Amplify Decatur Music Festival
Enjoy Live Music that Benefits a Great Cause
By Vanessa Pascale Rust
DECATUR, GEORGIA has been a proud, strong supporter of live music for a long time, especially since the city is home to the treasure that is Eddie’s Attic. This intimate live music venue has been helping launch the careers of a list of singers and songwriters since 1991 (including superstars like, John Mayer, Justin Bieber, and Sugarland) and providing music enthusiasts a charming place to take in a great show.
A few of Eddie’s Attic’s devoted musicians are returning to downtown Decatur next month to perform at the Amplify Decatur Music Festival on Friday, October 1 and Saturday, October 2. Festival attendees will enjoy shows by Grammy Award-winning Indigo Girls; Grammy-nominated artist Shawn Mullins; Grammy Award winners, The Blind Boys of Alabama; The Cactus Blossoms Duo; and award-winning musician Michelle Malone.
There are a range of tickets offered: Premium VIP ($250), VIP ($150) and General Admis- sion ($60). Please note that it’s first come, first served. Guests can purchase food, wine, and beer at the festival, which is sponsored by Lenz, Eddie’s Attic, Decatur Package Store, Leafmore Group, Iris and Bruce Feinberg, Oakhurst Realty Partners, Natalie Gregory & Co., Savannah Distributing Co., Three Taverns, and Creature Comforts Brewing Co., among others (see last page of article for full list).
Not only will you be entertained, but you can feel good about attending this concert as it benefits a wonderful cause. Founded in 2010, Amplify My Community’s mission is to leverage the universal love of music to fight poverty at the local level. The Decatur-based organization has produced more than 90 concerts and raised and donated more than $400,000 in unrestricted gifts to locally-oriented organizations focused on raising people out of poverty — including more than $265,000 in Decatur.
The two-day music festival is presented by Lenz and produced in partnership with Eddie’s Attic, and will direct all proceeds to Decatur Cooperative Ministry to aid their efforts to prevent and alleviate homelessness in Decatur and DeKalb County.
“We are eternally grateful to the city of Decatur, Eddie’s Attic, and so many incredible sponsors, especially, Lenz, for making our community stronger through the power of live music,” said Drew Robinson, president of the Amplify board.
For more information, visit amplifydecatur.org.
INDIGO GIRLS’ EMILY SALIERS
HEADLINING AMPLIFY DECATUR is Atlanta’s very own American folk rock duo, Indigo Girls. The setlist will include a few songs from their newest album, Look Long (2020) and go a little bit heavier on their older songs like hits, “Closer to Fine” and “Galileo,” Emily Saliers told me during our chat a few weeks prior to the festival.
“People who have not been to an Indigo Girls show might not know the music, but for those who do, there’s a lot of singing along,” Saliers said. “It’s going to be me and Amy [Ray] and our violin player, Lyris Hung. And hopefully, because Michelle Malone is an old friend, if she’s around when we’re around, we’ll grab her and maybe sing some songs together. We grew up in the Atlanta scene sort of as a hootenanny band and we’ve remained that way, really that’s our spirit. Singing, harmony, togetherness, spreading some joy.”
The Indigo Girls recorded “Look Long” near Bath, England at Peter Gabriel’s studio. The bulk of the band were Brits or Irish people, Saliers tells me, plus Hung, Lucy Wainwright, bass player Clare Kenny, and Carol Isaacs. Produced by John Reynolds, the new album has modern beat elements yet very organic drums.
“It’s not overly produced, but it’s enough production to keep it very lively and textural,” says Saliers, who split songwriting duties with Ray. “There’s a song of Amy’s called, ‘Howl at the Moon’ that just makes me feel good when we play it.” Saliers favorite song of hers is title track, “Look Long.” She explains, “It speaks a lot to the divisions in our country and some reflections on that, people separated, so it’s kind of a timely song in terms of its content. I really liked doing that one.”
Born in New Haven, Connecticut, Saliers was raised in Decatur and lives here today.
“Oh boy, I like the community. I like how the school system tries to grow and really look at itself and remain committed to social issues. In Decatur, there’s a lot of nice, good people, a lot of progressive people. It’s just a perfect place for me to live with my family.”
Saliers loves supporting Decatur businesses and is a dedicated supporter of Eddie’s Attic, Brave + Kind Bookshop, Revolution Doughnuts, Kimball House, Raging Burrito, to name a few. She is also a huge fan of local ice cream shop, Butter & Cream, saying “Best ice cream I’ve ever had! So, that’s a family staple. They have a flavor called Midnight Snacks, it’s actually got little pieces of brownie, condensed milk, everything a person might eat for a midnight snack, but they put it all together in a flavor.”
While Saliers is no longer in the restaurant business (she opened the first farm-to-table concept in Decatur, Watershed, in 1998 and was one of the earlier investors in Flying Biscuit), she is still a total foodie. “I came into the world a foodie,” she explains. “I am not a food snob, I just love all food. I love the way it brings people together. My wife is a pretty good cook and I do a lot of grilling, but I am not a great cook, I am not even a good cook,” she laughs.
While on the topic of things that fans might be surprised to find out about her, Saliers tells me she is a hardcore pro football and Atlanta United fan, who loves rap and hip hop music. “I always check out the ones who are doing really well,” she says about who she’s listening to. “I listen to old rap like Tupac and Biggie and Drake. I love Young Thug, he’s one of my favorites; he’s an Atlanta guy.”
As for the upcoming benefit concert, Saliers is glad that people will be coming out to support the cause. “It’s such a blessing to be able to be playing live music and to be together. I encourage everybody to mask up, even though we’re outdoors. Decatur has a goodness about it, and it also has a long way to go. And we’re all learning about racial issues and history and things like that, so, I think it could be a proud moment for everybody to come together,” she said. “We’re just so grateful that we’re going to be home. We’re just so happy to be there.”
THE BLIND BOYS OF ALABAMA’S ERIC “RICKY” MCKINNIE
“I JUST WANT EVERYBODY to know that we plan on having a good time, because we’ve been looking forward to it for a long time,” says Eric “Ricky” McKinnie, a member of The Blind Boys of Alabama, who will be performing at the Amplify Decatur on Saturday, October 2nd. “Don’t miss it when the boys are back in town!”
The legendary American gospel group was founded in 1939 in Talladega, Alabama and has had a changing roster of musicians over the years, many of whom are or were visually impaired. McKinnie tells me that today the group includes original member Jimmy Carter, Ben Moore, Paul Beasley, Reverend Julius Love, music director Joey Williams, and himself.
“This will be our first time playing Amplify Decatur. We’re going to bring some of the best in music. We sing gospel music; we’re not coming preaching, but we’re going to definitely come singing,” says the native Atlantan. McKinnie’s favorite song to perform is “Amazing Grace.”
McKinnie became a member of The Blind Boys of Alabama 33 years ago, and has worked with the group for more than 40 years as a musician and a singer. Before that, he was with the Texas-based group Gospel Keynotes (1972) and founded the Rickie
McKinnie Singers with his mother and brother in 1978. McKinnie began losing his sight due to glaucoma around the age of 20 and was blind by 1975. “I want everyone to know that the whole concept behind me is, as a sightless person, my motto is: ‘I am not blind, I just can’t see,’” McKinnie says. He explains, “which means I might have lost my sight, but I never lost my direction. So, I want everybody to realize that a disability doesn’t have to be a handicap because it’s not about what you can’t do that’s important, it’s about what you do.”
The highly – accomplished group are five times Grammy Award winners and have a long list of performances, including the White House for the Clinton, Bush and Obama administration. One of McKinnie’s favorite memories is when The Blind Boys were awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award for the works they had done throughout their lives.
“It’s good to be able to be recognized while you’re still alive, and The Blind Boys are still alive. And it was just good to have a Black blind gospel group awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from one of the highest academies, the Recording Academy,” McKinnie said. “It’s the highest you can go in music.” Still driven to sing and accomplish more, the group is currently working on a book about gospel music and getting ready to work on an album that returns to their roots. “We’re going to be singing some of the songs from the past.”
Though The Blind Boys are McKinnie’s main focus, he plans to launch The Ricky McKinnie Group at the beginning of 2022 (they’re currently performing and recently did a concert paying tribute to Bob Dylan). It doesn’t look like the 69-year-old recording studio owner-entrepreneur and nonprofit advocate is slowing down anytime soon. It’s no wonder he has his very own day honoring him. In 1976, Atlanta mayor Maynard Jackson declared May 10th Eric D. McKinnie Day. “I was playing with a group out of Texas called the Gospel Keynotes, and we had a Gold Record come out called “Reach Out,” he said. But the main song on the record was called “Jesus, You Been Good to Me,” and me being a native Atlantan, well, that started everything.” Over the years, he has had many celebrations to commemorate the day. Next year he plans to have a gala celebration.
Right now, McKinnie is excited about performing at Amplify. “If you want to have a good time, that place to be is in Decatur on October 2! But the main thing is that you can just expect some of the best of the best when you hear and see The Blind Boys!”
AWARD-WINNING FOLK ROCK singer-songwriter-guitarist Michelle Malone is also performing at Amplify Decatur. “I am really excited that we finally get to have the show, ’cause after last year, it had to get rescheduled,” Malone said. She added that she will likely bring Doug Kees, her guitar player, saying “If it’s not the band, it will be a duo. I don’t really like playing solo, it’s not as fun as sharing it with someone else on stage.” Born and raised in Atlanta, Malone loves Decatur and is always happy to help her community when she can.
Expect to hear songs from her newest album, 1977, as well as the older songs that fans know and love. Malone, who typically puts out a new album every two years, says that 1977 features storytelling songs that are more laid-back than what she’s normally known for. “I started writing these songs that were comforting to me because that’s what I needed last year. They’re like a flashback to the 70s for me because that’s when I started playing guitar and started paying attention to music as a kid… that’s really when some of my most favorite music came out as well as when I started playing guitar. I feel like that was the year I was born, even though I was obviously not born that year,” she laughs.
Malone’s favorite song on the new album is the first track, “Not Who I Used to Be,” as it’s applicable to everyone. “As far as I’m concerned, if you’re not growing and changing, you’re stagnant. If we’re moving forward in life and gathering awareness and experience, then today, you’re not who you used to be yesterday and years past,” she says with a laugh. Last year really changed her, Malone tells me. It forced her to slow down and become really introspective. These days, Malone is more laid-back, prefers her acoustic guitar over her electric guitar, and loves writing singer-songwriter songs.
Malone is looking forward to seeing the other performers at Amplify Decatur, especially the Indigo Girls and Shawn Mullins – fellow musicians she considers family. “I always love to see them and sing with them,” she says about the Indigo Girls. “We’ve been doing it since we were all in college. They were at Emory; I was at Agnes Scott, but that’s when we met and started singing together.” Malone has recorded with the duo and been on the road with them many times. The same goes for folk rock singer-songwriter Shawn Mullins, who she has known since the early 90s. The two have sung on each other’s records and performed countless times together over the years. Malone is also excited to watch The Blind Boys of Alabama perform again. “They were just amazing. And plus, how cool to get to see an actual historic band? They’ve been around for so long, have done so much and contributed so much as far as their music goes. I am fans of theirs, and I hope to become fans of the other acts too that I haven’t yet gotten to see.”
One of Malone’s favorite Decatur spots is Amplify Decatur sponsor, Eddie’s Attic, aka her second home (she plays there every New Year’s Eve). “I am so grateful for them and their existence. They’ve done such a great service to the community and to the musicians like me – allowing me to grow my fanbase there and play there for so long. I’ve been through every owner, every incarnation,” she says with a laugh. “I feel very fortunate to be from Atlanta and have a venue that is basically down the street from my house.”
You can hear and order Malone’s music at michellemalone.com.
JOHN PAUL WHITE
With The Hurting Kind, John Paul White has crafted a stunning album that draws on the lush, orchestrated music made in Nashville in the early 1960s. Yet these songs retain a modern feel, whether he’s writing about overwhelming love, unraveling relationships, or the fading memory of a loved one.
White grew up in tiny Loretto, Tennessee, and now lives in Florence, Alabama, not far from Muscle Shoals. He has cultivated his career in Nashville for two decades, first as a songwriter for a major publisher, then as half of The Civil Wars – a groundbreaking duo that won four Grammy Awards before disbanding in 2012.
Because The Civil Wars were so hard to categorize, White has earned a fan base among indie rock listeners, folk audiences, Americana outlets, and AAA radio. So, what will happen if people hear The Hurting Kind and call it country? “Well, that doesn’t scare me in the least,” he says. “a matter of fact, it kind of thrills me.”
With more than 40 years of American roots music under his belt, Texas native Rodney Crowell is a two-time Grammy Award winner with five Number One hits of his own, six Americana Music Association Awards including their Lifetime Achievement For Songwriter Award and a legacy of songwriting excellence which has made him an icon among giants. With strong roots in country music, Crowell has written chart-topping hits for the likes of Emmylou Harris, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Keith Urban and more. A member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, Crowell is also the author of the acclaimed memoir, Chinaberry Sidewalks, and teamed up with New York Times best-selling author Mary Karr for Kin: Songs by Mary Karr & Rodney Crowell in 2012, with Karr saying of her collaborator, “Like Hank Williams or Townes Van Zandt or Miss Lucinda, he writes and croons with a poet’s economy and a well digger’s deep heart.” In 2018, Acoustic Classics was released on his own record label, RC1, and the next release, TEXAS, came out in 2019. His current album, Triage, was released on July 23, 2021 to much critical acclaim.
After a series of indie record releases, Shawn Mullins’ critical breakthrough came when 1998 “Soul’s Core” album shot him to fame on the strength of its Grammy-nominated No. 1 hit, “Lullaby” followed by AAA/Americana No. 1 “Beautiful Wreck” from 2006’s “9th Ward Pickin’ Parlor.” His song, “Shimmer” was used in promotion of the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney and was included on the Dawson’s Creek soundtrack. He co-wrote “All in My Head” which was featured in episode one of the hit TV sitcom “Scrubs.” Mullins also co-wrote the Zac Brown Band’s No. 1 country tune “Toes.” In early 2002, he formed super group The Thorns with Matthew Sweet and Pete Droge. For the 20th anniversary of his breakthrough album, Shawn revisited the music by recording two new versions of the album. He calls this “Soul’s Core Revival.” This is not a remix or a remaster of the original, but rather brand new recordings with new arrangements of the songs – one album is stripped down solo performances, some on guitar, some on piano and maybe one a cappella. The second is a new studio recording with his full band, Soul Carnival.
A singer-songwriter who connects with people of all ages, Desmond Champion has traveled abroad to spread the messages of love, hope and living life. He is a native of Atlanta and has opened for Ceelo Green and sung with The Floacist from Floetry and Eric Roberson. Champion has a single out called “Relaxation” on all platforms.
JARED AND AMBER HUMPHRIES
Formerly of the award-winning band Jared&Amber, these married musicians love their community. Jared now releases music as GHOSTSTORIES, and Amber is a host of the Prone to Wonder podcast. Ghost Stories is a collaborative project with an ever-revolving door of artists and musical styles. At the helm is Jared Humphries.
CACTUS BLOSSOMS DUO
The Cactus Blossoms sound uncannily like a sibling harmony act that just stepped off the stage of the Grand Ol’ Opry or the Louisiana Hayride in the 1940s or 50s. There’s a good reason for that – guitarists and singers Page Burkum and Jack Torrey are brothers (Jack adopted a stage name when he first stepped out as a singer-songwriter at the age of 19), and their voices fit together in a way that suggests a modern-day approximation of what the Everly Brothers and the Louvin Brothers could deliver.
The Brick Store Pub Stage at Amplify Decatur Music Festival
This year Amplify Decatur is excited to announce the expansion of a longtime partnership and friendship with The Brick Store Pub by hosting a
second festival stage in the pub’s new beautiful beer garden behind the 30-year-old iconic Decatur restaurant. Performances there will complement
the main stage’s schedule so that festival-goers never have to miss a note of music. They include:
3 p.m. – 5 p.m. – Mark Miller
5 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. – Reverend Hylton
These past several years, Mark Miller has been performing his brand of Americana/Country Music to sold out listening rooms from Georgia to Maine. Mark is also a mainstay performer at some of the leading venues around Atlanta including Eddie’s Attic, MadLife Stage, and he performs regularly at many of the vineyard and wineries throughout North Georgia and Tennessee. His music brings together powerful and soulful vocals, fingerstyle guitar playing, degrees in Classical music and his deep Southern roots.
Out of Atlanta but truly calling the road his home, Reverend Hylton is touring the nation with his songs of relatable tales of life experiences. Heartbreak, addiction and traveling are the substance of his melodic musical, lyrical and vocal writings.
12 p.m. – 1 p.m. – Kristen Englenz
1:30 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. – Georgia Mountain Stringband
6 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. (in between main stage acts) – Jason C. Waller
Nashville-based Folk-Pop artist Kristen Englenz paints musical stories of longing and love with a sensibility both intimately aching and defiant with hope. A misfit renaissance woman, Englenz is a classically trained pianist, french hornist, guitarist, bird caller, and visual artist with a unique voice reminiscent of Stevie Nicks and Hope Sandoval.
Formed in 2015 by Jason Waller, the Georgia Mountain Stringband has quickly become one of the leading, original Bluegrass acts in the Southeast. The group was recently voted Best Bluegrass Band in Atlanta for 2019 by Creative Loafing readers. The 5-piece is stacked with Waller on guitar, David Stephens on banjo, Brendan Held on fiddle, Eddie Kesler on mandolin, and Robert Green on upright bass. Georgia Mountain Stringband incorporates deep, original songwriting, stemming from influences of classic country, blues, alt-rock and old-tyme.
Jason C. Waller is the founder and guitar player in the Georgia Mountain String Band, who recently played the Variety Playhouse. He has played in a number of other bands including: Waller, Ryan Sheffield & The Highhills, and the Ben Trickey Full Band.
Decatur Cooperative Ministry
Decatur Cooperative Ministry (DCM), the recipient of the funds raised by the Amplify Decatur Music Festival, has been serving the community since 1969. Its mission is to help families facing homelessness settle into safe, stable homes and build healthy lives filled with peace, hope and opportunity. The organization focuses its efforts on the City of Decatur and DeKalb County.
DCM offers several different housing and prevention programs all along the continuum of homelessness service. Its main programs include: › Hagar’s House: An emergency night shelter and assessment center, providing up to 90 days of night shelter for families with children.
- Family House: A transitional housing program, providing housing and supportive services to move families from homelessness to self-reliance in six months.
- Family Success: This program offer permanent supportive housing to chronically homeless families (i.e. those with extensive histories of homelessness who have at least one member with a diagnosed disability). These families receive long-term support and services,ensuring lasting housing stability.
- Project Take Charge: A homelessness prevention program providing emergency assistance (in the form of rent/mortgage and utility assistance) to at-risk families, seniors and veterans in danger of eviction, foreclosure or disconnection of utility services.
Despite the challenges of the pandemic, DCM has adhered to safety measures and executive orders while continuing to move forward. This included providing a safe refuge for families, reliable internet access for children to participate in virtual learning, continued food distribution, and more.
According to Marlene White, the Executive Director of Decatur Cooperative Ministry, the face of homelessness is not what you might expect. Among those seeking DCM’s help include individuals with advanced degrees, who lost good jobs during the pandemic.
“The problem is that families who find themselves without housing in this economy have such a difficult time, because there are challenges to getting a living wage, and there are challenges to identifying affordable housing,” says White.
DCM has been the beneficiary of Amplify Decatur since its inception in 2011. To date Amplify has raised more than $265,000, including a record $45,000 gift in 2019. Even when the Amplify Decatur Music Festival was cancelled in 2020, many ticket holders chose to skip a refund in favor of helping the charity. This allowed Amplify the opportunity to give the organization $30,000 last year.
As the pandemic continues, DCM recognizes the importance of community involvement and unification like never before. The organization relies on the generosity of others, from in-kind monetary donations to volunteering. The latter includes a wide range of opportunities such as preparing and serving dinners for families at the shelter, assisting with the administrative office, tutoring children and working on financial literacy with program participants.
By purchasing a ticket to the Amplify Decatur Music Festival, concertgoers have lent a hand. White wishes to thank this year’s festival attendees.
“By joining us at Amplify Decatur, you are making a real difference in people’s lives,” she says. “I see it every day.”
SCHEDULE ESTIMATED TIMES
FREE SHOW, LIMITED AUDIENCE,
FIRST COME, FIRST SERVED
|6 p.m.||Doors open|
|7 p.m.||Desmond Champion|
|9 p.m.||Shawn Mullins|
|3 p.m.||Doors open|
|3:45 p.m.||Michelle Malone|
|4:45 p.m.||Cactus Blossoms Duo|
|6 p.m.||Blind Boys of Alabama|
|7 p.m.||Rodney Crowell|
|8 p.m.||John Paul White|
|9:30 p.m.||Indigo Girls|
|11 p.m.||Festival ends|
General Admission tickets: $60. Includes access to local food, beer, wine, and restrooms.
VIP tickets: $150. Includes preferred seating—behind Premium VIP seating (first come, first served), complimentary beverages (4 per guest), and access to dedicated VIP bathrooms.
Premium VIP tickets: $250. Only 100 available. Includes premium seating at the front of the stage, complimentary beverages with service at seats during intermissions, and dedicated bathrooms.
Tickets available at AmplifyDecatur.org and Eventbrite.com. Proceeds go to support Decatur Cooperative Ministry’s work helping the homeless in Decatur and Dekalb County
No chairs provided for general admission; attendees may bring their own chairs: there will be a section in the back of general admission where chairs will be permitted. Children 8 and under are admitted free to the general admission section; no more than two children 8 and under per adult.
The festival will take place rain or shine. Tickets are non-refundable in the event of severe weather conditions.
We are taking the following steps at the Amplify Decatur Music Festival:
Free event on Friday, October 1, 7-11 p.m.
- Reducing the event capacity to 60 percent, less than 1,999 attendees, to allow for social distancing.
- Requiring all on-site vendors and volunteers to be vaccinated.
- Requiring all attendees, vendors and volunteers wear masks.
- Distributing masks, free-of-charge at the event.
- Encouraging social distancing with signage and from the stage at the event.
- Setting up hand-washing stations throughout the festival.
Ticketed event on Saturday, October 1, 4-11 p.m.
All of the above, plus:
- Requiring all attendees (all ages) to provide on-site proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test within 48 hours of the event.
- Partnering with Viral Solutions, who will offer on-site testing at a reduced charge to ticket holders who do not meet the above requirements.
- Encouraging vaccinations, testing and mask–wearing in multiple direct messages to all ticket holders before the event.
We are also consulting with public health officials and the City of Decatur on an ongoing basis to update and improve our plan as the event approaches.