Athens was taken over this past weekend with artists from near and far. Here are WUOG’s top picks from AthFest 2015.
Cult of Riggonia was pretty far out; all of the band members wearing robes and other sorts of costume. One of the vocalists had some sort of puppet around the microphone that he was speaking into. The instruments and electronics were used in a pretty experimental way, but the songs still had definite structure. I can’t say exactly what was happening because I’m not in the Cult of Riggonia myself, but it was pretty wild.
Mothers continued to delight and evolve with their Friday night show at the Caledonia Lounge. With their new four-piece setup and Leschper’s ever-charming vocals, the bustling Friday night crowd was captivated both by an entertaining contrast of soft emotional moments and a Devo cover. It seems as the band grows, so does the depth of their performance.
Muuy Biien began their late Friday night set with a new song that was surprisingly slow and swampy compared to the group’s normal, lightning-fast post-punk, but they didn’t sound any less menacing. What followed was a roaring set that demonstrated the band’s power and command of an audience. Vocalist Joshua Evans remains one of the most powerful and energetic frontmen in the Athens scene, rarely standing still for more than a moment as the band flew through their set with minimal stops and maximum volume. The large crowd at the Caledonia on Friday night saw one the most impressive displays of musicianship of the weekend, as Muuy Biien now how to get energy and volume out of their instruments with a force that’s unrivaled in the Classic City.
Grand Vapids are a group I’m embarrassed to say I had never seen before Saturday. They got put on the backburner of my concert selection, and now that I’m kicking myself after seeing them perform at Dirty Athens, the Caledonia Lounge’s yearly day party, I can’t think of what that reason is. I had listened to a number of cuts from their album, Guarantees, and enjoyed what I heard, but the multi-dimensionality of Grand Vapids’ sound live was more enticing than their record could have suggested. On one hand, there’s the grittier, 90’s-esque rock sound that permeated the majority of the set, but it’s when the group decides to delve into it’s dreamier instrumentation that they really caught my ear. The latter isn’t quite shoegaze, but it flirts with the genre’s border in a way that makes the frequent transition between it and the more rugged tones work impressively. If you are unintentionally ignorant to this group’s live show like I once was, stop wasting your time and make sure you see these guys when you can.
It has been a long time since anyone has seen a live show from Brothers, so Flicker was buzzing while waiting for the Of Montreal show right outside to end. It has been almost exactly a year since I last saw the group play, so I was curious to see what they had to offer. The sound was rocky at the beginning of the show, with a loose snare in particular killing the mood for the softer vibes of the newer tunes. There was also a confusing keyboard transition, which while backed by interesting cymbal work, made the whole segment seem disorganized. Switching back to a three-piece outfit to close out the show seemed to be more of a crowd-pleaser.
I’m not going to pretend that I intended on seeing Savagist, a sentiment that seemed to be exclusive to me considering the nearly packed Caledonia Lounge was full of undoubtedly eager fans. It just so happened that there wasn’t another show happening at the time of their set. I liked many other bands on the venue’s ticket that evening, so I figured I would give these guys a shot. If you’re unfamiliar with them (as I was), you probably have an inclination of what Savagist sounds like based on their name — and you’re probably right. Savagist is intense, relentless and, most importantly, LOUD. (Seriously, earplugs are a must at their shows.) Don’t let the name fool you, however — this trio is musically solid in all of its members. When I wasn’t focused on surviving the kick drum’s attack on my heart rate, I was focused on trying to comprehend the technicality simultaneously displayed in the guitar, bass and drums. I blindly went into this show and almost left it deaf. It was awesome.
Each member of LAZER/WULF (guitar, bass, drums) is amazingly skilled in their respective instrument. Just watching them actually play was hypnotic, and even though the sound structures are very complex (the group labels themselves as an experimental metal act), they were able to play with a stylish flashiness that really engaged the crowd. At one point the guitarist asked everyone to hold up their phone flashlights to light the stage while the lights in the Caledonia lounge were turned off. Everyone did it too- it was brighter than the stage lights were.
The Powder Room isn’t a group I haven’t seen before, but it seems like every time I have seen them was at 1 in the morning and with a sparse crowd. This isn’t a diss, but I’m not usually the type to stay out too late for shows and the few Powder Room crowds I have been in weren’t representative of their local reach. So when I was able to them at 10pm with a healthy audience size, I took the opportunity. The performance was what you’ve come to expect from The Powder Room’s dark sound — sinister instrumentation with coarse vocals that you thought only a demon could produce. (This mental visual more than likely came about when the vocalist specifically requested the Caledonia Lounge’s red lights.) The songs’ tension had me scared for my life and my pulse aligned with the music. With music alone, The Powder Room had me terrified.
Mind Brains seems to do a good job of combining a classic sort-of folk sound with synthesizers, electronic drum triggers, and some experimentation in song structure to create an enjoyable listen. The crowd wasn’t exactly high energy for this show, but everyone seemed pretty interested in watching the performance. My personal favorite part of these shows is watching the drummer playing the kit and the drummer playing the electronic trigger ads play together to get a pretty full percussive sound.
When the 40 Watt’s on-stage sound man took away the microphone stand from Warehouse frontwoman Elaine Edenfield, I was confused. For every one of the group’s many performances that I’ve seen, Edenfield has planted herself behind the stand with hands locked behind her back and plainly delivered her dynamic vocals. It was a juxtaposition that was confusing, but not necessarily detracting from the show. At least, that’s what I thought at the time. While Edenfield was initially awkward and clunkily moved about the stage, her gradual progression into comfort significantly added life to the music produced by the group’s impressive instrumentalists. Edenfield wasn’t exactly parading around, but even just having her casually walk to and fro with mic in hand was a welcomed change in presentation. Musically, Warehouse delivered an invigorating set composed almost exclusively of new material. While I didn’t recognize a majority of the songs, they were a natural progression further into the bright post-punk sound that put Warehouse on the map in the first place. When combined with the Edenfield’s budding confidence in performing, it was probably the best Warehouse show I’ve ever seen. I realize I say that nearly every time I see them, but that’s just a testament to the trajectory of a group I still consider to be Georgia’s most promising up-and-coming band.
Seeing DIP as the headliner on the 40 Watt marquee was a funny sight. Going into the late performance (they didn’t actually start until around 1:50am), I expected to be one of five or six people too exhausted to dance to the duo’s fervent boom diddy. Fortunately, I couldn’t have been more wrong. While it wasn’t exactly a full 40 Watt, a sizeable audience giddily jumped around together to DIP’s signature sound. They played a well received collection of hits, including “Computer Chip Dip,” “Knock Knock Joke” and, of course, “Skinny Dip” to a collection of dipsters and enthusiastic first-time dippers. While it lacked the exuberant props normally a part of DIP’s live show, the group’s contagious energy and inclusion of Reptar member William Kennedy on vocal sound effects made this the perfect way to close out AthFest’s Saturday night.
The Baseball Project is admittedly a pretty niche idea, but the rare opportunity to see R.E.M. members perform in Athens brought out even those who don’t enjoy America’s pastime to the Pulaski Stage on Sunday night. R.E.M. junkies were treated to a Bill Berry appearance and a performance of the classic “(Don’t Go Back to) Rockville”, but baseball fans also enjoyed a lovely night of tunes about heroes like Jackie Robinson and villains like Alex Rodriguez. Even if you don’t know what sabermetrics is or can’t list the pitchers who’ve thrown perfect games, you could find fun in The Baseball Project’s great pop sound