In an age where a new music festival pops up everyday touting a lineup full of big names acts and the big time prices to go with it, Project Pabst is sort of an anomaly in the music fest world. PBR started the festival in Portland in 2014, before expanding to three additional cities last year – Denver, Philadelphia, and Atlanta. On Saturday, October 7th, Project Pabst returned to East Atlanta Village for the second year in a row, showing what makes the one day festival so unique.
Touting the low price tag of $45, along with all you can handle $3, 16oz. PBRs inside the festival, Project Pabst is one of the most economically feasbile fests around – especially when you consider the diverse lineup full of acts that could sell out venues of different sizes around Atlanta on their own. Not only does Project Pabst bring a little something for everyone, but the Atlanta version especially taps straight into the local scene, mixing the known acts, with local up and comers that each bring something unique and compelling.
In Project Pabst’s two years in Atlanta, it’s more of a community affair than your typical festival, and there couldn’t be a more perfect place for it than East Atlanta Village. No matter what side of genre spectrum the acts come from, the whole lineup brings a more alternative flair to their music, fitting in perfectly with the EAV aesthetic.
This year’s Atlanta festival was scaled down more than last year, bringing the community vibe even closer together. While last year’s fest closed down Glenwood to Flat Shoals where most of the main bars and restaurants in EAV were inside the festival, this year they only shut down the streets from The EARL to behind Argosy where the main stage was. Where last year the second stage was in front of Graveyard, this year the second stage was in the parking lot between Arogsy and behind The EARL, with daytime and late night sets occurring inside The EARL’s regular back of the house rock venue. Things were more condensed this year, but still never felt overcrowded.
One thing that couldn’t quite be matched this year compared to last year’s fest – the out of control hype from the crowd during Run The Jewels, or the overzealous energy and flying beer cans during Mastodon’s set. That was a perfect storm coming together on booking the fest’s first year in Atlanta. Hometown heavy metal gods in Mastodon, and everyone’s favorite Atlantan – Killer Mike.
While it would be almost impossible for 2017’s Project Pabst Atlanta crowds to match what occurred in 2016, this year’s fest had plenty of it’s own moments and energy building throughout the day in anticipation for this year’s headliner – the legend himself, Iggy Pop. The daytime sets were a good lead in to Iggy, it seemed as if everyone had a favorite artist they were there to see during the day. They were showing up early for that one set they were hoping to catch. But no matter whom their chosen daytime artist was, there was one thing that the majority of people looking forward to most – the “Godfather of Punk” has been ripping stages apart for more than 45 years. Whether it was an old rocker who’s seen Iggy throughout the years, or seeing Iggy for the first the time, everyone in the crowd knew they had to take this opportunity to see Iggy Pop do his thing on stage. At 70 years old, and ongoing rumors of retiring soon, the build for Iggy Pop was real. And he sure didn’t disappoint either.
Hometown heroes, The Coathangers just made too much sense to rock the Project Pabst lineup. While some members have moved to LA, the beloved punk rockers are Atlanta through and through. With a new EP, Parasite out now, and 2016’s 5th full length album Nosebleed Weekend in their pocket, The Coathangers played a scorching set early in the afternoon.
Locals to both Atlanta, and the vibrant music scene of Athens, Georgia, Vincas put on a ferocious early set at the Captain Pabst Stage. With the stage tucked behind The EARL, and beer and food vendors surrounding the stage, Vincas set had a more communal vibe to it. The snarling punks have a psychedelic aspect to their blistering rock that spread throughout the crowd like a virus. The infectious grooves left a lasting impression in the early afternoon.
Watch The Duck
With a guitar, electronic drums, DJs and a frontman who doesn’t stop, Alabama natives Watch The Duck brought one of the more interesting sets that most definitely had the crowd dancing along. The collective, signed to Pharrell’s i am OTHER, blends trap music with dubstep, leaving Project Pabst with a bass heavy affair.
Fairly new to the scene, DiCaprio is a local Atlanta post punk band on the up and up. The three piece band released their debut album, I Went to the Mall Yesterday and I Got Sick, earlier this year. The band brings the kind of monotone vocals reminiscent of Parquet Courts, yet DiCaprio brings a more raw fire than the Brooklyn band. While there was some confusion on what time DiCaprio would actually begin their set with The Powder Room dropping off the schedule, many folks kept dropping into The EARL to at least catch a glimpse of the band. And once DiCaprio finally took to the stage inside the club, the room started filling in around the stage to see industrious energy the band brought.
A Drug Called Tradition
Another local newcomer to the scene, A Drug Called Tradition recently released their debut album Medicine Music, in July. While they just released their debut, the band are actually veterans and very involved in the local Atlanta music scene, and a welcome edition to the Project Pabst as one of the city’s hottest newer acts. A Drug Called Tradition are steeped in psych rock, backed by a drone like shoegaze. The band’s guitars soared throughout EAV from the Captain Pabst Stage, and had the crowd flying right along with them.
Peaches certainly left her mark on Project Pabst Atlanta. At over 50 years old, Canadian Merrill Beth Nisker, known affectionately as Peaches since 95 when she was in noise rock band the Shit, brought an empowering set to Project Pabst. With sexual references throughout her songs, back up dancers dressed as vaginas, and Peaches herself going through many outfit changes that highlighted parts of the body, Peaches represents gender identity by flashing it all – all through her interesting and catchy tunes that mix electro pop and hip hop. The crowd danced, Peaches jumped into the crowd multiple times, grabbing a cold PBR right out of the hands of an attendee and refreshing herself while crowd surfing. It was certainly one of the more “fun” sets of the day, and left the crowd having conversations they may not have expected on this day.
Over the last few years, alt-rock locals Illegal Drugs have become known for their fierce live shows. After releasing their debut self titled album in 2016, the band has toured and played plenty of shows in dark rooms that left faces melted. Illegal Drugs brings a booming rock ‘n’ roll that mixes everything from punk to grunge. The bad wouldn’t even understand how to put on a bad live show if you asked them, and they didn’t start at Project Pabst. The back room of The EARL was lit as the band powered through their set, serving to really ready the crowd for the rest of the evening to come.
With A3C Fest going on the same weekend, Goldyard was a good get for Project Pabst to add one of Atlanta’s most promising hip-hop acts. Based in Atlanta, with roots across the East Coast, Goldyard has built quite the reputation, all while growing their name independently without the backing of a major label. Goldyard’s Project Pabst set was no doubt lit, with the group showing off their intergalactic bangers, and crowd bouncing to their every move.
Odd Future collective offshoot The Internet also played last year’s Project Pabst Atlanta. With one of the founders, Matthew Martin, from East Point, Georgia, the Los Angeles based group has a connection with Atlanta. Like last year, The Internet brought out their own crowd there to see group bring their unique experimental R&B and soul. The six piece live band brings The Internet’s music alive in concert. The band hasn’t released a new album since 2015’s Ego Death, yet the members have been keeping busy with solo releases. In fact, the Project Pabst crowd even got treated to some songs from Syd’s and Steve Lacy’s respective solo albums. It was a groovy late afternoon with The Internet that was a treat for their fans, and onlookers who saw the band for the first time.
Gentlemen Jesse & His Men
Jesse Smith is basically one of the underground legends around the Atlanta music scene. Jesse was the bass player for the Carbonas, while also playing in many other bands around town, and the main man behind the 70’s era power-pop group Gentlemen Jesse & His Men. Releasing their debut album Introducing Gentlemen Jesse & His Men in 2008 to rave reviews including an 8.1 from Pitchfork, the legend of Jesse grew. The band last released their sophomore album Leaving Atlanta in 2012. While it’s been a minute since the band the released new music, Atlanta is excited anytime the band plays, and as the last show inside at The EARL before late night sets after Iggy ends, the crowd packed into the dark back room to catch it’s native sun.
RMBLR is a brand new rock ‘n’ roll band with members in both Baltimore and Atlanta. Sort of new anyways. The band actually played Project Pabst last year. Known then as the widely admired Dinos Boys, the four members were the last touring members of that band. Now they’ve banded together officially as new project, releasing RMBLR’s debut EP Territory via Fat Possum Records early this year. Combining elements of punk, blues, with just the right touch of glam rock mixed in, and the signature snarl of Dinos Boys, the band showed they are just as wild as ever. Playing the last set of the evening at the Captain Pabst stage, RMBLR got the crowds hype and moving with their mischief rock ‘n’ roll leading the way.
While just about anyone would tell you the number one thing they were most excited about for Project Pabst Atlanta was seeing Iggy Pop, it would quickly be followed by their excitement for J Mascis and the boys of Dinosaur Jr. And why not? While Dinosaur Jr. may have never reached the heights of radio popularity, the legend of one of the most influential American rock bands of all time continues to grow with each year, each new release, and each listen of their classics. This is guitar rock at it’s finest. Dinosaur Jr.’s set soared throughout EAV that night, as the crowd sang along to each and every hit. “Feel the Pain”, “Freak Scene”, and even their well known cover of The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven” made an appearance. The band powered through an hour set that spanned their illustrious career, providing the majority of songs that almost any hardcore Dinosaur Jr. fan could ask for.
At 70 year’s old, Iggy Pop may not quite be as insanely wild on stage as he once was. After all, his stage antics are that of legends; legends that have been passed down throughout the years before finally being engraved on a Wikipedia page whether they were completely true or not. Now, instead, Iggy is just a seasoned frontman and performer. And one of all time greats – current or past. And for now, Iggy is still performing, and as great or better than any modern day frontman you could find. He’s still shirtless. He still doesn’t know how to stand in one place. He still spits and snarls with the best of them. And he sure knows how to lead and control a crowd with just a look. “I Wanna Be Your Dog”, “Lust For Life”, “TV Eye”, “Nightclubbing”, “Real Wild Child (Wild One)”, Iggy Pop played it all. It was as if we were all hearing these songs for the first time, and the crowd went wild as he played through each and every song. Iggy Pop was everything the crowd expected and more, a set we all won’t soon forget. And in a festival full of up and comers playing, and attending, if any of you young bucks were wondering what he means to be a frontman, hopefully you were taking detailed notes.
The Difference Machine
While the main part of Project Pabst 2017 closed down with Iggy Pop, The EARL continued on with late night sets. After a long day like this, it would take a special performance to follow Iggy and power through for the crowd. That’s exactly what Atlanta-based, experimental, psychedelic hip hop group The Difference Machine did. Those that went straight into The EARL from Iggy’s set were treated to one of Atlanta’s best live acts. The group conscious rap brings a daring and formidable style that has crossover appeal for both hip hop heads, and those that love rock ‘n’ roll. With the lights turned down low, and just a projector drooling of hazy psych, the group played live instruments over their scathing beats and soundscapes. The frontman brought an infectious energy that really wrapped the crowd within the music, providing an emotionally spiritual set that just kept the Project Pabst vibes going late into the night. I’m now fully behind The Difference Machine hype train.
Check out more photos from Project Pabst Atlanta 2017 in East Atlanta Village: