Sunday, June 24, 2007

Athfest 2007 (Part One)

If you missed this big festival or haven't heard of it then you either you've been living under a rock or you live nowhere near Athens, GA (and if that's so why are you reading this blog). Unfortunately I wasn't able to go out Thursday night, so I didn't see any bands from that night. But I was able to see an impressive list over the next two days. Big crowds, the hot weather and rampant commercialism don't really appeal to me so other than Friday and Saturday's headlining acts I didn't see any of the mainstage bands. Okay. I did see a few minutes of Bain Mattox and the Sleepy Horses on Saturday, but other than to say that I wasn't impressed with either I don't have anything to say.
To begin with- first impressions of and a list of the bands I saw the last two nights.
The first band I saw was Friday's headlining act, Perpetual Groove. This much hyped jam band was not quite as impressive as you might be led to believe, but they still managed to entertain a large varied crowd. They certainly weren't bad, they just weren't as technically proficient as I would have expected. I wished I was watching a different act, like Phish, or Widespread Panic, or the Dead. But of course most of these bands are defunct or too large to play in Athens. I mean, take a look at what happened when Widespread played in here in their hometown almost 10 years ago. Anyway, my point is there a neat little jam band and jam bands are a real crowd draw, but they don't live up to the hype.
Next I headed over to Caldonia to see Nutria. This band wasn't originally on my list, but I had nothing to do between Perpetual Groove and Venice is Sinking, who I really wanted to check since I saw some of last years set on YouTube. Plus I wanted to see the band after them, Modern Skirts, because a friend of mine works for them as an intern and I had heard good things about them. When I got there Nutria looked and sounded a little familiar but I wasn't sure why (it turned out I had seen and reviewed them almost two years ago at the Caldonia). Nutria is an amazing hard rock band with some pop influences. Certainly not bubble-gum pop, but like many Athens bands a little more talented and melodic than other contemporary bands. I'm not going to get into a full review here, but they rocked. And they covered a Perpetual Groove song that was so much better then when I heard them play it a few moments before.
I stuck around for the next act, Push!, a pop- rock band reminiscent of the 80's (although I got the impression that the lead singer may have been just barely old enough to remember the 80s'). At first they were quite impressive, with strong vocals from the female lead singer. It was also very danceable, which was fun. There was even a cute couple widely dancing in the front. But after a while it just became repetitive, so I left.
I tried to get into Little Kings to see Venice is Sinking and whoever was before them, but it was packed and they weren't letting people in. Something about the fire marshall. Those pesky authorities. So, I walked around for a while and ended up at Tasty World, just in time to catch the tail end of the Leavers set. I only heard 2 or 3 songs but from what I did here, they were a good solid hard rock band that had a rock/spoken word feel. They were good and differnt. I would like to hear more from these guys.
I tried Little Kings again hoping that people might be leaving as the set was ending. No such luck, but I did find out that because they were playing outside on the patio, there were people standing on the sidewalk and in the street listening. So I joined them. I got there in time to hear the tail end of Venice is Sinking's set. They are an amazing 5 piece pop-rock band featuring male and female vocals and a violin, and well worth listening too.
Modern Skirts was the last band of the night and considering all the hype I was expecting nothing but greatness. And I was not disappointed in the least. The Modern Skirts are the Athens version of bubble-gum pop. And this is not a band thing because what it means is talented musicians who play danceable rock. In the Modern Skirts case this included a dynamic keyboarder. The other great thing about this band was there showmanship. They played to everyone including up out on the street, even dedicating their final song, a cover of Biz Marke's "You Say He's Just a Friend." I didn't know the song (I had to look it up later), but still the energy was amazing and I couldn't resist singing along. I wish I had more space because I could write pages about them, but just know they were amazing and can't be missed.
Athfest was amazing and I have more to say about Saturday night, but I will save that for a later post.