Eddie’s Attic put Decatur on the map in terms of the national folk/acoustic music scene. I adore Eddie’s and I consider myself spoiled by the quality of shows there — I’ve been known to slip out of the house and up to Eddie’s on a Wednesday night to sit in a corner in the back with a beer, enjoy the heck out of a show, and be home by 9:45. I’m excited to see what the new owners might do with the space, and I am thrilled that Eddie Owen’s renewed involvement will ensure that the Attic will continue to honor the purpose it has served in support of national touring artists.
There is little room on its busy stage, however, for the many accomplished musicians we have homegrown right here. When I was an Agnes Scott student, Eddie was still a bartender at the Trackside, where I would go to hear the likes of local artists such as the Indigo Girls, Kristin Hall, and Michelle Malone. I loved it there, and I also loved going across the street to the Freight Room to hear folks like Cyndi Craven and Tom Wolf, two Atlanta acoustic mainstays who still perform in the area.
Those days are long gone, but still there is something about Decatur that wants to clear a space for the incredible muslcal talent that’s being cultivated right here at home. We are crawling with great music. It’s just a little hard to find sometimes.
It’s not so hard, though, on Tuesday nights. An actual local music scene is taking root right around the center of the city. Thinking back to a suggestion in John Kessler’s recent piece on Decatur’s dining scene that a wonderful, leisurely evening might be made of exploring the terrific culinary options the city has to offer, wouldn’t it be fun if a similar set of musical riches were to emerge?
Maybe we are well on our way. Three venues, all within a half-mile of one another around the square, are now hosting lively sessions on Tuesday nights. At these places you can find some of the best musical talent Atlanta has to offer. It’s well worth taking one night to explore all three, or to spread the joy over three weeks. Who knows? You might even find yourself setting aside your Tuesday evenings to walk up to the square and hear some music in a relaxed, comfortable setting. None of these are “open jams” or “open mics;” each promises — or even exceeds — performances that you would hear on a professional stage. Are you ready for a quick tour?
Twain’s Jazz Jam
Joe Gransden kicked off his Tuesday night jams at Twain’s Billiards and Tap on Trinity in April 2008, and it didn’t take long for this session to gain a reputation as one of the best jazz jams in Atlanta. Joe is well known in Atlanta and especially Decatur as a trumpeter and band leader par excellence, and his Tuesday nights at Twain’s draw some incredible local talent, including regulars pianist Tyrone Jackson, bassist Craig Shaw, drummer Chris Burroughs, trombone player Wes Funderburk . . . the list just goes on and on. Mosey in around 9:00, order a beer, then sit back and prepare to be blown away for several hours by the stunning musicianship on that stage. Here’s an example — a nearly nine-minute take on “Caravan” featuring Clarence Johnson on sax, Wes Funderburk on trombone, Tyrone Jackson on keys, Craig Shaw on bass, and Chris Burroughs on drums.
Marlay House Celtic Jam
If you’re called to something a little more Celtic, then jig on down to the Marlay House on Ponce for the terrific Irish sessions with, yes indeed, some of the best Celtic and acoustic players the Atlanta area has to offer. This jam, which gets rolling around 8 p.m., has been a lively weekly event since about 2009. Members of the Buddy O’Reilly Band (well known for their leading role in Atlanta’s Celtic Christmas performance), and renowned traditional players such as Moira Nelligan (fiddle player and vocalist) and Tim Cape (fiddle), Barbara Panter and Whit Connah of Hair of the Dog, and a host of other accomplished musicians circle ’round in a generous front corner booth and play unplugged. Sometimes the Irish step dancers put in an appearance, too. Later into the evening, around 10 or 10:30, the music strays from its traditional Irish bent into American old-time, swing, blues, even Cajun. Find a table near the front for a good spot to watch and listen. Here’s a segment that WPBA produced on the Marlay House jam not long ago.
Java Monkey’s Tuesday Night String Club
A Marlay House session may leave you wanting to more fully explore Decatur’s acoustic offerings. Hie thee off, then, to Java Monkey on Church Street, for the Tuesday Night String Club. Since January 2010, here have gathered some of the area’s most accomplished songwriters and players, who bring out their guitars, ukuleles, mandolins, cellos — there’s even a concertina and a piano pretty regularly — for an evening of showcases, collaborations, experimentations, and playing for the pure pleasure of it. Among the regulars are local favorites Ben Wakeman, Cyndi Craven, Ashley Filip, Billy Gewin, Bruce Gilbert, Bob Bakert, Jerry Brunner, Lindsay Petsch, Daniel Lipton, and Atlanta newcomer and former Nitty Gritty Dirt Band member, John Cable. Take your glass of wine or brew and your hunk of Southern Sweets cake out onto the patio and settle in with this intrepid and entertaining gang. Here’s a sampling of a few minutes of a recent Tuesday Night String Club evening, featuring John Cable, Lindsay Petsch, and Daniel Lipton.