MusicMusic Features

We Don’t Need No Education

For hundreds of elementary school students at Jefferson Elementary, the morning of Thursday, May 20 offered a glimpse into the future of nights at the Caledonia to come. Performing in front of a crowd of children ages six to 10, local heavy-metal karaoke act Knight Seeker provided the classic rock tunes as first-, second- and third-grade students sang modified “anti-bully” lyrics. Now, the way things usually go down is Knight Seeker sets up (Wild Wing Café; and the aforementioned Caledonia have become frequent sites) and you sign up. They play, you sing.

Anyone who was witness to the 2003 Flagpole Athens Music Awards or the subsequent Knight Seeker performance at the 40 Watt knows that these performances can be some cranked-up, alcohol-fueled events. So to see four guys from the local music scene (the members’ résumés list acts like Rehash, Canadian Invasion, Magneto, Lona, Hayride, Japancakes, etc.) was more than slightly surreal. The assembly took place at 9:30 a.m. in the gymnatorium of Jefferson Elementary School, up Hwy. 129 about half an hour from Athens. A very large and chaotic number of very small and chaotic people filed in (it’s funny, and maybe a little scary, how little elementary schools have changed; even after decades, it’s easy to find yourself back in the rhythms of pigtail pulling and assembly going). Before Knight Seeker took to the, well, side of the gym – no stage provided – the kids put on some pre-show entertainment of their own. One third-grade class acted out an anti-bully skit set at a playground. It was near-inaudible until the end, when the eight students chanted, “Take a stand, be a friend, let’s help bullying come to an end,” punctuated by a cry in unison of “Yeah, step up!” Pretty awesome, but nowhere near as great as the chant lead by a schoolteacher that co-opted Queen’s “We Will Rock You” and had the kids clapping, stomping and proclaiming “we will, we will, stop you. Bullies.” Also very awesome. It was the last day of class for the elementary school, and the kids – teachers, too – were obviously pumped. As the chanting ebbed, Knight Seeker burst forth from double doors at the end of the hall, metalhead wigs bouncing as the four ran to their gear. Performing under a huge anti-bully banner and wearing anti-bully T-shirts, the band kicked it into high gear right off the bat, as groups of kids came up to sing modified versions of Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” George Thorogood’s “Bad to the Bone” and Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing,” among others. It’s a curious thing to watch eight-year-olds sing what essentially amounts to Weird-Al-with-a-theme versions of Whitesnake as one teacher leans to another in the back of the gym and whispers “I think the keyboard player’s really cute.” One high point: the modified Lynyrd Skynrd tune of “Sweet Home, Jefferson, Georgia,” which, while creative with its syllable count, announced the merits of the town “where skies are so blue, and where bullyin’ just ain’t cool.” The top moment, however, is as follows:

“I Love Jefferson” (in the style of Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock & Roll”)

I saw him standing there in the lunchroom line, I knew he musta been about nine. Just thought he’d get his food, Someone in line was rude, And he wasn’t in the mood, so he acted real nice, yeah, nice!

I love Jefferson, I’m not gonna play your games, you bully! I love Jefferson, If you can’t be kind then don’t talk to me!

It was both strange and delightful to see hordes of single-digit kids cheering, pumping fists and jumping up and down as Knight Seeker performed. As the band left the auditorium, several kids were waiting for their high fives. The only thing lacking at the assembly? Surely, something taking advantage of the possibilities with “Hot For Teacher” would have been in order.