Fireworks pop into the sweltering Saturday night sky from a gritty parking lot off Edgewood Avenue. A few steps away, an unlucky RAV4 is rattled with a vibrant display of reckless rockets. Like a combat zone with a cash bar, hipsters scatter in all directions, dodging the hapless razzle-dazzle. Smoke fills the muddied gravel lot and patio, but not a drop of whiskey is wasted, and the DJ plays on. The only thing more lit than those fuses are the knuckleheads in charge of this fracas.
We're in the assorted and shifty Old Fourth Ward, at the two-year anniversary of Noni's Bar & Deli - a charming Italian restaurant in the respectable hours, a boisterous beatnik headquarters when the lights dim. The word "bar" comes before "deli" in the name, and with priorities like that it's no wonder the brave little establishment has survived the economic albatross and is slowly starting to thrive in this toilsome, quirky neighborhood.
With no press and little self-promotion, the alternating weekly indie-rock dance party Common Sense/Nonsense has become the hippest night in the city. Its inception was sparked by a small, like-minded trust that felt disconnected from the scene at the immortal MJQ and wanted to fill the void left by the bereavement of Decatur Social Club.
The gang began hosting the party for personal kicks and a congregation started to flock from Ponce and East Atlanta Village. Things reached new heights a few months back when a hundred kids emptied the dance floor, taking Edgewood hostage, Freaknik-style, for an impromptu sing-a-long to Journey's "Don't Stop Believing." No Toyota RAV4s or police cruisers were harmed, however, in what was probably the most inebriated yet peaceful riot in the history of white kids being ironic.
Since then, the believers have continued to spread the gospel; and from the random neighborhood crackheads in the rear to the lesbian Justin Bieber look-a-likes holding down the courtyard, and the Noni's newbies in the always-slammed main room, there are close to 700 people-in-the-know tonight.
The newfound success may have detractors soon enough, though. Discover something cool before the masses and it's only natural to hog it to yourself. "It was a little calmer than this," says one anonymous regular, "but it's just exploded."
Perhaps he's referring to the less cultured among the crowd. As if on cue, we're suddenly distracted by a tall, blonde kid giving himself a Super Bowl shower, Bill Parcells-style, with a full can of PBR. Looking like he just hot-boxed his van outside Ridgemont High, he says he's celebrating his 21st birthday. When asked how long he's been coming to Noni's, he boasts, with a Spicoli stoner chuckle, "For two years!"
The walls condense with sweat as kids bounce on anything stable. The Nonsense crew keeps things simple for the capacity dance floor, bumping Passion Pit and Phoenix — an invigorating concept in an era of dubstep and shameless, self-promoting DJs. "Man, I don't care about finding the most obscure track or showing how capable you are as a DJ," says Rob Jones of the refreshing recipe.
With the newly hired security detail, there'll be no more Journey-induced 3 a.m. anarchy in the streets. But more fireworks whistle by, lighting up the Sunday morning sky — this time from the rooftop, as Noni's owner Matt Rupert and his crack-pyro team scamper off into the darkness. It's fitting; if something is worth shouting about, why not shout it from the rooftop?
When asked if the cops are going to care about the excessive revelry, Joe Fuller of Nonsense laughs and shrugs his shoulders, "This is Edgewood, man."