Please understand that before there was crunk there was The Chronicle; before there was Bone Crusher there was Lyrical Giants; before there was India Arie there was Donnie and Joi, before Janelle Monae there was Edith’s Wish. Atlanta was bursting with musical creativity and at the center of the live music scene was a band called The Chronicle.
I have been privileged to grow up in Atlanta with the National Black Arts Festival for what seems like a lifetime. If you have not experienced it you need to make arrangements immediately for 2012 because the visual arts exhibits, the dance performances, the theater, the parties, the markets, the films, the people, and the concerts ohh the concerts are not to be missed in Hotlanta in July.
But this year was special. This year there were two events that transported me back to Atlanta, circa 1994, the summer leading to my sophomore year in college. For nearly a decade Jason Orr brought Black Atlanta together to vibe through every sensory outlet of our collective bodies through the Funk Jazz Cafe. People came from all over sprawled out “Atlanta” and stood in line for hours without knowing who was going to perform. It was electric. Orr, a creative genius, developed a phenomenal documentary about the state of black music over the last two decades called Diary of a Decade. He premiered his documentary at the NBAF film festival to sold out audiences who not only watched the two hour flic, but stayed for the post-film discussion. We left the film like we had been to a Funk Jazz Cafe event, drenched with nostalgia for an era we have been trying to explain since it ended.
The film chronicles amazing performances by Jill Scott, Dionne Farris, Omar, Me’shell N’degeocello, Goodie Mob, Bilal, Doug E Fresh, Janelle Monae, and sooo many more folk who in the early days jammed to the legendary house band, The Chronicle.
In the late 1990’s Yin Yang Cafe was the place to get your true caffeine every Thursday night via The Chronicle. It was an open mic night, there was no rehearsal…all improvisation…live music flow…dancer’s heaven. And we danced like we might fall out if the music stopped. Bone Crusher and, comedian, Zooman were the hosts and they didn’t let just anyone get on stage.
This year the NBAF featured The Chronicle Reunion after nearly a decade. The original members Billy Odum, L-roc Phillips, DJ Kemit, Phil Davis, Avery Johnson, and Lil’ John Roberts pumped out hits, like “The Rock Song” that only Yin Yang Cafe (now Apache Cafe) regulars would know. All I know is I couldn’t move my neck or talk for days but I felt like a burden had been lifted by the end of the night. It was the spiritual experience–the release–I have been looking for since 2005.
Both Funk Jazz Cafe and the Chronicle presented artists like they were already stars and you just didn’t know it yet, like singer/songwriter Donnie (The Colored Section) and Joi (Star Kitty’s Revenge). In true form The Chronicle presented artists like lyricist Kev Choice out of the Bay area and my favorite of all, a true “wildchild,” Phillipia, who was so bad ass that The Chronicle ended up handing their instruments over to her band to close out the night at Apache Cafe. You know you bad when one band brings you up to play with them and you bring it such that they relinquish the stage to you and yours.
Now youtube can never recreate the feeling of being there, but it can give you a taste. So here goes…
I’m just relishing in the fact that the Atlanta Music scene is coming back and on Wednesday night I will be rocking to Phillipia at Centennial Park for the Wednesday WindDown. If you’re here I urge you to be there. I’ll be the one with the big hair bobbing back-n-forth in the front. Give Thanks.