Flagpole Writers’ Favorite Moments of AthFest

AthFest photo galleries: Friday | Saturday | Sunday

Friday on the main stage, The Whigs played the kind of enthusiastic rock and roll that forecasted the weekend ahead. With big-name pizzazz and homegrown familiarity, The Whigs set a backdrop for Friday night’s possibilities. Old friends hugged hello, light breezes blew through the crowd, and rainbow stickers celebrated momentous news. Plus, I’ve always been partial to “Kill Me Carolyne.” [Carolyn Crist] 

My AthFest kicked off with an unofficial twilight gathering at Go Bar Isle, where recent Boston immigrant Brad DeMatteo charmed an audience of 10 with his one-man band Cult Fluorescent. Sure, Athens has its share of solo pedal pushers and dial twiddlers, but few of them can harmonize with their own voice on the spot (let alone sing) or conjure angelic bird choirs with a single recorder. If DeMatteo can write more of these Sufjan Stevens-y wonders, then you won’t wanna miss his debut. [Lee Adcock]

On paper, music as deeply personal and emotionally charged as Kristine Leschper’s doesn’t seem like it would work as well in the context of a full-fledged rock band. However, in action as a four-piece on Friday, Mothers have never sounded better. As a solo act, Leschper’s performances are impactful but often soft, based around a sort of charming minimalism. With support from her band (featuring Drew Kirby and Matt Anderegg of New Wives, as well as Patrick Morales of The Viking Process), Leschper’s music has a new layer of edge and confidence. The highlight of the set was a raucous cover of Devo’s “Gut Feeling.” It was a performance that delighted a packed and varied Caledonia crowd. [Nathan Kerce]

The stars aligned Friday when Tunabunny graced Little Kings. The entire line-up was great—Crunchy‘s Phelan LaVelle slayed with her bass solosand Eureka California blasted through a mostly all-new set, pausing only when Jake Ward fried his guitar wire (and left Marie Uhler chuggin’ on the drums). But no other can compare to Tunabunny, who once again made a glorious noisy mess. Guitar heads crashed into cymbals; Scott Creney rolled his shaker down the keyboard; Bridget Herron dropped her axe and hopped on the drums. Confusion, cacophony and a total blast. [LA]

A Little Kings AthFest lineup set inside? Deep State made up for it as they took the stage, stringing up white lights around the platform, evoking memories of last year’s dance fest, when they headlined the same venue under the stars. Deep State is one of those rare groups around town that draws different cliques to their shows, where those folks all stand next to each other for a taste of the band’s punk-pop vibe. Cue “Deep State” and “Tittyboyz,” and everyone fills the floor. [CC]

Ask anyone you like, but the folks at Caledonia know who brought the rain on Saturday. Grey clouds gathered above us as scuzzy champs Hunger Anthem unloaded their gear onto the patio stage. Dead determined, the band launched into their grizzled grunge; they barely lasted 10 minutes before the rain began to pour. It was right on “Soul of Clay,” too, the song that goes, “It’s enough to make you call it all a day.” And so it was, for by the last chord the rain pounded down in earnest, and everyone present scrambled to haul off gear. [LA]

Grand Vapids‘ mid-day performance on Saturday suggested the band is going through a transition period. The underlying aggression and energy present in the group’s live show is almost non-present on its self-titled record from earlier this year. In a move reminiscent of Cloud Nothings’ 2011 transformation, it seems like Grand Vapids may be making the jump from affable indie-pop to a tougher, punk-oriented sound. If their AthFest performance is anything to go by, this is a huge step in the right direction, and may save them from becoming another just another drop in Athens’ overwhelming indie-rock ocean. [NK]

The real shenanigans began after the rain cleared out. Back at the Caledonia, Velveteen Pink funked up the place ’80s-style (yes, there was a dude on keytar), and yours truly danced so hard that the singer tossed his hat to me. Later, at Ciné, a ring of spectators gathered round at the hip hop showcase, as local rappers worked the crowd and played to anyone with a camera or iPhone. Everyone that I caught was ace, but Blacknerdinja and his crew really stole the show with their table-climbing, spring-loaded antics. [LA]

Atlanta post-punk band Warehouse have increased their profile over the last year and are well on their way to being indie darlings. After their performance Saturday, it’s easy to see how they have gained so much attention in such a short amount of time. Though their set at the 40 Watt was criminally short, the sheer confidence the band has in its material was unmatched by anyone else on stage that night. Some could have interpreted the band’s quick exit and slightly laissez-fair attitude in a negative way; others might argue this is just how punk bands operate. [NK]

As promised by the atomic bomb mushroom cloud on the event poster, Saturday night at Caledonia started off raucously with Savagist and progressed with each band, building energy and anticipation that led to a mosh circle near the end of almost every set. Highlights included Motherfucker drummer Erika Rickson recognizing Friday’s historic Supreme Court decision and Lazer/Wulf guitarist Bryan Aiken encouraging people to take out their phones and light the stage for a few songs, casting an eerie glow as the heart-pounding bass drum ripped through the crowd. The energy culminated in one disorienting, fantastic moment during Cinemechanica‘s set, when Jordan Olivera handed his guitar to Aiken and was boosted onto several shoulders. He was paraded around the room and nearly out the door, while The Powder Room’s frontman Gene Woolfolk—named best live engineer once again at Thursday’s Flagpole Athens Music Awards—flashed the lights in rhythm as Olivera screamed into the microphone. Really, Aiken summed it up best: “All my favorite bands and all my favorite people in my favorite venue… I DON’T UNDERSTAND.” [CC]