There are parts of Atlanta that we cherish maybe a bit more than others. When you’re in the city and find some of these older sections and learn a bit about the history, you really can begin to appreciate and understand some of the culture.
For some reason, I’ve always been drawn to Little Five Points. Maybe it’s a vibe. The area reminds me of college days in Athens in 1971. The aromas from the various businesses fill the streets. Street vendors and performers add flavor, and color. The restaurants, bars and unique boutiques add to the L5P makeup. It’s eclectic. It’s hip. It’s cool. It’s old, and funky…like me.
And there was the Variety Playhouse, one of the mainstays in this part of town. Built in 1940, it was originally the Euclid Theatre, a sister to the Fabulous Fox, the movie palace in Midtown. A third theater was The Gordon Theatre. The Gordon was located in the West End and its former home now is out of the entertainment business. I think you’re aware of what’s happening with the Fox.
The Euclid Theatre closed in the early ’60s. Other than being used as a storage warehouse for a brief period, it sat empty for 20 years. It was scheduled for destruction until City Hall came to the rescue. Aren’t we glad they did?
I cannot imagine Atlanta’s music scene without this rich venue. There could be a more fitting name, but I doubt it. Variety is known for its mixture of artists from punk to funk, outrageous acts, and performers representing pretty much every genre of music. Everyone from cutting edge current, to obscure acts you thought were dead or had broken up have reappeared there.
The Variety does balance things out with mainstream players who are not necessarily looking for a big venue. Do a little snooping around on the internet, and you’ll be amazed at the performers who have done their thing on the Variety’s stage.
These performers have made Variety the perfect “music melting pot,” perfect for Little Five Points. There have been nearly 500 shows at Variety Playhouse. A good sound crew always has the room sounding tight, and right within a few songs after a show begins. Old theaters were built with sound and acoustics in mind, along with what we’re supposed to watch on the big screen.
I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you about a few up close and personal nights there. One particular artist comes to visit at least once a year: Delbert McClinton. He’s been a regular there for years. Fans come to the “House of Delbert” to party together. This is achieved by soaking up a few adult beverages while soaking up one of this country’s song-writing treasures who always fronts a band that “destroys” the room.
I truly hope you are lucky enough to be a fan of the band Little Feat. Hearing them perform, “Oh Atlanta,” in Atlanta is a religious musical experience. I witnessed their close friends, Tower of Power, there one evening. They had the house in such a state of funk, the building was probably still moving for many days afterward.
In 2015, this old beauty got a “face lift” from new owners. Enhancements were made throughout without losing any of the character of the place. It’s still one of the few rooms where you can go down front and give the musicians onstage a high five if they allow you to do so.
Quite often the artists will sign and sell their wares after the show. I can honestly say every time I’ve left the building, my Variety experience was more than worthwhile.
When things resume after our pandemic time, rest assured this magical, monumental and very special musical shrine will once again bring Variety fans exactly what we crave.