[Editor’s note: So who do you call when you want someone to spend the weekend seeing tons of music at AthFest so you can get reviews and photos for your blog in Savannah? Lisa Sammons, who happens to be the daughter of our own Larry Jack, graciously agreed to cover the festival for us, and this post is entirely by her. More to come!]
The music kicked off at Athfest Music & Arts Festival at 5 p.m. Friday with a nice acoustic set performed on the Pulaski Street outdoor stage by Kevin Kinney, singer/songwriter frontman of Driven N Cryin. The crowd was a bit sparse, as many attendees were still coming into town or getting off work, and tended towards the older side. Kinney repeatedly laughed off requests for Drivin N Cryin’s best known hit, “Straight to Hell”, saying he had heard it too many times, but ended the set with it.
Next up was Athens-based T.S. Woodward on the smaller Hull Street stage. Woodward’s seven piece band had a unique sound thanks to the addition of brass that gave off a dancey jazz/Latin vibe difficult to describe. The mustachioed Woodward announced at the end of his set that he had recently set up a Kickstarter to fund the release of his first album on cassette.
I took a brief break from the festivities and headed back up to the Pulaski Street stage for Family And Friends, a six piece group of Athens purveyors of “Georgia-style Indie Rock.” The crowd was full of enthusiastic college kids who sang along and cheered at the release of a giant shark balloon. This was Family & Friends’ second time at Athfest and they looked thrilled to be on stage.
Next up was The Howling Tongues, playing a loud and rocked out set in a small room at Cine, a popular independent film theater. The tattooed four piece from Atlanta seemed to have a great time and it was obvious the members had a lot of chemistry with one another. Frontman Taylor Harlow played it up for my camera and reveled in the small crowd’s attention.
I caught the last half of The Nude Party’s set on the rooftop of the Georgia Theatre. They played New Orleans the day before and got into town earlier that day. The rooftop was packed and the crowd loved their happy, beachy sound. The addition of a second drummer gave off a unique sound the band describes as “boner pop.”
Headed downstairs for The Coathangers on Georgia Theatre’s main stage, what a phenomenal band with a ton of energy! This girl pop punk trio has Joan Jett vibes (and haircuts). The crowd was pretty intense and there was lots of drunken moshing by the stage, with several people being kicked out by security and not making it to the end of the set and one person losing a pair of shoes that was returned by the lead singer. The main vocalist had a great range and all three girls switched instruments throughout the set.
The blunt bangs trend continued at my next stop, Mothers at 40 Watt, fronted by square fringed Kristine Leschper. The bar was packed and signs outside warned that a wristband would not guarantee entry. The sleepy indie rock/folk quartet has been one of the most popular bands in Athens over the last few years and their February debut album release has been garnering attention on the national stage. Not really my cup of tea, they were a little too bland for me, but it’s nice to see people out enjoying live music.
I left partway through the set and headed over to Live Wire for the Sunny South Blues Band. What a lovely venue! I had never been before, but was impressed by the gorgeous setup and excellent sound quality. The walls are decorated with memorabilia from Savannah’s now defunct Live Wire Music Hall. The band was a lively rock quartet who won a March “Athens Unsigned Battle of the Bands” contest at Live Wire, thus giving them a slot at Athfest. I listened to some of their studio versions earlier in the day and they had more of a twangy blues vibe, but their live material was a lot harder and more straight up rock. I think I personally preferred the bluesier sound, but they weren’t bad and I could see them becoming popular in the future.
Raced over to the World Famous for The Hernies, a nice power pop group with a lot of energy despite the 1am timeslot. I didn’t have time to stay long, but they sounded great despite the fact they were practically playing in a dimly lit closet.
Ended the night at the Caledonia Lounge with Kick The Robot, another peppy power pop group. They were great but it was probably over 100 degrees in the venue and I was exhausted by this point, barely made it through a song before heading out.
More photos from night 1: