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2000 and one: a band odyssey

The brassy funksters in Atlas still count


Get down! Atlas is a funkified party with nine pieces. But who's counting? The band's been rockin' central and western New York for 25 years. But who's counting? Friday, April 7, the horn-driven powerhouses played Montage to an enthusiastically crowded dance floor. It was the band's 2000th show. That's right, their 2000th show. But who's counting?

John Kowalczyk has been fronting and playing trumpet in Atlas since its inception in 1981 at SyracuseUniversity. And he's been counting.

"I approximated," he admits. "I figure it's 2000 plus or minus 15 or 20."

Where a lot of bands barely last a year before imploding thanks to a cocktail of booze, drugs, girlfriends, and egos, Atlas remains. Granted it's had approximately 60 to 70 players in and out of its ranks over the years. But again, who's counting?

When Atlas was born, the brassy, ballsy blast the band gave off on stage was blasting out of radios as well.

"Back then there was still a lotta funky stuff in the Top 40," Kowalczyk says. "It was post-disco, but there was still a lotta funky stuff. Earth, Wind, and Fire was huge."

The band was originally known as The Atlas Linen Company because, well, that's what it said on the side of their truck. Naming a band is cheaper than re-painting a truck.

"The keyboard player worked at The Atlas Linen Company, an industrial laundry place," Kowalczyk says. "The first truck we had actually had the ALC logo on it. So we took over the name." The band played SU parties, graduating to the club gigs, weddings, and corporate events they still do today.

The majority of Atlas' live output is horn-centric covers. This wasn't always the case.

"We were doing a lot of originals in the beginning," he says. "But it was kind of a struggle to get our own sound back then. People were dancing and partying to the stuff they knew a lot better. So we kinda veered towards that."

Atlas still peppers in a few slick originals in its live sets. Regardless, the band's energy and charm is undeniable. The whiplash-inducing grooves are played by a band that comes off casual and cool while the folks dancing mere feet away are bathed in sweat. Perhaps 2000 stabs at it helps.

"We like keeping it a little loose," he says.

Atlas flies anywhere for corporate gigs and tears up the road on what Kowalczyk calls "The New York State Thruway Tour." This circuit routinely takes them to the city lights of Syracuse, Rochester, Buffalo, Ithaca, Watertown, and Geneva and oughta keep 'em busy for at least another 2000 gigs.

Kowalczyk laughs loudly.

"Maybe 1500," he says.

Catch Atlas on their 2000 and somethingth gig Friday, May 5, at Montage, 50 Chestnut Street, 232-1520, at 9:30 p.m. $5. 21+.