Rock & Roll, Hot Dogs, and Other ‘Murica Stuff …

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“Did you follow the instructions?” Sheila asked as we stared at the non-functioning parking meter machine.  Of course, no, I didn’t, but it was irrelevant since the machine was, quite obviously, broken. Luckily, the sign next to it proclaimed that we could use the app on our phone to pay for the space, just in case the machine was broken. I have a feeling that machine never worked and was merely a ruse to get you to punch in yet one more convoluted password (“password must contain 73 characters and be a combination of letters, numbers, upper case letters, special characters  and a picture of Richard Nixon”) into your phone. Turns out I had already used the parking app in Atlanta when Sheila and I attended her work Christmas party, but Surprise!!, I didn’t remember my highly super secret password so now I was creating yet one more password I’ll never remember using the super convenient “Forgot your password?” helpful feature.  
Mission accomplished, we went to the club entrance. Sheila & I were with Laura & Lord, visiting from Jersey for the week, and were going to see one of Lord’s favorite bands. 
Small, dark, in a former life it likely reeked of stale cigarette smoke and pungent whiskey. Eddie’s Attic in Decatur, GA is everything you might imagine when thinking of a rock and roll venue, and it sure played that role perfectly when it presented Dan Baird & Homemade Sin on March 8, 2017. 
The stage is a small, slightly elevated platform tucked away in a corner of the room with all of the seating directed that way. There is a sign stating that the joint is a music listening room and if you want to party and get rowdy, an adjoining patio area is available. Otherwise, the implication is, “sit down, shut up and enjoy the music”. Well, in this case it was “sit back, have a great time and smile your asses off”!
Dan Baird & Homemade Sin are the perfect example of a professional American rock and roll band. This is real r&r, not some massively over-produced extravaganza where bad singers are auto-tuned and backing tracks drown out the live music. Nope, this is ‘Murica; loud, smack you in the face, southern based rock that was a party from the first chord until the last. DB&HS’s picture should be in Webster’s dictionary under “rock and roll band”. 
Truthfully, I didn’t know a lot about Dan Baird, other than the fact that he was the lead singer of the Georgia Satellites. Laura’s sig other, Lord, is a serious music-o-phile and he is the one that suggested we catch DB& HS during Laura and Lord’s visit this past week. And the Satellites tune “Keep Your Hands To Yourself” is Laura’s jam (as the kids say these days) (I’m too old to have a jam, except maybe Smuckers) so there was no way L&L were coming to Atlanta and not seeing the band. 
This band was tight … every tune, every lick, every single hit was flawless. The drummer, whom Sheila described (accurately, BTW) as Animal from the Muppets, was kicking that band in the ass the whole show. He never missed a single accent or riff all night, and his time was impeccable!  Very powerful player …
Mauro Magellan
The bass player was the only guy who wasn’t from the South. He was from Sweden, a recent band arrival after the previous bassist was rumored to have done the stereotypical rock “crash and burn” nose dive into addiction. This new guy did his homework; big, fat tone that hit you in the chest, perfectly synced with the drummer, hit every single nuance (if you can call anything they did “nuanced”) and cut with force. One hell of a good player, using a seriously road worn (for real road worn, not manufactured funk) Fender Jazz bass, playing thru an Avatar 410 using an Orange head (info provided for the bass nerds).  Great tone, perfectly dialed in. 
Micke Bjork
The lead guitar player was just what you expect to see in a rock band: a perfect showman who over-emphasized every thing he did but was so damn likable that he had you smiling all night. He had excellent rock-God chops, was completely comfortable with the guitar behind-the-back twirl, easily the best dressed and neatest band member (it’s entirely possible that he was the only guy who had washed his hair that week) (for sure he was the only one who hadn’t slept in his clothes) and was a pure joy to watch. That guy was absolutely having a good time. 
Warner Hodges
Dan Baird was excellent and bore the scars of a life of r&r on the road. Without appearing to be over-bearing or obnoxious, Dan was clearly the reason this band was so good … every step of the way he nudged, steered, directed, cajoled that band to a great performance. And it was also clear that the band members loved Dan … its possible that they had more fun than the audience did! Dan Baird is a seriously seasoned pro …
Dan Baird
If you want to see REAL rock & roll, go catch these guys when they are in your area. You all know by now that I’m a jazz guy thru and thru, but I was incredibly glad I saw this band … it restored my faith in the possibility that live music still exists, played by real pros who love what they are doing while still being “rock and roll”. Thanks, Lord, we had a great time!

The other new experience for me while Laura was visiting was our trip to The Varsity, Atlanta’s hot dog heaven. Naturally, coming from Jersey I’m comparing it to “real” dog places like Rutt’s Hutt or Jimmy Buff’s … stop right there, no comparison to be made in terms of either food quality or experience. The Varsity is huge, you can probably put 20 Rutt’s Hutt’s and Jimmy Buff’s into that building and still have room, so there is no “small shop” feeling to it. And the day we went to The Varsity it was CROWDED, I’m guessing at least 1000 people in the restaurant (no, I’m not doing the Jersey exaggeration, this joint is huge!)

The main ordering counter 

To be fair, I think it was a particularly busy night, with some kind of school trip visiting The Varsity … the place was lousy with young teens shoving dogs in their mouths. Even with that consideration, it’s clear that The Varsity is food production on a massive scale. And being the novices that were are, when Lord and I got into line to order, there really wasn’t a “line” in the strictest sense of the word, more of a “human mass” standing all over the place. As we progressed, Lord took a forward position, using his well-honed, I’m-from-NYC-don’t-f***-with-me skills, while I wussed out with a more traditional glazed-eye look in the back of the crowd. I was thinking, just in case Lord got tossed for line-jumping I would be in a safe line stance and the ladies wouldn’t starve (stupid thought since Laura is a vegetarian and Sheila eats like a polite Southern girl) (they weren’t all that motivated to stay in a massively crowded, greasy hot dog joint) (Lord and I saw the words “hot dogs” and we weren’t backing down, though)

Lord is a comedian (yes, an actual comedian, for money) so his winning ways got a solid position and after about 20-30 minutes (yes, 20-30 minutes) (for a hot dog) (you can see why the ladies weren’t quite so enthused) we ordered. Here’s a sort of pictorial summary of the famous The Varsity dogs:

Slaw chili dogs, regular chili dogs, double burger, fries, rings

Not pictured, Laura’s grilled cheese (you didn’t think we were going to force a vegetarian to eat a hot dog, did you??) or Sheila’s “F.O.”, a frozen orange drink that was like a weak tasting cream-sicle. The food was just – okay, not bad but most definitely not worth the hype or the wait. But, The Varsity is one of those Atlanta traditions, the kind of place where all of the B.S. politicians go to get their picture taken and out-of-area folks always ask about The Varsity, so it was sort of a necessity that we eat there with L&L.  I doubt Sheila and I will be rushing back, however …

The visit from Laura and Lord was great, an excellent 5 days. We visited what seemed to be 100 thrift stores (probably more like 7) (felt like 1000) while Laura sought out vintage bargains for her on-line resale biz (check her out on line … Etsy = VintagePussyCatShop, eBay = Vintage Pussycat Shop). I did find a coolio pool cue, two Craftsman socket holders, a wine carrier case, a nicely broken in all leather Victorinox overnight/computer bag ($6 !!!) and a few Georgia-themed t-shirts that looked worn out and may help me to blend in with the locals (trying to shake off the Jersey) (kinda works if I don’t talk) (owning a Lexus instead of a beat up F150 doesn’t help).

For those that are counting (what?? you’re NOT counting?), it’s day #153 for me as a Georgia resident and it has been amazing, all of it … Sheila, Georgia, retirement, southern life … all of it. For the record, I’m still not saying “Y’all” yet, clinging onto my Jersey with both hands. But I do feel my grip loosening bit by bit …

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