Athens Popfest is always a bittersweet event –the four day festival is always fun, but it marks the end of the student-less summer and sends Athens off with a bang back into its typical chaotic state of students, traffic, and football.
Oddly, the bands start playing in the middle of the day on a Wednesday. I had to work during the day so I didn’t make it till the evening shows at 40 Watt.
First up was White Violet, a kind of trippy, synthy duo that seemed to take a little while to get into their groove. I felt like they had loosened up a lot by the later songs and sounded a lot better–I liked their livelier stuff. The vocals were very reminiscent of Elvis Costello (always a good thing in my book).
The second band on stage was Happy Abandon, a Chapel Hill-based trio. The lead singer’s hair made him look like he belonged in A Flock of Seagulls–he was adorably nervous and definitely correct when he said “talking is not [his] strong suit.” Their music sounded great and I loved their harder stuff–some of the breathier vocals on the quieter songs didn’t really seem to fit with the rocking guitar. Their first album will be released on 8/25 but they were selling it at the show.
The night’s third act was Rat Fancy–I was pretty stoked to see them as I am heavily involved in pet rat rescue and have a rat tattoo. The lead singer was a bouncy, confident green-haired girl (also to my liking, as I usually have pink or blue hair!). Their set was fun and punk, with a variety of pop culture references, including shout outs to Rick James and Jonathan Frakes’s hosting duties on the 1990s show Beyond Belief, which I had forgotten existed and now feel the urge to binge.
My penultimate band of the night was Kleenex Girl Wonder–it was really hard not to be intrigued with a name like that, and their performance was similarly intriguing–any song rhyming “self-referentially” with “existentially” gets an A from me. They reminded me a good bit of Neutral Milk Hotel, just with a more traditional/melodic sound. They didn’t take themselves too seriously and the set included references to Jesus, Rick Ross, and Lena Dunham–they were all over the place and drew a big, enthusiastic crowd. I liked them a lot and am going to have to check out their thirteen (“depending on how you count them,” according to the singer) albums.
Last up was FEATHER TRADE, one of my favorite Athens bands. They’re always a lot of fun to watch. For a three piece, they make a lot of noise. They have an early My Chemical Romance vibe to them and I normally don’t like my music quite that hard, but they are always a blast.
More photos from the first day of the fest: