Defoor Center, Aug. 10 -- In addition to hosting a monthly variety show in East Atlanta, weekly spoken-word gatherings in Decatur and juggling an international touring schedule, sky-high-coiffed troubadour Kodac Harrison has added yet another gig to his list.
Three months ago, Harrison began booking and hosting Kodac's Cool Corner, a multi-act variety show at the recently opened Defoor Center, at 1710 Defoor Ave. on Atlanta's West Side. Unlike the venues Harrison usually plays, the Center is not in the middle of an existing scene. No restaurants or competing clubs vie for attention and bring additional foot traffic to the establishment.
It's easy to miss the place walking down the street, but once past the Defoor Center's ornate wrought iron fence, the scenery is striking. The large black-and-white building -- actually several buildings encased in many layers of stucco and brick -- is home to an astonishing array of art and history. A murder is said to have occurred here many years ago, and some believe ghosts haunt the halls at night.
Harrison, a fixture on the Atlanta folk scene since the '80s, faces a significant challenge, hosting his gig at the easy-to-overlook space. As the veteran singer/ songwriter began his third Cool show, some of the crowd were still milling around in other areas of the massive building, including the antique mall that's home to collectible books, a frame shop, a recording studio and the offices of former Creative Loafing honcho Debbie Eason's new publication, The Story From the West Side.
"Bathrooms are down there, books are in the Mall and art is everywhere," said Harrison without exaggeration. Art is on display in every conceivable open spot of the Center. Even the unisex bathrooms serve as exhibit space.
Opening with a spoken-word piece detailing a trip to Amsterdam, Paris and Germany, Harrison noted the immaculate silence of the small group of fans and countered it with the title track to his '91 album, Static on the Radio, "a song about being quiet." At first, Harrison's rough voice boomed loudly through the performance hall, but with a few tweaks (Harrison also serves as soundman), the sound was perfect for the appropriate "Paint Your Portrait."
After a tag team poem from Ryland J. Johnson and friends, Harrison returned to the stage for more pieces inspired by a tour of Europe. His mix of freeform Southern hipster spoken-word and songs avoided possible lapses into pretension due to his down-home earnest delivery.
The second half of the evening consisted of a beautiful performance by Twittering Machine, featuring Daniel Brown -- Harrison's travel-mate from the European odyssey weaved throughout the evening -- on cello. The band debuted two years ago last month at Harrison's free-wheeling Blue Plate Special showcase at East Atlanta's Gravity Pub. Unlike the potluck looseness of the Blue Plate shows, Harrison's Cool Corner is thoughtfully organized.
The small but appreciative audience gave the band a spirited welcome. "Even if you haven't heard us yet, thanks for clapping anyway," said singer Beth Moon as she picked up her accordion. When Twittering Machine began to play, all talking ceased and the listeners focused intently on the performance. With its retro-Euro leanings and cabaret flourishes, the sextet could have been a band from one of the foreign clubs Harrison vividly described from his European jaunt.
If the Defoor Center is indeed haunted, even the ghosts sat motionless. The flawless sound could have been lifted directly from the bands' latest album, Bright Orange Moment. Unlike the smoky clubs Twittering Machine usually plays, the Forum became the ultimate listening room, even out-shushing Eddie's Attic.
The evening ended promptly at 11:30 p.m. with "Ready to Fly," a short benediction piece by Harrison from his In Search of the Blue Groove album. Just how long the Cool Corner itself will fly is anyone's guess. But for now, at least, music fans who disdain the smoky, drunken late-night debauchery of club shows have a new corner of nightlife to enjoy.