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Got this query from degenerate HH, who happens to be a locally published music critic:
I read your weekly or biweekly transmissions and am always entertained. However, I have noticed a rather constant dis of Smith's Olde Bar. I don't believe you have ever stated your reasons for not liking the venue, and I sure don't have any emotional or commercial ties to the place, but I wonder what your problem is with it.
Is it the frat-heavy audience? Or the curtain around the stage? Or what? On the plus side, the sound is always good, they book an interesting and rather varied calendar of acts, they treat local bands with respect and pay them fairly, they are really good to local writers like you and I for guest list things..I mean what is the beef here?
OK, so it's not as grungy hip as the Star Bar, Lenny's or the late Echo, but those places have/had their own problems, and at the very least, I feel safe in the Smith's neighborhood. And my car has never gotten broken into when going to a show there, something I can't say about the hipper places in town. So maybe give them a break. They work hard at doing benefits for local causes, always support local talent and have a Monday 3 bands for 5 bucks night that functions as an open mic type thing.
Iíve mentioned my beef(s) with Smithís in passing, but since you asked, hereís the shotgun approach:
1) Their beverage selection, particularly upstairs, sucks.
2) Their beverage prices, both up and downstairs, suck.
3) The crowd, as you say, leans toward the frat-boy/sorority-girl end.
3a) Theyíre rude - Iíve been to many shows there where I couldnít hear the performance because of the chatter. And Iím not just talking the unplugged days of Asylum Street Spankers. Hey, I like to talk, especially while drinking, but they have a whole damn bar downstairs for socializing.
3b) I canít tell them apart. What the hell is up with people who canít dress themselves and just buy whatever is offered off the rack at Macyís? If I see one more guy in a baseball cap, polo shirt, thin leather belt, and pleated khakis (or shorts and sandals, depending on the weather), itíll be one too many. Iíll go off the deep end. At least women have a wider variety of clothing, but I donít find the women at Smithís (with a few exceptions for the staff) attractive in the least.
3c) I canít stand vapid people and every time I go there it seems to be either vapid yuppie scum, or neohippies. Donít get me wrong, some of my best friends are neohippies (degenerates JH and LH, Iím looking at youÖ) but generally the nights Iím there with the neohippy crowd are the nights Iíve been dragged by my neohippy friends and the jam/groove music eventually drives me out the door and I wind up downstairs alone.
4) Iíve found the staff there to be brusque in general. Not Masquerade-style intentionally rude, but not my preferred dive-style friendly.
5) The upstairs smells funny (perhaps the carpet has finally reached the supersaturated point after 10 years of absorbing beer and other fluids?)
6) I never arrive in time to get a seat and thereís only so much time I can stand on my flat feet. (Yes, this is a problem at 95% of the venues in town.)
7) Most of their shows are $3-10 more than Iím willing to spend.
8) The jukebox downstairs is often so loud I canít carry on a conversation. Alternately, the live music upstairs is so quiet I canít help but hear half the conversations in the room. What the hell?
9) The place gets very crowded for a good show, which makes the bar upstairs difficult to get to, and nearly impossible to get service from.
10) I donít know the staff Ďcause I ainít a regular. I became a regular of other bars for good reason, but because Iím a regular is good reason to keep going back. I know the bartenders. They know me. They know what I like. They give me decent service and are willing to chat when I show up early and Iím the only soul in the place. Sure, I could BECOME a regular at Smithís, but refer to reasons 1-9. The inertia is against them. Or meÖ
11) When Smithís opened I had lived in Midtown for many years. I popped in, expecting to find a new gay bar, only to find something that seemed to belong more in the Highlands or Buckhead (back then Buckhead still had neighborhood bars.) My disappointment kept me away for a while, thus the beginnings of the inertia mentioned above.
On the plus side, they have the downstairs bar for socializing. They serve food. They have a variety of distractions like billiards, darts, and an (almost always broken) pinball machine. The sound quality is consistently good. The round stage offers a bit more room to stand around the edges and still enjoy the show.
Were I writing an ezine recommending fun things to do for insipid frat guys and the vaccuous women they persue, Iíd probably be at Smithís all the time. But that ainít me, and thus far I *AM* Degenerate Press.
Unlike Underground, I donít have anything personal (OK, not much) against Smithís. Occasionally there will be a show that, in my opinion, outweighs all the negative aspects of the joint. There are a lot of venues in this town we donít recommend Ė 10 High, Masquerade, anything in Buckhead. And we donít get OTP very often. But once a year or so I end up at one of the above and am reminded why I donít go more often, and why we donít recommend shows in such venues in this publication.
But hey, just this once for you (donít say we never do requests), hereís some upcoming shows weíd recommend at Smithís, if we could tolerate the place:
February 16, Wednesday
Dirty Dozen Brass Band, De Sol at Smithís.
February 17, Thursday
Artimus Pyledriver, Edgewood, Infernal Machine at Smithís.
February 18, Friday
The Codetalkers, featuring Col. Bruce Hampton, at Smithís.
Heck, while weíre at it thereís a bunch of bands we love playing The Alleycat Lounge on Saturday nights at midnight for the next several weeks at Underground. See www.alleycatclub.com for details. And 10 High has Subsonics on February 10, Thursday, with Weak Lazy Liar, and Modern Skirts. And some funk band called Heavyweight has been pestering us to list their show there February 16. (I love me some funk, so youíd think Iíd like 10 High, what with the funky smell the place exudes, but no, I hate that place. Need to know why? Well, re-read the notes above about Smithís but just imagine Iím talking about 10 High, but without the plus sideÖ)
Oh, and the Hawks are playing down at the dome. Heck, if I had the Six Flags schedule for next summer Iíd post that too.
As always, we welcome dissenting opinion. Send us a review of a venue, or show at a venue, and weíre 99% likely to run it! Heck, my cranky opinion shouldnít be the only one in this rag but thus far Iím hard pressed to get anyone else to put fingers to buttons and write me somethiníÖ
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