Classic City American Music Festival – review + photos

Headed into downtown Athens for the Classic City American Music Festival last Sunday, had an absolutely lovely time! This was my first time at The Foundry and I found it to be one of the nicest venues I’ve been to in Athens…very clean, great sound, great views all around, plenty of seating. Loved both the main indoor stage and the outdoor deck stage. I had some chores to get done around the house and wasn’t able to see all of the acts on the bill, but all of the ones I did see were phenomenal.

The first act I caught was Norma Rae. The Athens-based group’s lead singer, Kelly Hoyle, had a great, very powerful voice.  I loved her “bloom where you take root” tattoo.  They had a pedal steel guitar, I think I overheard someone say that that was a new addition to their lineup, or maybe even just temporary for this show, but it really added to the sound and I loved it. Hoyle used an iPad to read lyrics throughout the set, cool modern touch for such a retro twangy rock type of sound.

Next up was Lera Lynn, the only artist of the day whose repertoire I was previously familiar with. She lived in Athens for ten years, so she was familiar with the town and had very genuine banter, seemed like a fun person to hang out with. This was her last night of her tour. She did a stunning rendition of Bruce Springsteen’s “Fire”–the crowd loved it and she acted mock-offended when everyone cheered when she suggested she do Springsteen covers the rest of the night. I’m a bit partial to The Boss myself and would’ve been totally stoked at a night of Springsteen covers, but her original material was awesome as well!

The next act I saw was Caleb Caudle, haling from Winston-Salem and recently named an “Artist You Need to Know” by Rolling Stone. He performed by himself but had a great deep voice with lots of resonance and I didn’t really feel like he was lacking for not having a backup band. He did an amazing John Prine cover, but the outdoor set was unfortunately cut short by lightning. Would’ve loved to hear more of him.

I had to head home for a bit but came back at night for the Chickasaw Mudd Puppies, what a cool trio! The crowd went wild and was dancing to the upbeat music. I loved the breathless, yippy vocals and excellent harmonica skills. The lead singer stayed seated the whole time (in a skull-adorned rocking chair), but was still covered in sweat by the time the set was done–I was impressed at his energy level even while seated. They gave out a salute to a friend, Kevin Distacio, who was having a tough year, and urged everyone to tag him in social media posts to cheer him up.

The last act I saw was the Packway Handle Band, another amazingly fun group that the crowd loved. The fiddler was incredible and their style was a great mix of modern and old time hillbilly. They did a great beat boxing, high speed cover of Fat Bottomed Girls.

I really had a blast at the festival and this is one I’ll be adding to my yearly go-to list. The venue was lovely and the lineup was so good, I really enjoyed all the acts and couldn’t pick a favorite.

Few more photos after the jump.