Photo Credit: Alexandra Gavillet
The 2015 edition of Athens Intensified took place last weekend at several downtown venues. Below, a few of two Flagpole writers' highlights of the festival:
Wavves/Twin Peaks @ 40 Watt Club
The crowd at the 40 Watt on Friday was young enough to make any music writer in his or her mid-20s feel ancient. As the old saying goes, “Pop-punk bands get older, but their fans stay the same age,” and judging by all the water cups being thrown around the mosh pit—and the middle-aged chaperones waiting at the exit—Wavves' core fanbase consists mostly of people attending their first concert.
Chicago five-piece Twin Peaks was high-energy and drunk as hell, inspiring a passionate response from the crowd. This was the band's last night on tour with Wavves, and they went out with an appropriately large bang.
Wavves' set was a breezy, 40-minute romp through the biggest hits in their discography. There was an increased emphasis on material from their excellent new album, V, but otherwise, this filler-free, career-spanning set would make a perfect tracklist for a Wavves' Greatest Hits compilation.
The crowd was smaller and younger than it has been the last few times the band rolled through Athens, so there wasn’t as much beer-throwing or stage-diving as one might expect (though there was still some). The group opted out of the traditional process of going backstage before returning for an encore, and instead chose to let all the kids (and their parents) get home early. [Nathan Kerce]
Juan de Fuca/Sea Ghost/Meth Wax @ Flicker Theatre & Bar
Thursday night’s Athens Intensified performance at Flicker kicked off with a set from Jack Cherry’s ambient-folk bedroom recording project, Juan de Fuca. Accompanied by just an acoustic guitar, Cherry welcomed the already packed room, stating, “These are some songs for my friend.” Playing from his September release, Cavern Of—dedicated to the memory of a deceased companion—Cherry’s ability to play heartbreaking songs with focus and restraint was on exquisite display. His songs translated to a live setting well and gave the impression that they could be even more impactful with a full backing band. Cherry fittingly closed the set with a cover of LCD Soundsystem’s “All My Friends”.
Atlanta’s Sea Ghost changed the tone of the evening, bringing youthful abandon to the still-packed room. Coming off the Stereogum premiere of their song “Cowboy Hat,” I expected self-deprecating charm and exuberance, but their live set went far beyond; lead singer Carter Sutherland entered the crowd during two songs, even sitting down during the second. The band’s twee tendencies turned childish after a while, though, as his request for the audience to “turn up” was answered with moshing and arm-over-shoulder swaying. Maybe I’m just an old soul.
Meth Wax closed the show with a tight, succinct set, featuring songs from April’s Full Frontal EP. Aside from guitarist Tiger Li dropping to his knees for a few licks, the performance was a fairly straightforward release of collegiate angst. [Andy Barton]
Polaris @ 40 Watt Club
"The Adventures of Pete & Pete" is a show to which many people have a special attachment. It was a pinnacle series for '90s-era Nickelodeon that treated its adolescent audience to intelligent stories and the sort of emotional nuance that wasn’t commonplace in children’s programming at that time.
That connection to the show—and to the one-off band who provided the series with its soundtrack—was felt throughout the 40 Watt audience on Saturday as Polaris took the stage. No fan was left unsatisfied, as Polaris ran through a nearly two-hour set of literally every song they ever wrote (plus a few they didn’t). Many people in the audience were visibly emotional during songs like “Hey Sandy” and “Everywhere.”
Though one might normally dock them several points for covering R.E.M. to pander to the Athens audience (“Man on the Moon,” no less), the infraction can be forgiven, since Michael Stipe’s role as evil ice-cream man Captain Scrummy was arguably the greatest guest star moment "Pete & Pete" ever had. [NK]