The third day of Athens Popfest was a hot one both literally with temperatures in the high 90’s and because of the stellar lineup of bands from start to finish.
Once again, Little Kings played host to the first wave of music and once again it was a scorcher.
First up, Austin, TX based Growl busted out some killer garage rock with a ton of energy and solid tunes.
Next up, fresh off the plane from London, England was Schande. Both sonically aggressive with slashing guitar and catchy with wonderful vocal melodies from Jenn Schande. From the first note, Schande’s guitar ricocheted off of the solid rhythm section and her fuzzy vocals floated over the sonic landscape perfectly.
While Schande’s set reminded me of some damn fine 90s indie-rock, TRÉS OUI took me back another 10 years with artifacts of The Smiths, updated with a more angular vibe that a band like The Drums brings to that mix. There was dancing and rightfully so.
Speaking of dancing, Big Fresh had arrived. 10 folks piled onto the stage at Little Kings and got everyone moving with their fresh take on jazz and pop with some 80s overtones. Various members took turns on lead vocals and Apples in Stereo frontman Robert Schneider grabbed the mic at one point and journeyed out into the crowd to get us all singing along.
Matt Harnish, from Bunnygrunt & Googolplexia kicked off the first set of music at the World Famous with a Carondelet Guy song called, “I Am A Ghetto Tumbleweed” and in addition to songs from Bunnygrunt and Googolplexia. He also threw in some songs by the Mountain Goats and a very NSFW song called “Glenn Beck.” Google it.
Claire Cronin closed out the afternoon with some wonderful, moving lyrics and beautiful songs.
The night shows got started at the Georgia Theater with Einschlagen. As the band took the stage they announced that it would be their last show. They wove an eclectic set of mostly instrumentals with the occasional live vocal or pre-recorded vocal passage. At times haunting and at times straight ahead.
Big Quiet was next up with quirky, female fronted 90s indie-pop with self-proclaimed doses of Pylon, R.E.M. and Big Star.
While R. Ring was getting set up, a buzz started as some folks in the room noticed that the band featured Kelly Deal, primarily known for her work with the Breeders, and Mike Montgomery from Ampline, joined by Laura King (Flesh Wounds) on drums. They describe their sound as “sparse, chaotic, abrasive and lulling, often within the same song” and that would be the perfect description of their live set. I would also add charming and beautiful.
While most people will know Lætitia Sadier from her previous band Stereolab, her solo output since 2010 has been nothing short of wonderful, including her new album Find Me Finding You, which came out in March of this year. From the eclectic acapella start through the sparse and beautiful final chord, Lætitia and her band held the entire room in a trace. A truly mesmerizing set with many folks crying out for an encore.
Time to pull a 180 with Eureka California. Hailing from Athens, GA, EC are a guy/girl duo that plays it loud, fast and fun. Definitely a must-see act when they come to your town. It felt like they played 20 songs in 45 minutes and folks were digging it.
Friday night’s Popfest headliner was Superchunk, from Chapel Hill, NC. Some would call them the definitive indie-rock band from the 90s who launched 1,000 bands and probably encouraged folks to start another 500 record labels, modeled after their own Merge Records. For those of you that have seen Superchunk live you know they’re a force of nature that doesn’t know how to stand still even for a second, so when they launched into, arguably their biggest hit, “Slack Motherfucker” as the first song, the place went nuts as if it was encore time already. Without a new record to promote they mined their back catalog and they never let off the gas. “Sick to Move,” “Seed Toss,” “Fishing,” “Me & You & Jackie Mittoo” and a ton more.
All right, 3 nights down, 1 to go!