Paul Kenneth Wilson
Ashes to Ashes: It is with a lot of sadness that I report the passing of longtime Athens musician, activist and friend Paul Kenneth Wilson. Known in the music world as DJ Applepaul, Wilson made clever—not silly—mash-ups and was a keen beat-matcher. Paul was 41 years old and would have celebrated his birthday May 21. He began notifying friends recently that his health was not in good shape and received a firm diagnosis less than a month ago that he was suffering from an aggressive form of cancer. Wilson had been HIV-positive for several years and was ardent in in his support of both medical marijuana and cannabis-based medicine. He was an activist his entire adult life, and his passion for freedom and peace-based causes were a large part of his identity. He was involved with AIDS Athens for several years, as well as other charities, and the Ugandan LGBT rights organization St. Paul's Voice Center characterized him as one of the "key pillars of [the] organization who has been so influential." I first met Paul during the sustained anti-war "Peace Camp" on UGA's north campus in 1991, as the United States was heading into the first Gulf War. Since that time, our interactions were occasional but never less than totally friendly. I remember when he started DJing and when I got a copy of his first mix. Universally remembered as a gentle soul with an exceedingly kind heart, Paul died quietly while resting Tuesday, Apr. 29 in Los Angeles with his mother at his side. If you'd like to enjoy his music, visit soundcloud.com/djapplepaul.
The Lights at Night: Swimmingly good tunesmith Nicholas Mallis, formerly of Yo Soybean but now playing under the name Nicholas Mallis & The Borealis, just dropped a new tune last week named “Orange” in anticipation of a full-length record due out in July. The album is to be titled Golden Age Vanity, and if it follows in the same stylistic footsteps as this first track—and, honestly, the bulk of the latter-day Yo Soybean material—it's gonna be packed with echoey, reverb-y surf riffs topped with ardent but not urgent vocal melodies. Good stuff for real. Get tipped via facebook.com/nicholasmallis and stream along at nicholasmallis.bandcamp.com.
Last Call: Before R.E.M., before The B-52's—hell, before Ravenstone, even (look 'em up)—there were The Jesters. Athens' longest-running rock and roll band is finally clocking out after 50 years. First formed in 1964, the group toured heavily around the Southeast, sharing the stage with the likes of Marvin Gaye, The Four Tops, Jackie Wilson and many other legendary R&B acts. The Jesters were a part of the now-canonized Southern beach music scene remembered perfectly in Greg Haynes' book, Heeey Baby Days of Beach Music: Stories and Remembrances of a Southern Music Genre. They'll play a final show Friday, May 30 at the Georgia Theatre, where a newly produced DVD, titled The History of The Jesters 1964–2014, will be available for $25. Tickets for the show are also $25, with VIP tickets, which include a pre-show catered reception, going for $100. Notably, the concert is a benefit for Jesters member Harold Williams, who suffered a paralyzing fall in his office last autumn. For tickets and more info, see georgiatheatre.com. And, as a related aside, if you'd like to dig a little deeper into the scene I'm talking about, see the lovingly and meticulously archived set of information at southerngaragebands.com. It'll blow your mind.
Here's the Drop: The coolest little bit of news landed in my lap a few weeks ago, and it's a shame I couldn't get to it until now. There's a new dance music label in town, founded by Jake Meyer and Hunter Reed and named King Beluga. We could split genre hairs here, but for now, let's just refer to it as an EDM (electronic dance music) label, a term I've never been totally comfortable with, mainly because it has an umbrella effect similar to that of “Americana.” Beluga is currently focused on several pillars, including management, distribution, publicity, promotion and branding, but let's first talk about its artists. The three on board so far are the ridiculously catchy Phiness, the downtempo and low-slung AstroShaman and the happy-hardcore-ish Holotropic JuJu. Several tracks from each act are available on the label's SoundCloud page, but a good place to start would be the new compilation Echolocations Vol. 1, which is available at the same place: soundcloud.com/king-beluga. For everything else, see kingbeluga.com.
Do You Remember?: Ghostmeat Records, largely operational the past several years solely as the official home of the annual AthFest compilation album, is celebrating its 20th anniversary this June. The label will host a showcase during AthFest at The Globe, which will include performances from David Dondero, Tony Tidwell and possibly a reunion by The Lures—but who knows? So far, label head Russ Hallauer has assembled a 20th anniversary streaming compilation, and the list of band names reads like a show flyer from the mid-1990s. So, go check that out if you're so inclined. Of particular interest might be Commander Venus, which featured a very young Conor Oberst (Bright Eyes), and Koncak, featuring the late Nuçi Phillips. Head to soundcloud.com/ghostmeat-records and stream away.
Athens Punk City: The incredibly positive (if rather unfortunately named) Up Your Athens Punk/Ska Festival will return for its fourth year to the Caledonia Lounge May 9 and 10. Admission is $1 for those 21 and over and $3 for everyone else. The all-ages event is organized by Tandi Murphy-Hall of local punk outfit Triangle Fire and her husband Nick, and together they make this thing run like clockwork. Totally stand-up folks, too. This year's event features Atlanta bands Fourth & Long, In Tents, Forsaken Profits, Eliminate Earth, Hermits of Suburbia, Awkward Sounds, Rotten Stitches, La Suegra and Ganges Phalanges; South Carolina's Now In 3D, Chunx, Rubrics and Interstellar Upstarts; Alabama's August Spies; Macon, GA's Grinchfinger and Taped Fist; Endless Bummer, from Baltimore, MD; and Shehehe, Katër Mass, Burns Like Fire, Monsoon, Parrothead, The Fact, El Chupaskabra, Triangle Fire, Capital Will and Karbomb—all from Athens. Hoo boy.