On April 6, Patrick Hill, booking agent for the Earl, sent out an e-mail with some startling news: The Earl's iconic indie-rock festival, Corndogorama, would not take place at the venue this year -- despite having been scheduled well in advance for June 21-24.
Corndogorama draws hundreds of revelers with dozens of local and national indie bands, as well as such attractions as jock-strap-wearing motorcyclist stunts and, yes, a corndog-eating contest.
The e-mail stated that the festival had blown up in recent years, and "with this increased success ... came disagreements as to the future of the festival." Those disagreements led the festival's founder, local musician David Railey, to take Corndogorama elsewhere – namely, a few miles west to Lenny's.
"There were a number of issues, some of them about control, some about money," Hill says. "I know he had been looking into different options for a while."
According to Railey, Lenny's offered room to grow. "It's nothing against the Earl at all," he says. "Obviously, it was a difficult decision."
Bean Summer, booking agent for Lenny's, says Railey approached him on April 2. "I think he just wanted the larger space," Summer says. "I was happy to get it."
As a music venue, Lenny's has a larger capacity than the Earl. But the Earl has a separate bar/restaurant, as well as grounds that include a sprawling parking lot. That's where much of the Corndog crowd would gather. The Earl also is located in the midst of other amenities such as bars, restaurants, shopping and parking. Lenny's is more isolated, and its grounds slightly smaller.
The festival now will be held July 12-15. There will be a tent in Lenny's parking lot, food vendors and off-site parking. Summer and Railey say permits have been obtained for all four days.
"A few things will be different," Summer says. "But I think overall, it will be the same Corndog."
Still, the Corndogorama will be missed in East Atlanta. "I'm disappointed, because I like the atmosphere," says Dennis Madsen, head of the East Atlanta Community Association. "But it's just one in a number of events we've got."
Says Hill: "It's an event that all of us at the Earl looked forward to, as much as the regulars."
Does that mean the Earl might be interested in hosting a different indie-rock festival? "I think it's still early to comment," Hill says. "But we're not going to run out and do Hotdogorama."