Graded on a Curve:
Plus 1 Atlanta: Concert Ephemera From a Storied Metropolis 1962–2003

Following a hefty volume focused on the Athens, GA music scene, Chunklet Industries’ latest tome Plus 1 Atlanta: Concert Ephemera From a Storied Metropolis 1962-2003 is a 214-page oversized paperback loaded with scans of show flyers. Spanning the years of the title, the majority of the inclusions were created to promote local attractions, though out-of-towners are also featured, often with Atlanta-based openers. Along with a handful of essays, amongst them a foreword by David Cross, an intro by publisher Henry H. Owings, an afterword by Bill Kelliher of Mastodon, plus pieces by Kelly Hogan and Jared Swilley of the Black Lips, the contents offer a vivid portrait of Atlanta’s musical history.

Published last year by Owings and Chunklet, and with its second printing currently available, Plus 1 Athens: Show Flyers From a Legendary Scene 1967-2002 is a wonderful resource for music lovers, and in particular those who have engaged with the documented locale from a distance, perhaps thinking of the town, or better said, as reinforced in the book’s title, the Athens scene, as being dominated by Southern new wave and college radio jangle (e.g. B-52’s, Pylon, Love Tractor, and of course, R.E.M.).

Plus 1 Atlanta does something very similar for a much larger city. Obviously, it’s a given that a municipality of Atlanta’s size will have a sturdy musical infrastructure. But unlike Athens, or Austin, or New Orleans, Memphis, Nashville, or Chicago, and more recently, Seattle, Chapel Hill, or Portland, OR, music is unlikely to be the first (or even the second or third) thing to come to mind when thoughts turn to Atlanta. It’s no shock that much of musical interest transpired in Atlanta over the decades; rather, Plus 1 Atlanta reinforces the notion that every city is a music city whether this fact is well-known or not.

Unsurprisingly, the Athens and Atlanta books feature some overlap, and notably Owings himself, who lived in Athens for a stretch prior to moving to Atlanta, where he’s spent over half his life. As a firsthand witness, he brings a unified approach to both projects, and additionally he contrasts the two, with Atlanta portrayed as a place that, if being far short of cutthroat, fostered a sense of competition (maybe desperation is a better word) that found bands tearing down or covering up the flyers of other bands.

Atlanta is also depicted as largely lacking in glamour, something it shares with other Southern scenes, while encouraging plenty of eccentricity, something not always shared with other Southern scenes, and along with the expected variations on pop and rock, experimentation was welcomed (it’s great to see the Shaking Ray Levis in Plus 1 Atlanta’s pages). Also, there was a healthy LGBTQ component to the scene; indeed, a few of the included flyers and essays underscore that Atlanta was the place where RuPaul got his start as a performer.

Beginning with a bill for a Jimmy Reed gig and ending with a lovely illustrated poster for a Mastodon show, the chronology between features names one would expect to see, such as the Allman Brothers, the Hampton Grease Band (and a flyer for a show by Grease Band guitarist Glenn Phillips), the Atlanta Rhythm Section, Athens visitors B-52’s, Pylon, and R.E.M., Keith and the Satellites (who became The Georgia Satellites), The Black Crowes, and a slew of punk/ u-ground/ indie-era acts associated with the state of Georgia (as in the Athens volume, Owings largely limits each act to no more than three flyers).

But there are some sweet surprises, such as a flyer for a show by Washington, DC go-go kingpins Trouble Funk (a recent viewing of the wonderfully offbeat 1979 film The Visitor, filmed and set in Atlanta, drives home something that most other Atlanta-filmed/ set films don’t, namely that the city has long had a substantial Black community). Another is a bill for touring act Masada featuring John Zorn with local openers The Gold Sparkle Band.

Seeing Masada triggered a recollection of witnessing them play in the mid-’90s at the Black Cat in Washington, DC on a weird night when the club was double booked; there was also a separately ticketed show by Baltimore’s Lungfish. Succinctly, that was one hell of a good night, and remembering it gets to the multifaceted appeal of books like Plus 1 Atlanta, which offers rich historical perspective for the benefit of both the locals who lived it and those with limited or no firsthand contact with the city. Additionally, just perusing it’s pages can spark intense travels down one’s personal memory lane.

GRADED ON A CURVE:
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