After a late night on Wednesday, sunrise on the 2nd day of Athens Popfest came quickly. The doors at Little Kings opened at 2pm and in just a few minutes there was already a nice crowd of familiar faces and newer folks out to catch the early sets.
Ancient Whales kicked things off with some grungy, garage pop that soared around the room and got everyone moving.
Heavenly Creatures from Cleveland, Ohio played a rocking set of garage pop including a fantastic cover of R.E.M.’s “World Leader Pretend” that had the locals singing at the top of their lungs.
Up next was Outer Spaces from Baltimore, with a sound driven by electric piano, guitar and 90s indie-rock female vocals. So good.
With 4 killer sets in the books it was time for a venue change. The crowd headed next door to World Famous, a fantastic, cozy little restaurant/bar with a dedicated performance space in half of the main room.
As Procedure Club took the stage the room quickly filled, leaving late-comers peering over shoulders and around corners to catch the band’s euphoric sound with killer harmonies and squawling feedback.
Casper & the Cookies quickly jumped on stage next and blew the room away. If you haven’t seen them play before do yourself a favor and catch ‘em soon. Athens’ own, Jason NeSmith and Kay Stanton had more energy than everyone else in the room combined and they brought a huge dose of power pop and good times with them. If you’re a fan of the Monkeys, Redd Kross, and the B52s, this is your new favorite band.
Next up the crowd shifted a block over to the Georgia Theater for the first night of shows at this beautifully renovated venue. The venue itself consists of a cozy main level and 3 balcony areas that are perfectly situated for viewing the stage and there’s a fantastic rooftop deck where you can grab a bite to eat between bands.
Red Pony Clock started off the first night of shows at the Georgia Theater in a big way, with a big band busting out chamber pop, symphonic sounds, frenetic energy, and surging instruments delivering a fun and rollicking set.
Boston based power trio, Palehound, lead by Ellen Kempner kicked it out next and were one of the day’s highlights. Kempner’s guitar work is nimble, tuneful and full of surprises while bassist, Larz Brogan may have won the prize for the “musician having the most fun on stage” for the entire fest. Killer tunes and a great energy from start to finish.
I knew we were in for a show when Henry Ownings from Chunklet introduced the Gotobeds and then proceeded to drink from their whiskey bottle as the band kicked straight into high gear from the very the first note. The Gotobeds, from Pittsburg, PA play rock and roll. Simple, basic, catchy, fall down, do shots (thanks again, Henry), leg kick, guitar throwing rock and roll.
Marshmallow Coast was up next and they were the perfect reset after 2 rocking guitar bands. Andy Gonzalez originally formed this project back in the mid 90s and is closely associated with the Elephant Six Collective having worked alongside Julian Koster and Of Montreal. The band plays what I would describe as Prog-Pop but the band calls it jazzpsychclassical.
Listen to their set here: http://southernshelter.com/2017/08/marshmallow-coast-athens-popfest-georgia-theatre-2017-08-10/
Antlered Aunt Lord brought the artrock to the rock show tonight. AAL are an indie rock trio with a ton of great songs which were elevated to another level when they were joined on stage by a woman that covered them with glitter tape, drew pictures on their bodies with sharpie pens and by the end of the set had given each member of the band paper wings.
Watch a part of their set on YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HBpCFbX7q4c&sns=fb
Waxahatchee’s new record, Out in the Storm should make Katie Crutchfield and her nom de plum a household name. It’s a near perfect collection of heartfelt and deeply personal songs that’s stunning from start to finish. To say expectations ran high for her set at Popfest would be an understatement. Her 5-piece band, featuring her equally talented sister, Allison Crutchfield on vocals, keyboards and guitar proceeded to hold court for nearly an hour delivering a stunning, powerful and transcendent performance, leaning heavily on songs from the new record. Inspiring. Breathless.
How do you follow up a performance like that?
The Apples in Stereo know. Led by bandleader Robert Schneider, the Apples are big home town favorites and they showed the crowd why with an hour-plus set of non-stop power pop, contagious smiles and miles of hooks. Robert’s son Max even got up to jam with them on guitar.. And though Robert proclaimed, “this is our first show in 5 years” you’d never guess it. So awesome.
Hot and sweaty. Night 2 was in the books. We’re half-way home.
All photos by John McNicholas.