The Cotton Club, Atlanta • August 13, 1999

Ever see a show that you know people will be talking about in four or five years? This one most definitely qualified. With front-guy Matt Mahaffey’s mom and long-time girlfriend in the audience, Self could not have been more on-target. Culling songs from all three of their LPs (highlighting cuts from the new Breakfast With Girls ), they played an hour’s set that featured pop-rock, hip-hop and jazz samples, songs written on toy pianos, and ditties about… well, Marilyn Manson.

While Mahaffey (whose big brother, Mike, is only allowed to play some guitar on albums – punishment for trying to beat his kid brother up all the time, I’m sure) is the genius behind their studio sessions, the entire band is represented in concert. From Chris James’ funky samples and catchy background harmonies to Matt’s and bassist Mac Burris’s on-stage switching of each other’s instruments mid-song, Self has a stage presence not matched by many popular artists. Matt went even further, commenting back-and-forth with the audience on a recent Jerry Springer episode he had seen: “So… this kid was all in Marilyn Manson make-up, ya know, and wearing ripped leather… I mean, come on. What if this kid wants to be in a band one day? No one’s gonna even talk to him after that VH1 “Behind the Stars” thing comes out….” Subsequently, the band launched into “kidDies,” a song documenting Marilyn Manson Halloween costumes and kidnapping trick-or-treaters.

Fitting, on Friday the 13th.

Self played some classics from their first album, Subliminal Plastic Motives , as well as select tracks from their sophomore, in-between studio albums, The Half-Baked Serenade . “Marathon Shirt” showcased Mahaffey’s affinity for songs about childhood memories, as did the new “Suzie Q Sailaway,” which was partly written on a Playskool piano. In fact, he seems to be so fond of children’s musical instruments that the band will be recording a new album entirely on toys. Self previewed one of these songs, “I’ve Got a Truck-Full of Amps, Motherfucker,” in which Mahaffey free-styled the names of various MTV rock stars (Lenny Kravitz, and if I’m not mistaken, Sheryl Crow… I did have a bit to drink by that point, though.)

The only drawback to this show is that, well, it took place during the Atlantis Music Festival. When Self comes to the Deep South, most of the audience tends to head for other points. And during this festival, other points were easy to find, with at least twenty other acts playing the same time slot. However, for the two hundred-or-so people gathered at the Cotton Club stage, Self gave more than ample reason to go out and find their own copy of Breakfast With Girls .

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