"Sometimes, I think people get to an age or a place in life where they've seen so many things change, and watched so many of their friends die that maybe death isn't such a bad thing."
Zac Adams said these words to me at a funeral in 2002. It was the day Mr. Frank Edwards was laid to rest. He was the last of a dying breed — one of the original Chicago bluesmen, and a regular at Blind Willie's in Virginia-Highland. That's where I met Zac Adams around the year 2000 — he worked as a barback. I was the doorman. My girlfriend Laura was the bartender. Over the last 14 years Zac and I attended many funerals together: There was Mike Lorenz, singer/guitarist for Blind Willies' house band, the Shadows. Then there was Atlanta garage rock icon B Jay Womack. There were others. The words that he said to me over a decade ago came rushing back when I woke up to a text message from a friend on the morning of Feb. 27 telling me that Zac had taken his own life.
Zac had his own code of ethics when it came to everything, and his philosophies were summed up in simple, colorful axioms that he spouted often: "Streets is rough," "stop lyin'," and when you had too many drinks, he'd look you in the eyes and say, "Rice Street!" That meant it was time to straighten up, or spend the night in a Fulton County jail cell. He spoke from experience.
Zac was a fixture of Little Five Points, Inman Park, Old Fourth Ward, and Virginia-Highland. He personified the sense of place that each of these neighborhoods possess. Some people called him "Little Five Zac" because he'd been around there since he was a kid. Others called him B.G., referring to an L5P street gang he was part of in the '90s. Some say it stood for "Bubblegum Gang." Others say "Born Gangstaz" or "Baby Gangstas." They were hood rats, and a force to be reckoned with back in the day. All that remains of their legacy are the initials carved in the pavement at intersections, parking lots, and in tree bark around town.
When I met Zac, B.G. was a thing of the past. I knew him as a gentle soul, a hard-luck case, and the eternal momma's boy. On many nights at the bar he would call his mom and hold the phone up so she could hear the bands performing on stage. He lived with her for most of his life, and cared for her until the day she died.
His father passed away when he was young, and he had no brothers or sisters, no immediate blood relatives. But he was never short of family. Anyone who knew him adopted him as a son, or a brother — Atlanta was his extended family. With his death, the city lost a genuine local, an unwitting statesman, and a loyal friend. The neighborhood won't be the same without him.
On Sun., March 9, Blind Willies will host a gospel music tribute to Zac Adams with performances by Sandra Hall, Francine Reed, Bill Sheffield, and more. A private service will be held at 2 p.m. Doors open to the public at 3 p.m.
In other Atlanta music news, Black Lips' latest album, Underneath the Rainbow, is streaming on Noisey, a full two weeks before its March 18 release date on Vice Records. Co-produced by the Black Keys' Patrick Carney, Underneath the Rainbow blends Southern garage rock with pop hooks. After working with "olfactory scientists," Black Lips will be selling limited edition scented cassettes (Burger Records) for their upcoming tour. The scent has been sacrilegiously designed to elicit thoughts of "ocean," "cedar," "moon," "denim," "squid ink," "fire," and "semen (if the man only ate fresh plums for about a week)."
On March 11, Deerhunter's Bradford Cox will release an original soundtrack to Teenage, a documentary film about the creation of youth culture. The film will screen at Landmark Midtown Art Cinema beginning April 11.
The 6th Annual Atlanta Mess-Around is set to go down April 25-26 at the Earl and 529 with performances by the Spits, Marked Men, and more already booked.
This week, Crib Notes premiered "Last Mosquito," the closing number from Lily and the Tigers' debut album, The Hand You Deal Yourself, out March 4. For the album's release party, the group is performing an intimate bonfire set behind Octopus Bar in East Atlanta on Thurs., March 13, with Nashville's Don Coyote.
With additional reporting by Sonam Vashi.
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