Everything was in place at Lenny's Bar on Friday night, March 14. The standard fare — two local bands and one touring band — was poised to take the stage before the weekly "Trashed" dance party was to kick off at midnight.
It would never happen.
Just as things were getting underway, nature's fury swept over the entire neighborhood. The seamy local punk and indie rock club at 486 Decatur St. in Atlanta's Old Fourth Ward district stood directly in the path of the tornado that struck downtown, Cabbagetown and East Atlanta shortly before 10 p.m.
In the wake of the storm, rumors spread that Lenny's roof had been ripped off, leaving the club in ruins. Although it is true that Lenny's took a severe beating, according to the club's booking agent, Bean Summer, the rumors were unfounded.
Lenny's was open for business less than 24 hours later.
The Friday night lineup featured the Preakness, Sleep Therapy and St. Louis-based psychedelic rock band Wormwood Scrubs. The first band to perform, Wormwood Scrubs, was about 15 minutes into its set when the storm hit.
"I was in the office checking my e-mail, and I thought a bomb had gone off downtown," Summer recalls. "The air was sucked out of the room and I could hear a bunch of loud pops from things hitting the building."
Some roof tiles were blown off of the building, air-conditioning units were knocked over, windows were broken, and a gas line ruptured but was repaired within a few hours.
Dozens of cars in the parking lot sustained the most damage after being bombarded with debris, including a roof from a nearby house. Lenny's security staff spent the night in the building fending off looters who raided the strip mall complex in which the bar is located.
"It sounds like something from a science fiction movie," Summer says, "but looters were there and they were organized."
The club's imposing doorman, Jamie Karns, spent much of the night scaring away the approaching bandits. Some looters challenged him, but ultimately went away. "I guess they didn't want to get into it with a 400-pound Samoan guy with a mohawk," Summer laughs.
Karns shrugs as he casually describes watching trucks, some that were packed with three or four men, slowly driving by to survey what they could steal. "They didn't stick around too long when they saw me walking toward them with a pool stick in my hand," he laughs.
After squeegeeing water off of the floor and patching up windows, the club was open the next night despite the mayor's warning that the neighborhood was a disaster area.
Summer estimates that the club's damage, coupled with lost revenue from the weekend, amounts to about $10,000. But it's an amount he says is minimal compared with the damage in neighboring Cabbagetown.
His sentiments are underscored by the view from the front parking lot of the devastated Cotton Mill Lofts building that looms from across the train tracks in Cabbagetown as a testament to the power of the storm.
Summer adds that many of Cabbagetown's residents are in bands or are entrenched in the local music scene; many of whom make up Lenny's regular clientele. To help them, he is organizing a benefit show at Lenny's on Saturday, April 19. All proceeds from the benefit will go to those affected by the tornado.
No bands are booked yet, but he encourages anyone who's interested in playing the benefit to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Across town at The Earl at 488 Flat Shoals Road in East Atlanta, the weekend was just as dark. The Earl didn't receive nearly as much damage as Lenny's, but the Everybodyfields show Friday night as well as the Prick magazine party Saturday were canceled because the power was out.
The only substantial damage the property received was to the fence in the back parking lot that was mangled by two uprooted trees.
The Earl's booking agent, Patrick Hill, is organizing a separate benefit for those affected by the storm, but as of press time details were still pending.
The Prick magazine party is rescheduled for Sunday, April 20, and all proceeds from the show will be donated to tornado victims as well.
"We feel pretty fortunate in terms of what happened," Hill says. "I was shocked to hear that Lenny's was open the next night, but was happy to hear that the damage wasn't as bad as everyone had feared. [The Earl] lost two nights worth of revenue, but we consider ourselves lucky."