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Flagpole. (Athens, Ga.) 1987-current, July 12, 2000, Image 19

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PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY CINDY JERRELL S ome of the more laid-back musicians who tend to mosey into the downtown clubs of Athens may be a bit taken aback at the notion of a "drum battle" between two local skin-tappers this week. In fact, there are no real battles or wars or police actions between very many musicians in thm curious music scene. This week's special event, in addition to broadening immeasurably the county-wide market for jazz and sloppy rock, serves as one of the occasions to bridge the gap between stylistic eras. In many instances, musicians of the swing and bop schools have been brought into the interplay of jazzmen and rock fellas produced by various contemporary' revolutions. More impor tantly, fans usually lured in by the attraction of some hot name get to learn a great deal by being exposed to the performances—in the same show—of the elder statesmen whose contribu tions otherwise might have escaped their atten- ‘ tion. The first Athens drumm°rs to become super stars—Pylon's Curtis Crowe and R.E.M.'s Bill Berry'—may not have been the most advanced drummers of the ‘ , 980s, but they were in some ways the most significant. Prior to those two, the drums were thought of as merely supportive instruments. With their good looks and colorful playing, Crowe and Berry became matinee idols and changed the image of drummers forever. Two Athens drummers—the highly-in- demand Carlton Owens (of Squat and numerous other projects) and Flagpole scribe Ballard Lesemann (of Hayride, The Rock’A’Teens and numerous other projects)—offer a touch of nos talgia and adventurism this week in the first- ever "Original Drum Battle"—an intense, extended call-and-response dual solo showcasing the skills that were founding factors in Athens- style drumming. ‘ Actually, I heard Carlton play when he joined the Squat orchestra," says Lesemann. "I don't know exactly when he joined, but this was in 1994 or so. The only reason I didn't hear him before then was I was scared to death. The guys in Squat—like Carl Lindberg and all the chaps— used to come by and say, 'Man this kid over at the High Hat is going to scare you to death. Wait 'til you hear him.'" Owens scared Lesemann, and vic*»-versa... for various reasons. "I'm often asked the question, 'How about natural talent agrinst studied technique and so forth?"' continues Lesemann. "I've watched everybody rather closely, and there are three giants in tne Athens drum world—Carlton Owens, Kyle Spence and Joe Rowe. Of these three, Carlton stanas out head and shoulders. He plays as if he's been studying for years, even though he's really just faking it all. He's like Jeff Reilly and Dwayne Holloway and the other all- star drummers, like Ed Livengood, Ben Mize, Jeremy Barnes, Joe Rowe, Rick Williams, Paul Trudeau, Jeremy Allen, Matt Lane—all those guys—anybody who has a distinctive style, great technique, and knows how to swing a band." "I don't krow how to answer a thing like that," replies Owens. 'That's probably the greatest compliment that has ever been paid to me by anyon., especially when it comes from such a Normaltown qiant as Ballard. Ballard is absolutely the first man when it comes tc crazy drumming... the inspiration for every big-name sloppy drummer in the business today." Since both Owens and Lesemann were already in their prime before many of the young drum mers came along during the new movements of jazz and rock in Athens, both are in a good posi tion to get an opinion of how the younger types compare with the drummers who were estab lished before in relationship to the music that they're playing today. "I have definite and very' set opinions about the so-called modem school of music and drum mers," says Owens. "Whereas in the days when it was necessary to swing a band—where a drummer had to be a poweihouse... today more or less the 'cool school' has taken over, and I don't believe there's such a thing as a ‘cool drummer. You either swing a band or don't swing a band, and that's what's lacking today." "Well, that’s Carlton's big tip." responds Lesemann. "I mean, he can play hard and make a sound rather than a noise." Through the years, Owens and Lesemann have secretly conducted these “drum battles" around the region as a showcase feature to great response and reclaim. "Naturally, there are partisan groups among the audiences," says Owens. "They're all shouting for their favorites, and we sit down at the drums and we laugh, and some nights BallardTl start a tempo or ether night: III start the tempo. And we just start to play. And some nights it's great, and other nights it's laughs, ard other nights it's boring, because that's what makes anything that's spontaneous... it's a free feeling." "We get up there and play just exactly what we feel like that particular night," says Lesemann. "When we play places like the Dock Street Theatre or The Star Bar where the places are sold out and we know that the people are listening, we play well. When we play other piaces where we don't think there's too much inteiest, where people would rather be heard themselves, we let them scream, and we play under them." Thomas O'Neal Warner WHO: Squat, "The Original Drum Battle/' Park Bench Blues Band WHERE: Georgia Theatre WHEN: Thursday, July 13 HOW MUCH: Call COlTOlWWWaOWflTT'COMIFOBlDETAIlSJflNDlFBEElPASSESlEVERYlDaV! RlEfAU 1 H 285 W. Washington St. Athens, GA • Call 549-7871 for Show Updates We serve Righteous Juices WEDNESDAY, JULY 12 JOSH PERKINS doors open at 10pm four dollars THURSDAY. JULY 13 Playing 3 Sets doors open at 10pm three dollars FRIDAY. JULY 14 LOCUST YEARS doors open at 10pm four dollars SATURDAY, JULY 15 NO SMOKING SHOW doors open at 9pm ten dollars advance NO SMOKING SHOW MONDAY. JU1Y 17 doors open at 10pm four dollars TUESDAY, JULY 18 RRIGHT EYES ISOBEI doors open at 10pm WEDNESDAY. JULY 19 <£srf/'i' ucji.i4icj c l l Jit ft doors open at 9pm fifteen dollars advance COMING SOON CAT POWER 7/24 * PATTI SMITH 7/25 DRIVE-By TRUCKERS 7/28 Tickets Available at Big Shot & Lo yo yo JULY 12, 2000 FLAGPOLE EP