years, more cities have jumped in on the trend of holding craft fairs. Participating in a newly established event can be a big risk for traveling vendors, however, whose sales are greatly influenced by the marketing and promotional skills of the organizer, as well as by their own familiarity and name recognition with consumers. Recognizing this niche need, Ferguson is stepping in to offer Indie South as a reputable entity that can prioritize artists’ best interests full-time. “Expanding into other markets around the Southeast is just the beginning,” says Ferguson. She hopes to evolve Indie South’s scope by acting as a hub that supports creative entrepreneurs through offering services and resources to build their business. “I have also been scouting for a possible brick-andmortar location to serve as a base of operations. We want a space that could fulfill a lot of different purposes: from gatherings and events to workshops and maybe even retail. The possibilities feel endless right now, and it’s a very exciting time for Indie South.” f
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food & drink
Waste Not, Want Not Clarke Middle Class Repurposes Leftover Food By Lauren Baggett firstname.lastname@example.org Depending on the day, you might detect the scent of apple and cinnamon wafting through the air. You may hear the whir of a blender whipping together a fruit and kale smoothie or the thick glub of jam bubbling on the stove. These are just a few of the tasty morsels students at Clarke Middle School are creating in their food science classes, and some of the ingredients they’re using are food waste. Don’t think garbage or spoiled food, though, says Hope Zimmerman, Clarke Middle’s family and consumer science teacher. The foods she and her students use are uneaten lunchroom leftovers—whole pieces of fruit, unopened milk and juice cartons or packs of carrot sticks, for example.
Though students were encouraged to place untouched foods into separate bins, fruits were still getting tossed. So, bowl in hand, Prichard stood by the trash can for a year, collecting every banana or apple that came his way. Eventually the students caught on, and now they can leave the foods they don’t want in bowls on the lunch tables. On an average day, Prichard estimates the school collects around 40 bananas, 20 cups of milk and juice and 40–50 fruit cups. The food, along with unopened milk, juice and other items, was stored in Zimmerman’s classroom. At first, she gave out fruit or milk as an afternoon snack. But the excess started piling up, and one
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Athens-Clarke County police officer Jason Cook collects fruit to make smoothies in Hope Zimmerman’s Clarke Middle School food science class.
The reclaimed food labs are just another product of Clarke Middle’s evolving sustainability culture. Debbie Mitchell thinks they might be the most important program yet. As Clarke’s agriculture science teacher, Mitchell introduces her students to growing food, but bringing food into the classroom, she says, completes the picture for her kids. “They start to see how it all works together,” says Mitchell. The agriculture science classroom works in partnership with Zimmerman’s family and consumer science class to present a holistic view of food, from seed to plate, and now post-plate. Over the school year they will teach around 500 students, mostly sixth graders. Zimmerman thinks it’s good to start these lessons early. “Sixth graders are a blank slate,” she says. “They buy in more easily than the older kids.” Her reclaimed food labs began a little over a year ago as an idea that progressed from the school cafeteria composting program. “It all started with having too much food,” says Wick Prichard, the school’s AmeriCorps/VISTA volunteer from 2012– 2015. Prichard and Mitchell couldn’t help but noticed how many whole fruits they were collecting for compost. “Composting is the last step you want,” says Prichard. “Ideally, you want the kids to eat the fruit.”
day Zimmerman decided to use all the extra apples she had to make apple carrot muffins. Her kids loved it. Since then, Zimmerman’s class has made pear butter, apple bread and carrot juice, all using reclaimed food or produce from the school garden. “I probably save the school district hundreds of dollars using food from the cafeteria,” she says. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, the U.S. wastes 40 percent of its food. Within their classrooms, Mitchell and Zimmerman are working to show kids how to be mindful of food. Mitchell likes to emphasize how the recipes she makes with her kids can be modified. Though the students may not have the same list of ingredients, “they need to know that they can make these recipes at home,” she says. Zimmerman agrees. The students’ favorite kale smoothie recipe is an easy example, she says, to show kids how to work with what they have on hand. Sustainability programs are gaining momentum across the school district. Gardens have popped up in Clarke County’s three other middle schools. Mitchell and Zimmerman hope the next stop is the district high schools. For now, they’re eager to see how the program grows in the next year. “It’s not finished,” says Zimmerman. f
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Against the Grain
Alabama Shakes are 21st Century Rock Stars By Bobby Moore firstname.lastname@example.org
a time when mainstream hip hop and pop vocalists dominate FM airwaves and awards-show accolades, the Alabama Shakes have pulled off a rare feat. The Athens, AL four-piece has achieved legitimate rock stardom in the 21st Century, translating early encounters with internet hype into something lucrative and long-lasting. The group’s rags-to-riches tale began with Brittany Howard (lead vocals, guitar) and Zac Cockrell (bass) jamming together in a garage, learning cover songs and composing two originals. When their go-to drummer broke his arm in an automobile accident, the pair recruited Steve Johnson. “I had some studio time my previous band had won, so I asked, ‘Would y’all be interested in using this free studio time to record the two originals you have?’” Johnson says. “After we did it, they just sat there three or four months or so. But every chance I got, I shared it with other musicians.” Among the musicians to hear those earliest recordings was guitarist Heath Fogg, who booked the nascent trio for its May 2009 live debut in Decatur, AL alongside his cover band, Tuco’s Pistol. With a second guitarist needed to liven up the Alabama Shakes’ first 45-minute set, Fogg joined the band. By 2011 the Shakes had crafted enough originals to record a new set of demos. “We had started going to east Nashville to record a demo,” Johnson says. “We had four or five of them done and put together a little EP. Plus, I think Brittany had posted a couple of songs on our MySpace page, or Facebook, or whatever it was. Somehow, a guy in California [Aquarium Drunkard’s Justin Gage] had heard it and started writing about it on his blog and everything. He had a bunch of people who read that and got turned on to it through that.” With this sudden flood of attention came inquiries directed at the band’s management and booking agent. The group had neither prior to meeting like-minded musicians with Athens, GA ties. ”As luck would have it, we had a show coming up in Florence, AL, which is where some of the Drive-By Truckers are from,” Johnson says. “At that point, the W.C. Handy Festival was taking place. They just happened to be in town for the festival, so Patterson [Hood] came and saw us. It was a Record Store Day thing or something like that. He’s the one who got us hooked up with their management. Once they got ahold of us, they had all the connections to facilitate putting an album out [and] putting us on the road.” The 2012 debut album, Boys and Girls, signaled the Alabama Shakes’ mainstream arrival. It netted the group its
FLAGPOLE.COM ∙ APRIL 27, 2016
first two Grammy nominations: Best New Artist and Best Rock Performance for “Hold On.” Critics praised Howard’s neo-soul delivery and the band’s grasp of regional blues, rock and gospel traditions. Instead of appeasing its swelling fanbase with another dose of comparable sounds, the band expanded its sonic horizons on its 2015 album, Sound and Color. “We’ve avoided being categorized or being the poster band for any movement, because we are interested in so many different things,” Johnson says. “On Sound and Color, we tried to expand on the interests we have. There’s some far-out stuff on there, and almost like hip-hop-oriented grooves.” The opportunity to introduce new influences and techniques was as circumstantial as it was an artistic statement.
“With Boys and Girls, the songs were pretty much already [written], and we’d just go in and lay them down, so there wasn’t much spontaneity to it,” Johnson says. “We’d been playing them, and they were what they were. With Sound and Color, there was a lot more experimenting with different tones and different instrumentation. Some of the songs we’d been working on since Boys and Girls came out slowly progressed into what they are now. Others we went in kind of clueless. Brittany would have an idea, and then everyone else would have a chance to put their two cents in and try to make something of it.” Among the creative hurdles the band cleared was writing the Grammy-winning single and now pop-culture staple “Don’t Wanna Fight.” “That song was pretty tough when we were doing it in the studio,” Johnson says. “That’s one that kind of took shape over the course of a year or so, starting with the riff. The drum groove changed probably a dozen times. I don’t think anyone knew when Brittany came up with that riff that it had any kind of staying power. It was one of the weaker songs we had until the drum groove kind of locked it in.” Even with his band’s success, Johnson seems content to wind down when possible, enjoy hometown life as a father of two and play drums at his local church. “We’ve only done one-record deals for both albums, so there’s no immediate pressure to follow up or do anything else,” he says. “I think we’d burn ourselves out if that was the case. And given the fact that I have a family and Heath has a family, we like to have our downtime with them. Being on the road is super stressful sometimes. If we get our downtime and don’t think about music, eventually the desire comes back strong.” That same salt-of-the-earth attitude shines through when Johnson and his bandmates appear onstage, late-night television or the red carpet. Howard’s heart-wrenching vocals, Fogg’s twangy tones and all four members’ unshakable pride in the Yellowhammer state reveal the Alabama Shakes as musicians true to their roots. It’s this honesty and emotional accessibility that’s made the group a star in a musical climate that doesn’t always support rock and roll. f
WHO: Alabama Shakes, Dylan LeBlanc WHERE: The Classic Center WHEN: Wednesday, Apr. 27 @ 7 p.m. HOW MUCH: $30–$40
Higher Plane Iris DeMent Finds Spirit in Song By Chris Hassiotis email@example.com
ris DeMent has this thing she’s good at, where she can take something familiar and well known and make it her own. When Flagpole reaches her by phone, it’s still early in the morning, and she’s fixing a cup of coffee. But there’s more to the coffee than just coffee. “I add a little coconut oil and butter to the coffee,” says the 55-year-old folk singer, “and give it a good blend. It’s so much better, so much richer.” We swap tips, suggesting that black coffee with a touch of xanthan gum in the blender sciences itself to produce a frothy, creamy drink that’s latte-like in texture and appearance. “I’ll have to give that a try,” she says. “I like new things sometimes.” DeMent’s most recent album, The Trackless Woods, takes old things and makes them new again. The hauntingly gorgeous album interprets pieces by the early 20th Century Russian poet Anna Akhmatova. The combination of DeMent’s folk, country and Delta blues music and her affectingly yearning voice delivering Akhmatova’s often achingly mournful, transcendent words makes for strong stuff. Like most in the U.S., DeMent was unfamiliar with Akhmatova’s work, but serendipity brought the two together. “I was
sitting in a little work cabin in Van Buren County in southeast Iowa, in the middle of nowhere, and opened up this book of Russian poetry. Four or five pages were devoted to her,” she says. “I read ‘Like a White Stone,’ and it was like somebody set it to music in my mind. I started and just kept going.” DeMent released The Trackless Woods last summer—only her third full album in 20 years. She’s kept busy, though, and her name may ring a bell to those unfamiliar with her solo work thanks to collaborations and duets sung with John Prine, Emmylou Harris, Steve Earle and Ralph Stanley. Though her past visits to town have been solo affairs, DeMent swings through Athens this time performing in a trio with a bassist
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and pedal steel player. She’ll perform a number of musical interpretations of the Akhmatova poems, some of her past material and likely some familiar tunes by other artists. “If I had my way, I’d do all 18 [of the poem songs],” DeMent admits, “but they’re a little intense, and I’d lose the audience.” Though Akhmatova’s poetry moved DeMent, there aren’t plans to move over for any Russian performances, even though the connection is a personal one; Dement’s daughter was born in Russia and adopted from there when she was 6 years old. “When I first made the record, I wondered what Russian people and those who knew the original poems in Russian would think of it,” she says. “I thought going to
Russia would be really cool, and hoped the record would open that opportunity naturally, though it hasn’t really done that yet. I’d have to work at it if I wanted to make it happen. I went there twice, and to be honest, it’s a long way. The right situation would have to come about.” Regardless of where she’s onstage, DeMent, who grew up in the Pentecostal church, says performing in front of a crowd helps her access something inside. “I always knew that when I sang, I went to a place inside myself that nothing else could get me to. It was a, dare I say, sacred kind of place, and it was really private when I was a kid, which annoyed my family because they were open and sang all the time,” she says. “It was the only place in this crowded house that was mine and was sacred and private, a beautiful thing that I would have called maybe God at the time, the spirit or higher plane. I became very guarded about it. As time went on, I learned that in my singing there was also something other people felt when they heard me sing. And when the songs started coming along, I felt so certain that the songs I was writing should be heard and had a job to do in the world. “Now, kind of ironically,” she adds, “one of the places I feel that spiritual connection is on the stage.” f
WHO: Iris DeMent, Pieta Brown WHERE: The Foundry WHEN:. Friday, Apr. 29, 8 p.m. HOW MUCH: $27.50 (adv.), $32 (door)
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Purses Drops a Pleasant Debut Plus, More Music News and Gossip By Gordon Lamb firstname.lastname@example.org IN THE BAG: The debut album from Purses came out last week courtesy of the Laser Brains label. The record is titled Obsess Much and runs 10 tracks. The taut yet smoothly flowing songwriting feels influenced in its background by The Replacements and Uncle Tupelo and in its foreground by, say, The Lumineers, Deer Tick and Bon Iver. All in all it’s a totally pleasant—if unduly subdued in parts—album by a band I’ve yet to catch live. The veritable supergroup is populated by Drew Beskin, Phillip Brantley, McKendrick Bearden, Hunter Morris, Jeremy Wheatley and Frank Keith IV. Associated bands include Modern Skirts, The District Attorneys, Grand Vapids, Tedo Stone, Blue Blood and Crooked Fingers. If there’s one stand-out track, it’s “Wheels On the Run.” Consider yourself double-dared to not be singing along before it’s over. Check it at soundcloud.com/pursesmusic. NOW HEAR THIS: Full Moon Recording Studios and the Oconee School of Rock will host a young singer-songwriter night Saturday, Apr. 30 at 7 p.m. on the studio’s premises at 10 School St. in Watkinsville. Mamie Davis, a crack songwriter herself, will introduce each musician, who will then play a song. Each song is folPurses lowed by a conversation regarding “structure, chords, rhythm, lyrical content and tone of the song as the other musicians chime in with their opinions and questions.” Davis says the vibe is that of a listening environment; audience members are asked to put their phones away and pay attention, even during the conversational parts. The lineup of performers is Jacob Conley, Tim Foley, Melanie Bowden and Simone ZJ, and Full Moon owner Josh Perkins will figure as a featured artist. It’ll run ya a mere five bucks, so don’t forget to bring a Lincoln. GET THAT WORM: Full festival early-bird passes for the revamped Athens PopFest are on sale now. These pre-lineup-announcement passes are less expensive than they will
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be and allow entry into all headlining shows and showcase performances. They’re priced at $48 and cover all four days of the event, which runs Aug. 10–13. Grab yours at athenspopfest.com.
Come in for a little rejuvinating and receive
WHAT’S IN A NAME, ANYWAY?: A new, as-yet-unnamed group will play Flicker Theatre & Bar Apr. 29 and 30. The members are Chris McKay, whom most of you should know from his work with The Critical Darlings, new-to-Athens player Gary Taylor and Athens dudes Justin Sheffield and Jack Reed. There won’t be any other bands on these bills, and the idea is for these guys to play a selection of original songs fleshed out with covers they’ve never gotten to perform with others. McKay admitted that this is a nebulous idea, but it really sounds like a couple of live rehearsals. Although I’m unfamiliar with the other guys in the group, McKay has always specialized in dynamic and polished arena-style pop-rock, so let that be your jumping-off point for this. As always, I’ll keep ya updated on any future developments. THIS MAGIC MOMENT: Ben’s Bikes is the latest group to host a springtime event with a prom theme and, generally, there are so many of these they don’t warrant any mention. But this one is for a damn good cause, so it’s getting mentioned front and center. It takes place at Little Kings Shuffle Club Saturday, Apr. 30 and its theme is “Rock ’n’ Roll Prom 2016: A Space Oddity.” It’s a benefit for the BikeAthens Bike Recycling Program. In pure prom form, the festivities include music, photos, prizes and more. Creative dress is encouraged, so be a sport and honor the theme. Music comes via Andrew WK tribute band Girls Own Love, Cramps tribute band The De Lux Interiors, Silver Jews tribute band Hasidic Gold and Electric Wizard tribute band Dopethrone. Spinning tunes are DJs Mahogany and Background Props. Admission is $5 for singles and $8 per couple, so take a pal and have a ball. f
record review New Madrid: Magnetkingmagnetqueen (Normaltown) New Madrid’s follow-up to 2014’s Sunswimmer finds the Athens rock quartet expanding its palette, incorporating Television-esque guitar heroics and various psychedelic flourishes into its once-rootsy sound. The group even flirts with heady jam-band vibes; see the funky “Rex” or the appropriately named “Charlie’s Party” for two examples. At times the references are a bit on the nose: “Untitled III,” with its buttery opening riff and dramatic tempo change, could be a Marquee Moon B-side. The shuffling, repetitive “Darker Parts” cops from Radiohead’s King of Limbs playbook. “36 Grams of Sugar” has an undeniable Meat Puppets feel. Elsewhere, those influences coalesce into something more distinctive. On “Don’t Hold Me Now,” singer Phil McGill’s indiscernible vocal delivery becomes an asset, his careening melodies playing off the band’s airtight rhythm. “Knots” augments My Bloody Valentine tremolo with summery sweetness. “Magnetic Halo” is Sonic Youth sans emotional distance. (The album’s last track is called “Washing Machine.” Coincidence?) There are a ton of ideas crammed into the 15-track LP; it can feel like an overwhelming listen, especially given its 70-minute runtime. Increasingly, though, New Madrid’s greatest asset is its willingness to take chances. Dig a tune like “Guay Lo”—the taut, 11-minute instrumental jam that follows the album’s loosest, catchiest single—and tell me you don’t at least admire these fellas’ chutzpah. [Gabe Vodicka] New Madrid plays the Caledonia Lounge on Monday, May 2.
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gloomy universeâ€”should not go into these woods.
Forbidding Fairy Tales
MILES AHEAD (R) I know very little about Miles Davis, so a biopic on the jazz legend should be eye-opening. Don Cheadle, in his feature directing debut (previously, he has helmed some episodes of Showtimeâ€™s â€œHouse of Liesâ€?), constructs a retelling of By Drew Wheeler email@example.com a time in Davisâ€™ life known as his â€œsilent period.â€? So Cheadle and his co-writers also a mind-numbing slog through fairyTHE HUNTSMAN: WINTERâ€™S WAR (PG-13) could be as right about Davis and Rolling tale tropes viewed through an overcast In ways, The Huntsman: Winterâ€™s War Stone writer Dave Brill (Ewan McGregor) mirror. At least the first movie had a deviimproves on its Kristen Stewart-starring, taking on a minor gangster, played by the ous mirror; here we get a Liam Neeson VO Snow White-focused predecessor. Chris always mesmerizing Michael Stuhlbarg (A monotonously explaining everything. Hemsworthâ€™s insouciant charm shines Serious Man, â€œBoardwalk Empireâ€?), brighter with a better romantic for a stolen recording. Or that foil in Jessica Chastain, ostensibly Born to Be Blue whole chunk of the film could be the female Huntsman (though fictional. we find â€œHuntsmanâ€? is less a job The unraveling of Davisâ€™ mardescription than a military rank). riage to dancer Frances Taylor For about an act, I entertain(Emayatzy Corinealdi, The ingly imagined Winterâ€™s War to Invitation and Amazonâ€™s original be Hollywoodâ€™s Witcher movie, series â€œHand of Godâ€?) is recounted and it plays pretty well as an accurately, as are several other adaptation of the popular videosnapshots of the legendary musigame franchise. We learn that cianâ€™s life, i.e. his arrest outside Ravenna (Charlize Theron) has of Birdland. Anyone with little a sister, Freya (Emily Blunt, the knowledge of Davis will find it difexact opposite of Theronâ€™s campy ficult to separate the fact from the queen), who happens to be the Ice fiction, which is what makes Miles Queen. Given this revelation, you Fedora, check. Cigarette, check. Now Iâ€™m jazzy! Ahead miles ahead of many of its can even reconsider the movie as musical biopic brethren (I Saw the Light, The Huntsman could have used more of a dark, live-action Frozen, which is loads for example). Cheadle knew you could not Theronâ€™s campy, Faye Dunaway-as-Joan more amusing than realizing how tedious it make an ordinary film about such a revoluCrawford vibe to awaken this sleepy narrareally is. tionary jazz icon, even if his problems with tive, but she is barely there until the humLike its precursor, this prequel-sequel drugs and women were the same as every drum, effects-driven, climactic showdown. (oh yeah, itâ€™s both) has some visual pizThe rare individual who enjoyed Snow White other music legend to get their own film. zazz; it looks good, but is anyone looking? Miles Ahead tells a story; it does not and the Huntsman can give Winterâ€™s War Multiple Oscar winner Colleen Atwoodâ€™s recount a life. Like its peers, the film needs a go. The rest of the moviegoing worldâ€” costume designs are a consistent standout. and has that outstanding star performance most of whom never asked to return to this However, like its precursor, Winterâ€™s War is in Cheadle, who disappears under Davisâ€™ long jheri curl and distinctive voice. I may not have left Miles Ahead as an expert in everything Davis, but I did find it more compelling and refreshingly less conventional than the average biopic.
Plus, Two New Musical Biopics
BORN TO BE BLUE (R) Like Miles Ahead, Born to Be Blue is less conventional than the Rays and the Walk the Lines. I know less about Chet Baker than I do Miles Davis. â€œMy Funny Valentineâ€? may be the single Baker fact I possessed prior to seeing Born to Be Blue. Recounting the acclaimed trumpet playerâ€™s comeback after a drug-related beating destroyed his front teeth and his all-important embouchure rather than his entire life story, Born to Be Blue, like Miles Ahead, offers more of a single snapshot rather than a home movie. The film will not make anyone an expert in all things Chet Baker. Instead, filmmaker Robert Budreau fosters an appreciation for the work Baker put into reclaiming his greatness despite his addiction. Unlike most other musical biopics, we get to skip the inevitable druginduced downfall and ride the high of his subsequent success. As Baker, Ethan Hawke benefits from portraying a famous figure whose face and voice are unfamiliar to most viewers. Who knows whether or not he impressively impersonates Chet Baker? Instead, he simply gets to give another much-admired performance. Again, like in Miles Ahead, fact and fiction are blurred to the point that their separation does not matter. Born to Be Blue tells a solid narrative about a junkie musician getting a second chance. That tale is much more intriguing than the rehashed rise-and-fall motif used in every other tired musical biopic. f
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