Situated in downtown Athens, GA, Popfest was conceived 13 years ago as a fun get-together for like-minded friends that’s evolved into a destination event that draws people to Athens from all over the world. For Athens Popfest’s 14th year, they pulled together a fantastic line-up featuring Superchunk, ESG, the Apples In Stereo, Pylon Reenactment Society, the Veldt, Elf Power, Leatitia Sadier, and new talent like Waxahatchee, R.Ring (featuring Kelly Deal), and the Gotobeds – as well as upcoming bands and local favorites, Palehound, Tunabunny, Eureka California, Antlered Aunt Lord, Lingua Franca and Rat Fancy.
The festival kicked off on Wednesday with a slew of day shows at Little Kings, a bright and spacious bar with the stage set right by the front door surrounded by big sunny windows.
Emileigh Ireland started off the fest with a charming and heartfelt singer/songwriter set that featured her beautiful voice, guitar and mandolin.
Next up, The Foresters rolled out some complex arrangements that at times were reminiscent of 80s bands like Squeeze or Split Endz.
COEDS, from Savannah, GA, supporting their most recent album, Thrill Me! on New Granada Records really brought the energy up a notch with some killer garage and indie rock all shaken up and rolled out with a fantastic live show.
Divine Feed, featuring ex-Ninja Gun frontman Johnathan Coody was up next with some whisky-soaked Americana that veered into both Whiskeytown and Replacements territory. Hard to believe it was their first show.
Dressy Bessy closed out the first afternoon of shows with some high-energy, hooky pop that brought everyone up front to sing along.
After a little break where everyone grabbed some food, the fest continued at the 40 Watt. For the next 3 days the night shows would be at held at the Georgia Theater, but tonight the bill and the venue were a perfect fit. Moody, local, and fun would be the theme of the night.
White Violet, the Athens/Atlanta based duo kicked off the night with a set of dreamy electro-beat tunes and fuzzy guitars.
From Raleigh, NC, Happy Abandon was up next with dreamy synth pop melodies followed by beautiful post-rock instrumental passages.
Next up, Los Angeles three-piece, Rat Fancy rolled out a great set of fuzzy garage pop with 60s influenced girl vocals, driving beats, jangly guitars and a splash of synth lead.
Kleenex Girl Wonder was up next and while at times hard to pin down you could hear influences by They Might be Giants, Elvis Costello and Ween. They really drew the crowd in song by song until everyone was singing along by the end of their set.
Feather Trade was definitely a crowd favorite on the night with their darkwave sound, pounding bass and theatrical stage appearance. The fog machines we’re working hard and the crowd was into it.
Next up, The Veldt, coming out of the Chapel Hill indie scene in the early 90s, are back after a 20 year break with their psych-rock sound tinged with a bid of trance and soul all wrapped up in a driving package.
As Wednesday became Thursday the night wrapped up with local favorites, Elf Power. Purveyors of psych-pop and jangle. The crowd was up front singing along to every word.
Day 1 was a wrap. Folks spilled out of the club after 2am to see what was still open for a final nightcap or perhaps to grab a few hours of sleep before day 2 of Popfest kicked off in less than 12 hours.