In 2009, Small Reactions played 42 shows in Atlanta. We played any house party we could, took any shitty opening slot possible, partied with our dudes Twin Thunder and The North Trolls, practiced 3 times a week, and lived our band. We moved in together in April of that year—to what is still our house today, now called the Cottage—so it was “official.”
But sometime that fall, our band started to feel more like work. Between almost a show a week and loading and unloading the trailer for what felt like every other day, we only played to empty rooms and/or Moms, roommates, and people telling us to turn down. And the thing is, it’d been this way for years. This whole trend got older than Betty White, but not nearly as awesome. Sometime that November, Randy Castello must have been one of two people at a show (he was probably one of our moms) and thought we had some potential. So, he offered us an opening slot for Jay Reatard at The EARL on December 3, 2009. For various reasons, this was going to be our last show.
We opened the show as an essentially anonymous band, just as we’d been all along at every other show, but it was somehow cooler because, for one, it was The EARL and, two, it was Jay Reatard we were getting to see. After we played, we watched in awe as Jay thrashed his Flying V on stage to squalls of reverb and chaos and then went home. Perhaps, if we were going to go out, this was the way to do it.
For several months, we stopped talking, quit playing music, and found some passive-aggressive way to carry on at least living at our house, but without the band, it was pretty pointless. The band was our connection as people and the reason for living in Atlanta at all. Small Reactions became an insignificant causality of a “tough scene.” Jay’s death in January 2011 didn’t help either—it just felt like the final nail.
After getting together for a salad trip to DeKalb Farmer’s market sometime in August 2010, we decided to play again in our basement for an evening. I don't know if we even intended to reform the band, but we ended up at least agreeing to "jam." We didn’t play old songs—it was this weird thing where we didn’t even want to talk about them either. It was like that awkward first meeting between a couple after they break up and stop talking for a while—our break, however short, felt like years. So, this practice--this conversation--was different.
That first awkward conversation that took place in our basement is this song, “Michael J. Foxworthy.” The way you hear it now is almost identical to what we first came up with on day one, from note one. We write 90% of what we play through improvisation, and that’s how this one was born, too. I think I started the jam based on some drums from an Akron/Family song and the whole thing unfolded from there. Really, though, all of that is irrelevant. It's simply something that represents a very specific time and space. The song doesn’t really sound like anything we wrote before the breakup and it doesn’t really sound like anything we’ve done since. But here it stands, in all its abrasive, loud, angular glory.
"Michael J. Foxworthy" is the sound of release. Being in a band is quite possibly the hardest yet most rewarding relationship I’ve ever been a part of. This song is like a love note to that experience. I mean, Hell, it’s not even my favorite one of our tunes, but that’s also totally irrelevant, I think. When we played our first show back, November 19, 2010, almost a year after Jay Reatard, this was the first thing we played for a very specific reason. Needless to say, this song is an important one. And we like it. We hope you do, too.
P.S. The night we played with Jay, he got the tires on his tour bus slashed by some random person for, well, being Jay. He didn’t say a word to us that night, but he did thank “the first band” during his set which was a nice touch. I’ll always love his music, though. So, in part, this one’s for him.
P.S.S. The best show we played in that 42 show run of 2009 was not Jay Reatard, it was at a place called Milltown Arms Tavern in Cabbagetown for some strange Olympics thing. They kept telling us to turn down the entire time, but we didn’t listen. They finally had enough and told us we could only play one more song, so we played “Debaser.” In turn, “Michael J. Foxworthy”—our loudest, most abrasive song—is dedicated to those dudes. Long live rock ‘n’ roll, you old folks. Betty White probably would have been down with us.
P.S.S.S. I can’t believe you read this far down. You’re a fellow reader and I’m glad people like you still exist in the world. We’ve got some cool things in common, me and you: rock ‘n’ roll and literacy. Awesome.
released 07 February 2013
Recorded May 2011 at The Cottage in East Atlanta Village by Luciano Giarrano.
Mixed by John Rosser and mastered via tape machine by Kory Aaron.
Photos taken April 7, 2012 in our Bomb Shelter at The Cottage by Mallorie Coleman.
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