Eddie's Attic is a music club founded in 1992 by Eddie Owen. Located in Decatur, a close-in suburb of Atlanta, it is primarily a venue for acoustic singer-songwriters. Performers who have developed their fan base at Eddie's Attic include Shawn Mullins, John Mayer, the Civil Wars, and most notably the Indigo Girls, who have become virtually synonymous with the club (many people mistakenly think they own the place). In November 2011, Atlanta concert promoter Alex Cooley bought the club and six months later fired Eddie Owen, who had remained the club's booking agent. Many of us had high hopes that Cooley would turn the club into a new rock venue, but since Owen's departure it has stayed a more-or-less all-acoustic club.
In the 21 years that the club operated, I had never been there - that is, until last night. Acoustic singer-songwriters, aka "folk singers," aren't really my thing, despite my affection for Sharon Van Etten and Damien Jurado, who technically could be considered part of that genre. In addition, Decatur is off the beaten track, at least my beaten track, and I was never sufficiently motivated to drive across town to hear music in which I wasn't interested. I mean, come on, would you?
Until, that is, last night. My friend Leslie wanted to treat me to a slightly belated (by my own request) birthday dinner at an Ethiopian restaurant in Decatur, and while wondering what else to do while in Decatur, I checked out the listings for Eddie's Attic and saw that the band California Wives (all dudes, naturally) was playing that night.
That was a pleasant surprise. Their song Blood Red Youth had somehow managed to surface on my iPod, where it's resided for a couple years now. They are a bona-fide rock band, not at all unlike the acts regularly booked at, say, The Earl or The Drunken Unicorn, and not at all the solemn, sincere solo acts typically on the Attic stage. So after dinner, we went over to Eddie's to hear California Wives.
It was a 9:30 show and followed an earlier show by a solo, acoustic singer-songwriter (naturally). I didn't go to the early show (naturally). The Wives got started at around 10:00 pm.
Eddie's Attic is a throwback to the earlier, cabaret-style nightclubs in which I used to hear live music. It's nice to be able to sit, but since most normal people don't dance to folk music (at least most normal folk music), there was no dance floor or place to stand in front of the stage. It was just like the 70s (NY's Bottom Line or Boston's Jonathan Swift's) - you sat at a table or at the bar, and a waitress would come by to take your order. That may not sound strange to some of you, but I haven't been accustomed to that kind of set-up at a rock club since I first went to Atlanta's 688 back in 1981. However, you really can't complain about the sight lines (no tall dudes standing right in front of you), and it's not unpleasant to be able to sit.
Meanwhile, the band on stage, California Wives, played a terrific set for a small audience. Their music ranged from dreamy Real Estate-style guitar pop to jangle pop to somewhat angular shoegaze. According to Consequence of Sound, "The four members of the Chicago band are definitive in their style, meshing atmospheric textures with stadium rock guitar parts — a New Wave-inspired outfit who knows that they are just that, and they intend to make the most out of it. In a live setting, it can thrill . . . On record, it’s a band that loves both U2 and the Cocteau Twins’ very different methods of crafting 'big' sounds so much that they naturally decided to replicate both at the same time."
I thoroughly enjoyed their set, as well as frontman Jayson Kramer's engaging and humorous stage presence. After performing their song Tokyo, a group from a back table shouted out that they were in fact actually from Tokyo, which seemed to impress Kramer greatly. Tokyo was followed, naturally, by Los Angeles to complete the geographic portion of their set. It was the band's first gig in Atlanta and followied an evening in New Orleans, and they played their disorientation (and hangovers) to comic effect, wrapping up their set by 11:00 pm.
This year, for some reason, August does not hold much promise for many memorable nights of music, so it was nice to end July on an up note, and it was also nice to finally make it over to Eddie's after all these years. Perhaps last night was the start of the Cooley influence on the club's booking, but even if not, it was still a nice change of pace.
Post-Script: After finishing this post about California Wives, I saw that I got an email from Paste Magazine (based in Decatur) promoting a Wives show in their hometown of Chicago. According to Paste, "California Wives draw influences from several different genres with a heavy emphasis on songwriting and lyricism, so catching them in a smaller setting is sure to be a treat." I don't know how small a venue the WXYZ Bar is at the O'Hare Aloft Hotel, but I doubt the crowd will be smaller than the two dozen or so at Eddie's Attic last night.