It was Friday morning, May 6, 2016. The Smith’s Olde Bar calendar screen was open and my cursor was hovering over “Buy Tickets”. At exactly 11:00:01 A.M. I punched enter. My credit card information had been entered from a previous ticket purchase. It was like watching a slot machine as three cherries came up, except this time tickets for Collective Soul appeared. Ding, ding, ding!
This was an epic coup, for the Music Room at Smith’s holds only about 300 people and I now had two tickets. “So what?” you might say. I forgot to mention that these concerts will be part of a documentary film about the band. And Collective Soul is from Atlanta, by way of Stockbridge, by way of the Berklee College of Music. So these shows were a big deal around these parts. Both shows sold out faster than you could cock the arm on a slot machine.
Let’s go back to the summer of 1993. Alternative music was primo, 99X ruled the airwaves in Atlanta, and Shine was in heavy rotation. Wait a minute – there’s a little more to it than that. I first heard Shine on WRAS Album 88’s Georgia Music Show. WRAS was the real alternative music radio station in Atlanta, broadcasting from Georgia State University, and I was a part-time student there. Shine was not an overnight sensation and it wasn’t discovered by 99X. Ed Roland and friends recorded a demo tape which was to be sold to a publishing company, not be the basis for a band. Album 88 played Shine, and shared it with other like minded stations. It became immensely popular, Ed was asked to perform live, Collective Soul was formed and the rest is rock history. Shine is a very interesting song. It is usually considered grunge, but if you really analyze it there is a slow beginning, then that great guitar hook which morphs into a fast part, then back to slow. Of course there are the “yeahs” injected after the hook. Shine could have been popular in the 1970’s, so let’s not call it grunge. Shine was also a lightning rod for controversy. Is it a Christian Rock song? Was Billy Corgan right when he said it was lifted from a Smashing Pumpkins song? Was there a link to the shooter at Virginia Tech’s massacre in 2007? This is not the forum to answer these questions, so check them out sometime. I do know that Shine was played four times (no shit) at this show at Smith’s.
When Pacific Northwest grunge was no longer underground, that genre eventually made its way across America. And voila! bands like Bush, Live, and Collective Soul were given permission to exist. That has always been the paradox : when alternative music gets airplay is it still alternative? So let’s just say that Collective Soul plays music that defies a label, with introspective lyrics, and has more hooks than a tackle box. A big fat distorted tackle box. The band’s name comes from the Ayn Rand book “Fountainhead” but Ed disavows any allegiance to her politics – he just liked the sound of the words. As if they needed any more music street cred, Collective Soul played at Woodstock ’94.
Then came nu-metal and flannel shirts were retired to Goodwill. Collective Soul never really disappeared, releasing new material and touring. In 2015 they released the tongue-in-cheek title “See What You Started By Continuing”. After 20-plus years and nine studio albums they can call it whatever they wish. It is actually one of their best efforts, but you’ll never hear it on the radio because they do not autotune or make videos where they swing naked on wrecking balls.
There was a mixed group in line at Smith’s for will-call. I talked to a group of guys half my age who had never seen Collective Soul or been to Smith’s Olde Bar. Maybe I’m delusional but they seemed sincerely interested in talking with me about concerts and venues and music in general. The Music Room at Smith’s has no seating. There’s a bar on the side, the mixer and T-shirt sales in the back, and one big old room with a low ceiling where you are up close and personal with the talent. The opening act was Stir, or maybe The Stir. The lead guitar player had Slash’s hair but not his chops. They were half-decent but I think their parents probably subjected them to Iron Maiden, Megadeth and maybe Blue Cheer when they were toddlers. The Stir played about 40 minutes.
Collective Soul are real people. They connect with their audience and talk with us. No rock god bullshit. They appear to appreciate the support we have given them over the years. This show was a little different because of the filming (hence the multiple takes) and there were a few concertgoers whose primary goal was to be in front of the cameras. It was an energetic crowd who obviously knew all the lyrics. They played a nice mix of songs spanning their entire career, selecting tunes from nearly every release including new material. They even threw in a Led Zep cover – Going To California. In my humble opinion that song did not work well because they played it after the crowd was worked into a frenzy. Not exactly the time for wooden music.
Collective Soul started with the familiar staccato fuzz of Heavy from their fourth album “Dosage”. When Ed started singing we knew this was going to be a good night.
Complicate this world you wrapped for me
I’m acquainted with your suffering
And all your weight
It falls on me
It brings me down.
Good stuff. Here is the set list and other lists, if you like lists :
Collective Soul delivered a two and a half hour show, giving every ounce of energy to us. We gave back everything we had too, so this should be one hell of a documentary. Have you ever noticed that you meet the most interesting people at concerts? I talked to a girl who gave up a career in accounting to focus full time on creating fused glass art. I talked to a guy who works in England for a brewery. He was here doing research on American pub food. Really.
Smith’s Olde Bar is a Georgia treasure, just like Collective Soul. I hope they both stick around for a long time. As you enter Smith’s there is a sign that reads “The best musicians and the greatest music fans walk thru these doors”. I guess that sums it up.
Until the next concert, it’s time for my boot heels to be wanderin’.