Monday, August 3, 2015

The Masquerade Part 1 - Discovery

From The Masquerade Facebook Page
It’s a little difficult to contemplate the fact that tomorrow night (last Thursday to you people in the future) could be the last time I attend a show at The Masquerade.

I’m not here to go into details because you can find them plenty of other places:

The short version is that some real estate developer has purchased the land that The Masquerade sits upon and are, quite obviously, going to urban renew the shit out of it. There’s only so much they can do since the core building – the old excelsior mill – is a historic site, but in all likelihood all of the additions will be destroyed and I doubt very much that it will remain a music venue.

But even if the powers that be decide to utilize whatever sort of sleek, gentrified building results from their efforts as a music venue (which I doubt), it will never be The Masquerade that has been such a huge part of my life for the past twenty-plus years. It’s dirty and it’s dark and it feels a bit dangerous, and in my opinion that’s how rock n’ roll venues should be.
Here’s what Masquerade management had to say on their Facebook page:

We really appreciate the outpouring of support and concern we have received over the past two days.
The O4W neighborhood has gone through a ton of changes over the past number of years and we are glad to be a part of the growth.
For those concerned about The Masquerade​ leaving Atlanta, rest assured, we aren't. 
We will release specifics as soon as we can. We are continuing with our booking through 2016 and all shows are going forward.
In the mean time, please join us on August 8 and 9 as we celebrate our 25th anniversary in Atlanta with over 60 tremendous bands at The Wrecking Ball ATL​.

That suggests to me that there is some sort of plan in place. I don’t know if it involves relocation or what, but the bottom line of all of this is that The Masquerade will never be the same again, and that’s a tough pill for me to swallow. A massive portion of who I am and a large number of my life experiences come from that filthy old shithole. I don’t want to rage against “The Man” developing the land because change happens. I don’t want to debate the rightness or wrongness of what’s happening because, quite frankly, I don’t care about that aspect. I don’t live downtown and I don’t feel that I’m qualified or appropriate to speak about the changes happening down there.

What I can talk about is the role that The Masquerade has played in my life and how much it means to me.

The first show I saw at The Masquerade was on March 13, 1994. I went to see Green Day, The Offspring, and Pennywise with some friends. At that point in my life I had only seen shows at places like the Omni and the Astrodome in Houston. I had never been to a rock club. At seventeen, I hadn’t yet gotten to the point where I would sneak out or do anything in direct violation of my parents’ rules. As such, I had no idea what to expect from this mysterious place.

I can’t begin to describe how cool I felt upon entering. I can’t think of another place I’ve been that felt so immediately unique. Walking into that lobby (is it a lobby? I dunno) on a busy night is an assault on the senses. Chances are there will be heavy bass pounding out of the open doors of Hell to your right (the downstairs venue that used to serve exclusively as a dance club), loud conversation and prerecorded music echoing out of Purgatory to your left, and a layer of dirt and grime over everything. Not necessarily tangible everywhere – but the place looks aged. Directly ahead is a staircase leading to Heaven – the main live music venue.

I didn’t know any of this at the time. All I knew was that I had walked into a place that seemed more mystical and forbidden than any music venue I had seen in the movies or on TV. My parents would never come here. And that was fucking awesome.

I don’t remember much about that night other than marveling at the dirty and old vastness of the club. Green Day and Pennywise were great, but I couldn’t stop glancing around at the interior of the place and the strange mishmash of textures and materials that it was made up of.

The stone walls were uneven and rough. The wooden floors looked more like something out of one of the fantasy novels that distracted me from the misery of high school. And the ceiling was all metal ties and beams and rafters, with visible electrical components and vents all over. It seemed like such a strange contrast to the old-world construction of the floors and walls.

I just remember being somewhat overwhelmed and a bit afraid. Over the years I have come to love The Masquerade and find comfort within its walls, but that first night it seemed filled with the unknown and even just a bit of menace. I wasn’t entirely comfortable at any point that evening. It was a feeling that I wasn’t used to, and while I can’t say that I enjoyed it, it fascinated me.

The next few years saw me return to The Masquerade many times. Bands I saw included The Urge, Mephiskapheles, The Toasters, Social Distortion, Prong, Bjork, The Business and I don’t even know how many more.

The first time I ever “hit on” a girl cold happened there. It was at a Dance Hall Crashers show and it turned out it was Karina Denike – one of the singers. Needless to say it did not work out for me.

Me and my friends fell asleep on the wall by the bathrooms during The Skatalites – the most boring musical show I have ever seen in my life.

I was, at one point, mistaken for John Feldmann of Goldfinger. This lady with purple hair walked up to me and asked me what I was charging for t-shirts. I was utterly confused, and the best I could come up with was, “Huh?” She leaned in closer and yelled the same thing again. I think I told her I wasn’t in a band and I’m pretty sure she didn’t believe me.

Side Note: I wouldn’t discover this until later, but she was asking so that she would know how much money the venue could extort expect from the band for merchandise sales.

I played trombone on the stage of The Masquerade. I did not actually know how to play trombone, but my good friends the Tone Deaf Pig-Dogs needed someone that didn’t know how to play trombone, but that had access to a trombone, to accompany one of their livelier tunes, Jerkin’ Da Gherkin. It was a big moment for me.

To this day I do not know what possessed me to apply for a job at The Masquerade. I'll save the story of my employment there for Part 2 next week. It could very well be Parts 3 and 4, as well.

Thanks for reading. If you have your own Masquerade stories to share, do it in the comments below, join the Needless Things Podcast Facebook Group, or drop me a line at

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