This may be the first time the Variety Playhouse has intentionally booked a riot into the historic Little Five Points theater. Expect the spirit of Ria’s Bluebird Café owner and chef Ria Pell to preside over (and perhaps slam dance down front) at tonight’s It’s a Ria Riot!: Queers, Punks, Eats, DJs — A Celebration and Tribute to Our Friend Ria Pell benefit concert. After all, if there was one thing the activist chef loved as much as brisket for breakfast, it was supporting Atlanta’s live music scene. So tonight, beginning at 7, local bands and musical friends of Pell’s will be performing all of her favorite tunes as a benefit for her friends, family and business, all affected financially by Pell’s unexpected death last month at age 44.
I asked Pell’s pal and Church dive bar owner Grant Henry and the benefit’s organizers to reflect for Atlanta magazine readers on Ria’s personal connections to many of the acts on tonight’s bill. Here’s what they wrote:
Murder Lisa: “Kat Lea writes songs, sings and plays guitar. She’s been doing that since she was six. Nick Christian writes songs and plays drums. He’s been doing that since he was 2. These two kids are all of 12 year old and they rock out. Ria was a huge fan.”
Caroline & the Ramblers: “Caroline Engel, dubbed Atlanta’s own honky tonk angel, leads this fabulous quartet with a mix of rockabilly, country and a bit of swing blues. Caroline was an admirer of Ria and vice versa. The band played the last Ria’s Bluebird Café anniversary party.”
Slim Chance & the Convicts: “Atlanta’s original redneck underground country band, still going strong after 27 years. One of her favorite twang bands, Ria used to pony up to the bar at [the late, lamented Little Five Points Pabst Blue ribbon filling station] Austin Avenue Buffet to catch their show. Slim [aka singer/leader James Kelly] and Ria had many a conversation about classic country.”
El Caminos: “Ria was a good friend and supporter of the band. She loved some straight up rock ‘n’ roll.”
Clashinista: “Atlanta’s only Clash tribute band. Old school Atlanta punks playing classic punk rock. Ria loved to see these guys play. You would usually see her having a drink with Jason Deck and John-Paul Martin.”
Members of the 90s Atlanta act The Rent Boys and Tweezer are also reuniting for tonight’s benefit. Pell’s DJ pals, DJ Ree De La Vega, DJ Speakerfoxxx, DJ Tim Lawrence, DJ Osmose and DJ Brian Poust will be spinning between acts from 7 p.m. until midnight. Silent auction items and a merch table with works donated by artist friends, including R. Land will also be available for purchase.
Tickets are $20 and are available at the door. So how will your cash be used? Riot organizers tell Atlanta magazine, “The money raised from the benefit will be used to bring positive closure to the large life Ria Pell lived and to take care of family and business responsibilities, as well as to further the local causes that Ria cared so much about. All of the donations received are much needed and her family is very appreciative of the show of love and support that has been given to them as they carry out Ria’s obligations and keep the love alive.”
For more information about the benefit, go to the It's a Ria Riot! Facebook event page.