Saturday arrives. It’s the final day of the 2017 Athens Popfest. Feet are sore and most of us have probably lost our favorite pair of sunglasses or our hotel room keys at least once by this point but we’ve got 1 more day of music to pull us through.
Arriving at Little Kings on the 4th straight afternoon was starting to feel like a fun routine. By this point the bartender knows what you’re drinking, the sound guy gives you thumbs up and you’ve realized that most of the folks that have been here at the start of each day are in Popfest bands out to catch as much music as they can while they’re in town.
Saline started off the day with a great set of aggressive, yet dreamy tunes. They call themselves “shoegrease, experimental, pop guitar riffage.” Good stuff.
Next up is Dump Him, a Massachusetts-based punk/pop band with a heavy skate punk esthetic, killer guitars and a drummer that will not stop smiling. I wish they had played a longer set, it seemed like it was over too quick.
After a bit of a break in the action, Seafang from St. Petersburg, FL was up with their take on the C86 scene from the 80s & 90s, updated for 2017 with influences from the Primitives, JAMC and Slowdive.
Scooterbabe closed out the festival at Little Kings with some fantastic post rock with a little twee mixed in for good measure.
OK, we’re World Famous bound for the mid-day sets, some food, cocktails and some great music.
Peyote Coyote, a power-trio from South Florida hit the stage hard and fast with their psych-rock sound, pounding drums and killer guitar. While I could hear echoes of new-Texas-psych in their sound, think The Black Angels, Peyote Coyote pushed the shredding up front instead of living or dying by the drone.
Harlot Party has a sound with an eclectic mix of melodic instrumental passage and delicate and passionate vocals. They had the crowd by the ear as we tried and failed to predict where the songs were headed next. Looking forward to checking out their recorded work.
Time for dinner. Everyone says, “Grab something quick! The first band that’s playing at the Georgia Theater tonight is not to be missed.”
Superbody is scheduled to start at 7:30pm but when showtime arrives there’s no instruments on stage. There is however a wooden desk with an old electric word processor on it, a small desk lamp and a small cactus in a pot.
The lights go down and a man dressed in a suit with a cup of coffee walks out to the desk and starts to work on the word processor. It is dead quiet in the room. A few seconds later an agitated man in a suit walks out to talk with him. This man is not happy.
5 seconds later it’s an 80s dance party and a guy in a cowboy hat dances out on stage and the place goes nuts. I could not stop laughing and the whole room had a smile on their face for the next 30 minutes. Pure 80s dance-pop bliss.
In the spirit of keeping the party going on a Saturday night, rapper Lingua Franca hit the stage with a ferocious energy that got the whole room moving with her self-described neo-soul hooks, telling unflinching tales of chemically-induced heartbreak, reproductive justice, racial politics and feminist swagger. One of the best sets of the festival, hands down.
Noon:30 was up next with an unexpected mix of hip-hop, soul and punk. Hard to pin down from song to song the crowd especially dug the punk stuff and when lead vocalist, Blue jumped into the crowd at the end of their set to dance the pit danced with her.
For those of us that may have missed the Athens band, Pylon the first time around, the Pylon Reenactment Society has you covered. After the untimely passing of guitarist Randy Bewley in 2009, vocalist Vanessa Briscoe Hay decided to pull together an all-star Athens lineup to keep the music alive. The band, featuring members of Casper & the Cookies, The Glands, and world renowned pianist Damon Denton hit the stage running and never looked back. Jumping up and down, slapping hi-fives, posing, dancing and just rocking out, it was 100% energy. The band was having as much fun as the crowd.
Tunabunny was up next, supporting their latest album, PCP Presents Alice in Wonderland Jr. a 75 minute double-vinyl release. Influences run the gambit from 60s garage rock, psych-pop, and 80s new wave to well, pretty much everything.
The time has come, from the Bronx, please welcome to the stage, ESG! Formed nearly 40 years ago they’ve become one of the most sampled groups to influence early hip-hop recordings. Sparse, raw percussion, driving beats, rocking guitar, the party was on, and on and on!
The end of the night arrives. The lights come on and instead of everyone heading straight out the door, folks were exchanging contact information, talking about the best bands they saw during the fest and trying to figure out if they could catch maybe 1 more band over at Flicker or the 40 Watt. For the last 4 days Popfest built a little community of fans and friends and I think that’s one of the things that makes this festival special. Unlike most festivals, there’s no overlapping shows so you get a chance to see every band and you get to make connections with the fans out to see them and that creates, at least for these 4 days, a wonderful little scene of family and friends.
See you next year, Athens!
All photos by John McNicholas