The Avondale Bar & Tap Room hosted a party for the release of their new drink menu on Friday night, inviting artist Michael Acuff, musician Alex Wilkerson and bands Dogwood Lung and Cherry Motel to mark the occasion with local music and art.
The alleyway up to the back entrance to the bar was filled with the smoke and smell of dozens of young Auburn residents’ cigarettes and cocktails while the name of the night’s headliner was passed around constantly in conversation: Cherry Motel.
Despite the bar being held down by only five employees, drink orders seemed to be constant and the bar’s seats were rarely empty.
Soon after Wilkerson began playing, Auburn music fans packed together like sardines up to the bands’ already cramped space by Avondale’s windows overlooking Toomer’s Corner.
A plethora of guitars, gig bags and other musical paraphernalia was stuffed in the dimly lit booths on either side of the band, with some audience members sometimes crawling over them to get closer.
As Dogwood Lung prepared to go on, an old television-VCR combo from the 90s was strapped to the bar stool behind the band while it played episodes from David Lynch’s cult classic "Twin Peaks."
“I’ve been planning to use the TV and VCR player for a while in some capacity," said Ben Ewing, Dogwood Lung's drummer. "I got it from my mom’s house. We had to deliberate a lot. We had a lot of VHS’s lying around, and it seemed like [Twin Peaks] wouldn’t be interesting enough to distract people but also not too boring.”
The floor of the upstairs bar’s interior bounced up and down to the dancing of around a hundred people as Dogwood Lung rocked out in an indie-surfer inspired fashion.
The clash of symbols, vibrations of vocals and deep notes of bass traveled through the walls and floor, permeating the audience with the rich sounds of post-punk-indie-rock.
The size of the bar and lounge wasn’t ideal for the genre of its musical guests but ideal for the dancing style of the audience: a crowded sway, head bopping and drunken foot tap, which went along easily with the dreamy surfer chords of Cherry Motel.
Jackson Gafford from local band Captain Kudzu said he used to play with the lead vocalist of Cherry Motel, Austin Walley.
“He’s very well read," Gafford said. "He writes lyrics and put the music to the lyrics. Most people don’t do that … Austin just has notebooks and notebooks of stuff he’s been working on. Also Austin Arias, his guitar stuff is really good. He plays with us sometimes.”
As Cherry Motel’s set went on, the music and the crowd’s movements became intensified to the point where several people, despite the establishment’s low ceilings and already crowded space, began crowd surfing.
The previously peaceable crowd soon descended into a mosh pit the likes of which could more commonly be seen at a metal concert, with the dance floor’s bouncing becoming so intense that it felt like the floor might fall through to the popcorn store downstairs.
At the end of their set, Walley yelled through the microphone at the crowd, “That’s all folks. Go out and smoke cigarettes” while the crowd began cheering and asking for one more song.
“Austin Arias is bleeding everybody. What are you doing to him?” Walley said, but eventually conceded and played an encore while audience members swayed with their lighters out.
“We played good considering we haven’t practiced in a long time. It was fun and the crowd was great,” a sweaty Walley said in the alleyway outside. “[Events like this] give us the chance to further develop ourselves … and in places like this, we can prove it. We can prove that we’ve been working on what we’re doing to each other as well as other people.”