Went out early Saturday for The Welfare Liners, a twangy five piece string band. I loved their cover of “Squeeze Box”, but they also played some good originals.
Next up was The Welcome Home, a young Athens-based group that got their start playing sorority and fraternity parties. They’re now starting to play at concert venues and they looked thrilled to be at Athfest. The crowd was small that early in the day, but very enthusiastic, with many phones out filming the guys on stage and lots of people singing along.
I headed back downtown for Trae Pierce & the T-Stones, and man, am I glad I did! I feel like my write-up doesn’t sound believable since I’m complimenting so many performers, but I saw several great acts at Athfest. The promoters did a fantastic job of attracting talent and I was particularly impressed by how lively the performers on the outdoor stages were considering the heat. We were roasting out in the crowd and we were just standing there, I can’t imagine being on stage performing and still having the energy to bounce around in near 100 degree temperatures.
Trae Pierce & the T-Stones were a particularly active group — they drummed on the stage, they jumped down into the photographers’ pit and drummed on the rails, they drummed on each others’ drumsticks, basically they just hopped around & drummed on everything for a good portion of the set. They knew how to ham it up for the crowd and their energy was contagious, all the spectators were on their feet dancing. Trae played a wonderful rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” à la Jimi Hendrix and he teased the crowd at the end, pretending to throw his bandmates into the crowd to crowd surf (it was probably best that he didn’t go through with the toss, since there was a good four feet barricade between the stage and the crowd).
Next up was the Randall Bramblett Band, who also gave an excellent performance (though with slightly less athletic prowess than Trae Stone’s group). The crowd was thrilled with the long set of blues. I particularly enjoyed “Devil’s Music”, a tribute to Howlin’ Wolf. Brambett played keyboard and saxophone.
Briefly stopped by Timi and the Wonderland Rangers, not really my style, they were kinda dreamy wonderland-feeling. The crowd seemed to enjoy them a lot. Lots of eyes closed swaying and dancing.
Arrested Development was one of the festival headliners and they took forever to get on stage. They ended up being more than worth the wait, with a stupendous performance. They played a mix of new songs and well-known older hits to a racially diverse crowd that adored them.
I ran into the Georgia Theatre to briefly see Adron, a jazzy, folky Atlanta singer. The song I stayed for was tropical and mellow.
My first and only visit to the intimate Lumpkin Street Station was to see Percy Sledgehammer. I mostly chose to see them because I liked their name, but they were great and one of my favorite performers of the night. They are a local band fronted by the soulful and beautiful Holly Belle. Their set was entirely made up of covers, ranging from Bob Dylan to Creedence Clearwater Revival (weirdly, the young crowd did not seem to recognize Proud Mary) and Amy Winehouse, which Belle sang particularly well. Guitarist Bo Hembree was superb and one of the better band members I saw all weekend, he really added a lot to their sound that could’ve otherwise come off as rather generic soul/rock blend.
Stopped by the Georgia Theatre to see Parker Gispert (frontman of Athens favorite The Whigs), but I only stayed for a little over one song. The most interesting part of his song was his transparent banjo.
My next stop was Live Wire for Harvey FunkWalker. They played a lengthy set that wasn’t really my thing.
The night ended with a bang as The Black Lips gave one of the best performances of the weekend at the 40 Watt. Their vintage sound, a mix of punk and 50s surfer music, worked great in the historic venue. There was crowd surfing, there was dancing, there was screaming, there was singing –it was an almost flawless performance and they were more than happy to come out for the encore when it was demanded by the crowd.
Check out more photos from day 2: