Barfly - Back Pockets' brouhaha at Eyedrum

Merrymakers revel in the art of noise

There's a skinny kid in the parking lot tagging a pole full of graffiti with his magic marker. Well, shit — there goes the security deposit.

The soon-to-be-vacant icebox of a warehouse is filling up with goofy, Christmas-break kids, bundled in thrift store parkas, fingerless Misfits gloves, and the warmth of each other. It's like a loosely supervised junior high party your parents dropped you off at — silly dancing, daffy outfits and awkward boy-girl interaction. But this party has the cool mom behind the cash bar and several boys in their boxer briefs banging makeshift instruments on stage.

A couple hundred fresh-faced youngsters are braving the wintry elements on a Sunday night for the next-to-last show at Eyedrum's venerable Martin Luther King Jr. Drive location of the past decade. It's also a tour send-off show for Atlanta's new merrymakers of madness, the Back Pockets, whose newly purchased, pre-owned tour bus is sitting in the parking lot.

The bare-bones nonprofit art space — seemingly held together by cinder blocks, 20-foot-tall sheet-rocked walls and crazy glue — has no heat judging by the frosted breath exiting patrons' mouths. Wacky avant-garde art is strewn about. A plastic gold porcupine looks like it was assembled with epoxy and crappy youth league trophies. Forty drippy IV bags filled with a foreign substance (or possibly real blood) hang from the ceiling. "I hope they take those down before the Black Lips show Thursday," someone says, referring to the last scheduled concert at Eyedrum's current location, "because those things are gonna become instant water balloons."

Amongst the odd still life, real-life oddities roam. An older gentleman is popping a staple gun in the air near the Eyedrum library, filled with such classics as Paul Reiser's "Couplehood" and Lee Iacocca's page-turner "Talking Straight." A cute college girl sports hot-pink plaid pajama bottoms, sparkly zebra print flats and a poinsettia broach. "I had on jeans, but my mom spilled brandy on them. But it all comes together — kinda like that trash bag art," she says and points to a piece on the wall while pounding on a soft pack of Pall Malls.

In the main room, the performance art from the headlining Back Pockets begins. It's a colorful bouquet of city hippies: young and old, boy and girl, gay and straight, but all far-out. The gang of musical pranksters plays with up to 16 people on stage at a time, strumming or beating on anything they get their hands on — drums, bass guitar, banjo or bucket. Shirtless boys dance in their Underoos, darlings with turquoise hair sing harmonies, and the leader of the confusion, Emily Kempf, looks like an adorable mess standing on her wobbly amp while orchestrating the way with a bobbing peroxide ponytail.

"That used to be me running around this room in my panties," says Black Lip's Jared Swilley, reminiscing on his own juvenile indiscretions before label deals and international tours.

A theater troupe is moving about the crowd in clunky cardboard contraptions, and a bucket of drumsticks has been dispersed to the masses. A beat builds with harmonies and the swell of the crowd, and then — just like that trash bag art on the wall — it's a wrap.

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