Well, my original plan was to do all of The Wrecking Ball, VIP, but it didn’t work out that way. Actually, let me back up a bit…my main reason for attending Wrecking Ball was to see Drive Like Jehu, the San Diego noise rock/post hardcore pioneers who were playing a few reunion dates. I almost took the plunge and committed to a trip to the UK in the spring to see the Drive Like Jehu-curated All Tomorrow’s Parties festival, but a nagging doubt about the financial viability of the promoter ended up being spot on, and I was both bummed and relieved when it was cancelled.
Anyway, Wrecking Ball provided me with another opportunity to catch them, and I rolled a Saturday ticket into a non-related work trip, and had a great, if sweltering, day. Almost without fail, the daytime acts commented on the heat from the shade of the stage, as if we weren’t all acutely aware of the laser-like conditions in the park/ex-parking lot beside the decrepit Masquerade. Big Jesus started the day off, and I can see why there was a pretty good buzz around their set at The Jinx recently that I had missed. Rock like Big Jesus is made for a club, but I thought it stood up fairly well under the sun, same with Milemarker, who I’ve somehow never caught either.
At this point I headed inside, if only for some respite from the heat (it was hot, did I mention that?). I caught the last song from Abuse of Power on the Hell stage, and a pretty serious crowd was into it. Cool. Upstairs to Heaven, where Microwave was about to take the stage. I knew nothing of the ATL local emo/rock outfit, but I was definitely in the minority there, with most of the packed room singing along to pretty much every song. After a few songs, I let some of those rabid fans take my place along the stage and again braved the almost shadeless lot between the encroaching gentrification that held the North and South stages.
I caught a few songs from Diarrhea Planet, whose energy plays better on a smaller stage, and then walked the few hundred yards to see Juliette Lewis and the Licks. I had no idea what to expect, to be honest, but it involved an Evel Knievel jumpsuit, some grungy blues rock that was better than I would have guessed, and a lead singer who understood performance. Huh, who knew? Anti-Flag’s catchy anthems work really well for a festival crowd, with sing along choruses and politics that play well with a punk rock crowd. Late in their set, they cleared a small circle in the pit area and set the drums up literally at my feet. Chris No.2 stood atop the kit, singing and playing and generally working fans into a frenzy. Super cool interaction.
I still can’t really buy into Deafheaven’s vocals, and black metal and bright sunshine don’t mix well (I tried, I really did), so I caught parts of sets from Bayside, The Joy Formidable, and somehow ended against the fence for The Bouncing Souls. Old school pop punk with singalong choruses for days, the crowd was super into it, which was pretty infectious, if I’m being honest.
Deerhunter was much more serious, with Bradford Cox speaking on Atlanta’s gentrification, and putting together some soulful, well-crafted indie rock with a sizable supporting cast. The Julie Ruin was up next for me, and holy shit, Kathleen Hanna (Bikini Kill(!!!), Le Tigre) is a force of nature. Speaking out against misogyny between songs, her performance was totally magnetic. As much as I was enjoying the set, I pulled myself away to get a good spot for Drive Like Jehu.
Drive Like Jehu was everything I expected, furious, crushing, and cranking out relatively ancient post-hardcore guitar worship that still sounds totally vital today. Stunning. Ferocious. Savage. Beautiful.
I shuffled over to L7, where a giant crowd was amassed and digging it. The last time I saw L7 (1989? 90?) was with a crowd of 40-50 people and the most notable thing about that set was how bad they smelled. Literally. I mean you could smell them when they walked in the room. BAD. I’m sure their hygiene has improved considerably, as has their crowds over the years. Good for them. I caught a cab hilariously sitting in the middle of tons of people waiting on their UBERs to show up and was happy to be out of the heat, out of a crowd, off my feet, and in a bed in an air conditioned room.