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I almost saw God in the park

But I did see Morrissey at the Tabernacle


Last week was kind of a dream week for me. I saw two of my favorite living and active musicians on consecutive evenings. I don't know if my giddiness is gonna translate into a good column, though, because the only thing that goes through my head when I think about both nights is, "Wow, that was fantastic." Don't be too concerned, though. I'm sure I'll have a worse time, and therefore write a better column, next week.

On Thursday night, I went to the Echo Lounge for the Libertines. It was the culmination of a yearlong effort to see them live. I really, really, really love their tunes, their ragged energy, and the love/hate/competitive energy between its two singer/songwriter/guitarists Carl Barat and Pete Doherty. In June, I actually went to London to see them, but they canceled at the last minute because of Doherty's increasingly disruptive drug abuse. Unfortunately, the major airlines don't include "the guitarist is a smackhead" on their list of refund-worthy excuses.

The rest of the group eventually decided to tour without him to promote their second album, The Libertines, which they managed to stay sober long enough to record earlier this year. At the Echo Lounge, they played the cream of their two albums and numerous singles, focusing on the snappy, jagged, uptempo stuff. The highlights for me were "Don't Look Back into the Sun" (which, according to the play count chart on my iTunes player, is my favorite song of the past year), "What a Waster," "Narcissist," and the bittersweet "What Became of the Likely Lads." Penned by Doherty and a friend, the song apologetically laments the group's lost momentum. They could have been one of the all-time greats, but Doherty's drug abuse has turned them into a crippled freak show. That Barat was left to sing it by himself made it that much more poignant.

The next night, I went to the Tabernacle for Morrissey. Being in the photo pit for the first couple of songs was nerve-racking and emotional. I was so nervous that I forgot to expose most of the photos correctly. Why so nervous? Because Morrissey's the person, many years ago, who turned me on to the idea of being an artist for a living. Until Morrissey's music entered my life, I was under the mistaken impression that being a sullen, over-emotional geek obsessed with art, literature and pop music was a career hindrance, rather than an opportunity. Morrissey is the only stranger I'd like to hug -- if you don't count Victoria's Secret models, of course.

Morrissey opened with the declaration, "Atlanta, we're up your ass," before launching into a earth-rumbling rendition of the Smiths' "How Soon Is Now?" The song sent a palpable "Oh, my God, he's playing it!" wave of joy over the audience. Even though the energy level of the audience was high no matter what he played, it was invariably his Smiths songs ("Bigmouth Strikes Again," "Shoplifters of the World Unite," "Rubber Ring," "There Is a Light that Never Goes Out") that got the loudest reaction.

Very strange: Two or three times over the course of the evening, Morrissey removed his sweat-soaked shirt, balled it up, stuffed it down the front of his pants, removed it, sniffed it admiringly, tossed it into the audience, then walked off stage for a new one. The crowd loved it. I hope one day to reach a level of adoration where similar behavior by me is also appreciated. If I did something like that now, I'd probably get punched.

My boo: Freaky-looking people walking through Little Five Points isn't usually a noteworthy occurrence, but Saturday's freaks were different. They were there for the Little Five Points Halloween Parade. In keeping with the spirit of the holiday, most of the paraders wore costumes. By far the scariest was the post-apocalypse, Mad Max-type float with caged, filthy, feral-looking people screaming. That was genuinely disturbing. Bonus points to them for really going all out.

Boo times two: On Saturday night, I drove out to Fulton Industrial Boulevard. As if that wasn't scary enough, I went to two haunted houses there, the joint Nightmare Haunted House/Crypt of Terror complex.

Both of the houses are kind of like walking through a "first-person shooter" video game. You enter a dark maze and scary people and things pop out and, well, scare you. The main difference, of course, is that you can't shoot people in response. Crypt of Terror was the scariest of the two, to me. Wherever you go in there, you can hear the terrifying sound of someone slamming a steel chain against a metal table. It's the sound of a horrible death just around the corner. And there's a clown in there. There's nothing scarier than a clown.

Thank dog: Last week, for the second consecutive week, someone put a bright yellow postcard in my mailbox inviting me to Perkerson Park near my house on Saturday at 11 a.m. "God Is Ready To Meet With You!" the flyer declared. "Don't Miss This Appointment."

Well, wouldn't you know it, selfish little atheist that I am, I missed my appointment with God. I indulged a craving for corporate coffee and didn't get home until nearly noon. I walked down to the park with one of my dogs after I got home, but God was nowhere to be seen. In his place was a gathering sponsored by the Glory Temple, complete with snacks (the postcard did say "Hot Meal Guaranteed"), a big yellow church bus, and a bitchin' sound system blasting unsmutty R&B.

I thought that I was about to hear a sermon after somebody started testing the microphone. Instead of "Testing 1-2-3," he said "Praise God" in different pitches and cadences. After several minutes, though, no sermon materialized. The dog wanted to chase some squirrels, so we took off. Sorry, God.

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