Kevn Kinney, lead singer and guitarist for the band Drivin N Cryin, first experienced the Fox Theatre in Midtown not as a musician but as an audience member.
Shortly after moving to Atlanta from Milwaukee in 1982 when he was 21, before the group was formed, Kinney went to some movie screenings at the Fox, which today hosts an annual Coca-Cola Summer Film Festival.
“They used to have these special daytime events with ‘The Glenn Miller Story’ and ‘Gone with the Wind.’ It was mostly movies, classic movies,” he said.
Kinney and his band, which last performed at the Fox around 1993, will return to the stage Sept. 13 at 7 p.m. for Revival, a concert to benefit the Fox Theatre Institute. Drivin N Cryin will be joined by Drive-By Truckers, Michelle Malone, Dodd & The Councilmen featuring Bill Berry of R.E.M. and some special guests.
Founded in 2008, the institute has allocated more than $1.3 million throughout the state and provided historic theaters with preservation guidance, professional development, collaboration opportunities and strategic planning. It also manages Georgia Presenters, a statewide booking consortium, which helps spark collaboration among dozens of accomplished arts presenters.
During its heyday, Drivin N Cryin performed each Thanksgiving weekend at the Fox from 1989 to ’92 or ’93, in the same tradition as the Allman Brothers Band and R.E.M. did before it. Kinney, who is serving as Revival’s host, has returned to the Fox many times as an audience member since then.
“It’s a majestic memory,” he said of playing there decades earlier. “… I saw Ozzy (Osbourne perform) there. Your first foray is you wonder what happened here (when it opened), back when … everybody felt like a king for a couple of hours. Now it’s (much) more.
“My daughter Elise performed in ‘The Nutcracker’ there about 20 years ago. I have memories of my heyday and the rock concerts I’ve seen there.”
Of his first performance there with Drivin N Cryin, Kinney said he remembers “being terrified.”
“What’s great about it is (with) a lot of theaters you play, it looks majestic from one angle, but as an artist, it has a whole other beauty to it from the stage,” he said. “It’s majestic. It is a living organism. An audience is a special thing.
“It’s important to save the memory at a time when people are isolated by their own doings, walking down the street staring at their (cell) phones and not looking at the beauty of the streets and the flowers. It’s not just the building but it celebrates the time-shared living memories.”
Kinney’s most recent memory of the Fox is bittersweet. May 1, 2017, he performed as a solo artist as part of an all-star cast of musicians for another benefit concert for the institute that also celebrated Col. Bruce Hampton’s 70th birthday.
Beforehand Kinney had dinner in the Fox’s basement with Hampton, Widespread Panic’s John Bell and Dave Schools and the Allman Brothers Band’s Warren Haynes, all of whom performed. During the concert Hampton collapsed on stage and later died at Emory Midtown Hospital.
“Between me and him, I thought it was pretty amazing,” he said of the concert. “He was a bit of a showman and a bit of a trickster and a magician, so he died right at the feet of four of the world’s best guitar players on the very last song of the night.
“He lived a really full life. He was a true renaissance man. His musical knowledge between jazz and the blues was incredible. He knew about every musician but probably met just about every musician, from Jimi Hendrix to (John) Coltrane.”
Adina Erwin, the Fox’s vice president and chief operating officer, said the institute helps smaller Georgia towns’ theaters survive and succeed much in the same way the Fox has.
“We harken back to the Fox’s story, in which it was saved by the citizens of Atlanta (in 1974), how it has turned into a key economic driver here on Peachtree Street,” she said. “We know what a thriving, well-run historic theater can do on a main street. There are a lot of historic theaters in Georgia on main streets, and some are still open, and we know how they can be economic drivers as well.”
Erwin said there are about 120 historic theaters across the state still operating as theaters, with several others still open but operating as another type of business.
Kinney said he and his band recently performed at the Tybee Post Theater, a Tybee Island historic venue the institute helped rescue.
“It used to be a military theater when (the island) was mainly a military base,” he said. “We did a weekend there last summer and it was fantastic. We had a great time.”
In addition to the concert, Revival will also include a silent auction (Erwin said anyone can participate by texting Text REVIVAL to 243725), a live auction at the Marquee Club and a fund-a-mission activity.
Tickets are $35 to $75 plus applicable fees, and for $55 more, one can upgrade to get Marquee Club access. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.foxtheatre.org, call 855-285-8499 or go the Fox ticket office at 660 Peachtree St. in Atlanta.