Back in the 1980s, when you could still find free street parking (and cheap garage apartments) in Midtown Atlanta, there was an art gallery/event space called the Blue Rat Gallery in the basement of a crumbling Pershing Point apartment building where Peachtree meets West Peachtree.
Run by Clark Brown and Chick Lockerman, it welcomed punk musicians, street artists and other oddballs. “I practically lived there on the weekends,” said drummer Paul Lenz, who was the lighting technician at the 688 Club, and who crashed on the sofa at the Blue Rat after club nights.
The original Drivin’ N’ Cryin’ featured Kevn Kinney (left), Tim Nielsen and Paul Lenz will reunite for a fund-raising gig Saturday, May 14, at Smith’s Olde Bar. Photo: courtesy Paul Lenz
Pershing Point was leveled and scraped clean for shiny new construction, but “those people have remained close and continued creating and celebrating art throughout the years,” writes Lenz. On Saturday the Blue Rat alumni will host a fund-raiser and a reunion of some of the bands that made Atlanta’s ’80s music scene go bang.
Called RATAID2016, the event will bring the Swimming Pool Q’s, the original lineup of Drivin’ N’ Cryin’, the Nightporters and a version of Athens band Pylon called the Pylon Reenactment Society, to Smith’s Olde Bar.
They’ll raise money to help Steve May, former manager of the 688 Club, who, after health problems and family challenges was close to being homeless this spring; and for FurKids Atlanta (a pet rescue group) and Lost-n-Found Youth, which helps LGBT youth in crisis.
Lenz, 56, now producing events at Chateau Elan, drummed with the Nightporters and was the original drummer for Drivin’ N’ Cryin’ until some regretted decisions took him away. Those decisions? “Chasing craziness,” said Lenz. As in, “Oh, there’s some insanity, let me make that a priority!”
Lenz is emphatic about the impact Steve May’s club had on their musical awakenings.
“Kevn (Kinney), Jeff Calder, Vanessa (Briscoe Hay) …none of us has forgotten what it was like to be on that stage.”
8 p.m. doors, 9 p.m. music, Saturday, May 14, at Smith’s Olde Bar, 1578 Piedmont Ave. NE, $15 advance; $20 at door; Ticketweb.com. smithsoldebar.com/