Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Gringo Star and driving in Atl

Download: Gringo Star -- "No Reason"

I just finished reading Tom Wolfe's novel, "A Man In Full", which is set in Atlanta, GA. It's the first book that I can remember reading that takes place in a city I'm fairly familiar with, and I was surprised how much that changed the way I read. Normally, I must spend a fair amount of energy imagining the places and things the author describes, because this time through I was able to pay much more attention to the nitty gritty aspects of the books creation, like the structure of the book itself, and the type of research it would have required. One thing that "A Man In Full" touches on briefly is the amount of driving that goes on in Atlanta. In my experience, it could have spent a good bit more time emphasizing how wed to the automobile most people in Atlanta are. Atlanta has to be right up there with the drivingest town in the drivingest country in the world, on par with LA (a town I feel has a spiritual connection with Atlana). Having lived in the town both with and without a car, I got to experience the car culture of the city from a variety of perspectives.

My first two years in Atlanta, I lived in north Buckhead, practically Sandy Springs. I worked at a Starbucks a couple miles up Roswell road, which I walked or rode my bike to every morning to open. Roswell road is one of those roads that you don't stop to think about too much until you have to walk it. At that point, you realize just how inhospitable the damn thing is to anyone that's not in a car. The sidewalks are small, disappear and reappear without warning, and more often than not are clogged by cars coming and going from the various shops, apartments, and parking lots along the road. It's a mess to walk, and because of that, the road was, in my experience, mainly walked by people that were the human equivalent of the cut-out bin in Atlanta. A group of the poor, broken, and mentally unbalanced - often a combination of all three. The Starbucks I worked at was quite busy, and I'd say about 75% of its business came from the drive through window. The store was located at the top of 285, close to GA 400, and I-75 and I-85. Every morning there was a near constant stream of cars pulling through on their way from the affluent northern suburbs to their offices within the city limits. It was an impressive deluge. During that same time period, I was going to school on Emory's campus, way the hell over in Dekalb, almost Decatur. Sometimes we'd get a ride to school, a 35 minute drive at least, but it was often up to Marta to get us there. Public transportation in Atlanta is pretty tough going once you get off the train lines, which only go North/South and East/West. I don't recommend it.

A few years later, after I finished college, I was back in Atlanta, living further in town. I was in Grant Park for a while and then 4th ward, but I worked in Virginia Highlands (again, at Starbucks - I know, depressing), and still drove like crazy. I always felt as if I was at least a 20 minute drive from where I needed to be no matter where I was in Atlanta. Around this time, I started seeing hand painted wooden shipping palettes advertising shows for a band called, A Fir-Ju Well. The signs were visually striking, and what's more they were geared towards motorists. The palettes would be left at prominent intersections in neighborhoods packed with the band's target demographic, or affixed to telephone poles in similar areas. You can see an example of their signage at Cable and Tweed. You can bet that there were precious few people living inside the perimeter (above or near I-20) in the early 2000s that didn't at least know the name, A Fir-Ju Well. It was an impressive 'marketing plan' in no small part because it demonstrated an acute understanding of importance of cars, traffic, and intersections in Atlanta.

Since leaving Atlanta and moving back to Athens, I've started doing publicity for independent bands here at Team Clermont. Understandably, I spend a good bit of time thinking about how smaller, less well known bands with great music can bring themselves to the attention of more people. I was surprised how often I found myself remembering A Fir-Ju Well's palettes in Atlanta. So, when we had the good fortune to work with Gringo Star, the band that A Fir-Ju Well has morphed into, here at Team Clermont we happily jumped at the opportunity. The MP3 above comes from their self-titled EP. It's good stuff.

How's that for a self indulgent blog post?

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