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The thrill of it all

Or an Irishman disrobes


On Sunday night, Ireland's the Thrills headlined at the Cotton Club. The band is on perpetual tour in support of its debut CD. Titled So Much for the City, its sound and lyrics chronicle what can only be described as an obsession with the West Coast. Not counties Mayo and Kerry. I mean our West Coast.

It's not that absurd. California is the world's biggest exporter of culture, but the Thrills' obsession is comically out of control. The CD's first song is about Santa Cruz. The next about Big Sur. The fourth and 10th namedrop San Diego. Another mentions Hollywood. As CL's Nikhil Swaminathan said to me at the show, "Why don't they sing about fucking Ireland?" Keep in mind that Nikhil actually likes the Thrills. In fairness, I should mention that, on one track, the band makes it as far east as Las Vegas.

On top of lyrics (or underneath them if you prefer), nearly all of the music sounds like Pet Sounds-pastiche, right down to the plodding Brian Wilson piano chords and slow-plucked banjo. If they throw in some sleigh bells and a surfboard, I'm sure they'd get sued.

With the banjo gone and the piano less prominent, the band members' live show is more who they are, less who they think they are. What they are is a great young classic pop band playing delicate tunes fronted by a lead singer who aspires to sing more stadium-sized songs. You can hear the band heading for a bigger sound with a couple of the new songs it played, both of which soared a bit more than the older material. One of the new ones even mentions New York!

Incidentally, and that's really the only word I can think of to precede this, the band played following an appearance onstage by an Irish man with bleached eyebrows wearing only black boxer-brief underwear. He told two or three jokes, rapped one minute of "Ice Ice Baby," and mentioned getting his back waxed. I asked the man to my right, and before I could finish the question, he replied, "I have no idea, but I saw ass."

Par tai hard: Trader Vic's, the Asian-Pacific themed restaurant and bar in the downtown Hilton Atlanta, is currently celebrating the 60th birthday of the mai tai. Last Thursday, they invited respected members of the media and me to enjoy complimentary mai tais, delicious appetizers (sorry, but I can't spell hors d'oeuvres), and dancing women with coconut brassieres from the Magical Fires of Polynesia troupe.

The celebration of the mai tai isn't just about drinking and promotion, though. It's also about correcting history. Flipping through the voluminous press kit, it's clear that Trader Vic's wants to reclaim the mai tai as an in-house invention. Quoth Hans Richter, the big kahuna of Trader Vic's, "Some quasi-historians believed the mai tai originated in Hawaii and was brought to the U.S., but it was Vic who originated it in Oakland and brought it to the islands."

That wasn't the only thing I learned at the bar that night. According to the Magical Fires emcee, in Hawaii, wearing a flower in your right ear means you're single. On your left ear, the flower means you're married. In other words, while we invented Hawaii's most famous drink, Hawaii may have invented the gay handkerchief code system. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, ask someone. It's a fascinating system.

Sexual healing: At a Thursday night party at Gilbert's in Midtown, super-columnist and sex-advice author Michael Alvear said so long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, and possibly even goodnight to his Atlanta friends, at least for a few months.

Michael is moving to London where he will become one of the U.K.'s "Sex Inspectors." That may sound like a government job (and it probably is one in France), but "Sex Inspectors" is actually a TV show geared at helping married couples improve their sex lives. Michael will give tips to the women, and a female co-Sex Inspector will help out the men. While mingling with well-wishing friends, Alvear mentioned that the first episode involves a nymphomaniac woman and her prematurely ejaculating husband. The network airing the show, Channel 4, lists the show under the health category, but Michael's description made it sound like potential comedy gold to me. Keep in mind, though, that I'd just come from the mai tai party, so I was a bit impaired.

Enjoy art Saturday: On Saturday night, Grant Park's Young Blood Gallery threw a party to celebrate the opening of a show of work by painter and illustrator Jacob Escobedo. Escobedo's work on display offers a dark comic take on cutesy Japanese cartoons. Think Hello Kitty meets Ren & Stimpy. Many of the pieces include stilted English phrases like: "These are not airplanes. They're logs," "Today I Will Not Die," "Enjoy Today Only." Artful, cute and ironic, they sold like iPod minis (or, for the less gadget-minded, hotcakes).

Beisbol: We fickle Atlantans are paying less attention now that they're a .500 club, but it's Atlanta Braves time again. I made it to the ballgame last Friday, where I drank, yelled, did the wave and watched the Braves lose to the Astros. Other than a brief rally in the eighth inning, it was a dull game. It would have been better if Chipper Jones, my biological father, was not out with an injury. The competitive highlight was the Home Depot bases race on the giant screen between the Hammer, Saw and Drill. Me and the kid in front of me rooted loudly for the Saw. Saw had the lead rounding third, but that no-good, cheatin' Hammer used his handle to reach home first. Bastard.

For a while I roamed the stadium, looking for some enthusiastic fans to photograph. I found some in the cheap seats, section 403. They kept screaming, "We got spirit, yes we do. We got spirit, how about you?" Upon closer inspection, it turns out they were cheerleaders in a yelling contest with other cheerleaders in an adjacent section. I think they were just trying to get on the big screen because they cheered loudest when no one was playing.

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