The beauty of the underground scene is that like Superman and Clark Kent, its members often live dual (and sometimes triple and quadruple) lives. There often exists more than meets the eye; fans can be fickle. Venues swap hands faster than spare change. Indeed, the starving artist takes many forms. And more often than not, the person next to you wears many hats.
Take for instance, Frank Concepcion – an on-site manager at an artist community in Atlanta’s gritty West End. When it comes to wearing multiple hats, Concepcion is an expert. His steely gaze and unassuming demeanor belie his multiple talents. A chance meeting revealed a wealth of information. Affiliated with Trifacta Entertainment (not to be confused with Trifecta), Frank also plays the bass, and is a DJ and producer. His deeply stoked vinyl collection also raises an eyebrow – a testament to how intensely his musical roots really run.
A self-proclaimed introvert, Frank represents the very thing that keeps many talented artists buried beneath a horde of “sound-alikes.” This sense of seclusion that fares so well in the creative process sometimes presents problems when it comes to sharing one’s creations. Concepcion agrees that the least social people are often the ones who are the most misunderstood – especially by those who spend a great deal of time clamoring for the spotlight.
The urban music production scene in metro Atlanta is also pretty heavy on computer-generated material. Frank becomes more animated as the topic broaches computerized vs. traditional recording methods. Singers never need worry about being slightly off-key these days, considering the plethora of digital tricks available to correct the wrongs.
To that end, he enlightens me on the catalog of music that he’s worked on. One singer in particular has a passionate, yet very- off-pitch delivery on more than one track. But if it’s possible to sing off-key, very well – I’d finally discovered the way. To Frank’s credit, the fusion jazz composition behind the singer was crisp and clean. My politically correct self hesitated in mentioning it; but I couldn’t resist asking whether the singer knew he was off. According to Frank, he did apparently and wanted the song recorded as-is. You gotta love underground artists.
Perusing his playlist, he played some music he’d worked on with artist Ced Hawkins, musician and founder of Trifacta Entertainment. In a chance meeting with Ced at Frank’s studio, Hawkins praised the legitimacy of recording live music as opposed to doing a lot of “cutting and pasting.” Being able to play a bunch of different instruments certainly helps. The songs on his “Alcohol Follows the Water” album --parts of which Frank has already allowed me to hear -- evidence this.
Influenced by icons like Stevie Wonder, Prince, Led Zeppelin, and George Clinton, I could definitely hear those inspirations in the songs on the album. How people interpret their influences has always been an interesting thing. Some artists sound like their favorite musicians. Others try hard to pinpoint the vocal styling of their favorite singers. Some naturally reinvent these nuances. I deduced that if Ced’s imagination were an anything-goes radio station, this album is what it would sound like.
Much is to be learned from traversing Atlanta’s underground music scene. We only find the loose change in our couches’ nooks and crannies when we actually remove the cushions and look for it. Perhaps the biggest lesson is that we should never underestimate those who cross our paths.