By Zac Tishgarten

The reverberating grind of a saw against wood, echoing and warping beneath tortured ramblings, followed by an ear-splitting climax of sound attacking from all angles. This is how concertgoers seeing Rubber Udder, Buice, Johnny Falloon, and 15,000 Guns at the 40 Watt on February 23rd were introduced to the latter’s opening set. With their proggy oddball excursions of noise, 15,000 Guns blasted through the room, playing through a variety of songs from their excellent 2023 LP, “Teratoma”. Michael Mendelson and Josh Rubin dueled from song to song on the mic, venturing from chorus-tinged waves of bitcrushed guitar on the fusion-inspired jam “Pinprick” to sliding shoegaze-y crescendos on “Influence.” Bassist Jimmy Huang and drummer Sawyer Flanagan effortlessly cut through the noise as they shifted stylistically from track to track. Compared to the last time I saw them, the on-stage mix was fantastic, and let the stellar technical performance and composition from each member shine. By the time the final notes of “Teratoma Testimony” rang throughout the room, the crowd was fully primed for Athens’ own Rubber Udder.

I know some may still be a bit skeptical of Rubber Udder’s niche of punk, but the energy both on stage and on the concert floor was undeniable. The grungy guitar tones rivaled some of their clear influences like Butthole Surfers and Melvins, as the band would start and stop their sludgy compositions, only halted by blasts of feedback. They weren’t feeling constrained to just one lineup either. The drummer and bassist each took turns at the mic as the entire band shifted from grunge to straightforward classic punk. The crowd reached the apex of their enthusiasm that night, whilst frontman Sully Holmes kept the onstage antics going by balancing on the barricade, driving his guitar into the ground, and flailing on the ground. After the demonic pitch-shifted yells of song “WaHo” from last year’s EP, they exited the stage to thunderous applause.

Rubber Udder at the 40 Watt (photo by Rissa Rogus)

Buice’s brand of art-punk was an apt chaser. Josh Rubin rejoined the stage, joined by Jack Pace, Robert Lloyd, and frontman Hayden Locke, as dozens of Atlantans crowded the stage. After a brief spiel, they launched into a mix of tracks from their sophomore effort “One Day You’ll See the Sun,” but not exclusively. This concert was the live debut for several unreleased songs, which the audience went wild for. Robert Lloyd absolutely shredded the drum kit for tracks like the unreleased “Astroman” and their angular yet atmospheric track “221935” from last year’s album. Pace and Rubin’s reverb-washed guitars paired great with Locke’s yelling, and the crowd never lost their fervor for any of Buice’s anthemic compositions. While it may only exist an hour and a half away, I was pleasantly surprised that Atlanta’s own “Freakcore” scene has such strong legs in Athens.

Buice at the 40 Watt (photo by Zac Tishgarten)

Closing out the night were the esoteric noise-rockers of Johnny Falloon, who manage to be a completely different experience each time I see them. Many songs they played tonight had never been heard before, and overall had more of a novel, melodic flavor to them. At times, especially with the bass drone and passionate singing of the opening song, the tone felt almost religious, especially with vocalist John Edmondson’s slick suit and notebook drawing to mind imagery of a preacher. (Further driving this theme home was the great Black Sabbath cover they launched into at the end.) The contrast provided by bassist Matthew Greer and drummer Joseph Clementi donning matching neon green Panama City Beach hoodies, however, visually demonstrates Johnny Falloon’s aural idiosyncrasies. Many of their established tracks, like their eponymous EP’s “Teeth” and their brand new single, “Frank’s Gun”, allow all the members to play unrestrained as Clementi’s drums thud with a hectic rhythm, Greer’s bass whines and rumbles, and Edmondson lets it all loose vocally. Stellar energy.

Johnny Falloon at the 40 Watt (photo by Margaret Bartlett)

Exiting the show, feeling the breeze of passing cars muffled even after wearing my concert-rated earbuds (according to an attendee’s phone, it was at LEAST 123 dB loud inside), I felt like last Friday’s show had one of the most stacked lineups a local experimental-rock enthusiast like me could ask for. Notably, my lofty expectations were more than met, and after gauging the attendance, I felt confident that plenty of bands keeping Georgia’s underground scene weird still may have a promising road ahead.