Five Athens Popfest Highlights

R. Ring


Led by Boston-based musician Ellen Kempner, Palehound played a strong set at the Georgia Theatre Thursday evening. The band’s set mostly consisted of songs from its excellent, recently released sophomore album, A Place I’ll Always Go. Kempner’s wonderful, deeply personal and at times quite heavy lyrics were on display, and her exceptional and unique guitar playing grabbed everyone’s full attention from start to finish. Infectious song-of-the-summer contender “Flowing Over” was the biggest highlight of the band’s unfortunately brief performance.


Waxahatchee’s Thursday night performance was centered around Katie Crutchfield’s most recent release, Out in the Storm. Nearly every song from that album was performed, with a handful of other tracks strewn about the set. Unlike past Waxahatchee albums, Out in the Storm was recorded live with a full band, and it seemed like the live lineup was a direct reflection of the album’s recording process. Crutchfield was also joined by her insanely talented sister Allison on keys and occasional backup vocals—a welcome addition to the band. Though some might have wanted to see a set that pulled from Crutchfield’s career, it seemed like everyone had a smile on their face after the band closed with “Peace and Quiet” off of Waxahatchee’s breakout album Cerulean Salt.


Local post-punk band Einschlagen played what it claims is its final show at the Georgia Theatre on Friday. An understated, sparsely attended affair, it was somewhat sad to see one of the best bands in town come to a rather unceremonious end. Though it’s nearly impossible to get people in Athens to come to a show before 8 p.m., the music itself was just as strong as it would have been if it had been performed in a sold-out arena. Outside of a few technical difficulties, Einschlagen played a satisfying set that heavily focused on spoken-word tracks from its latest and final release, Alligators. You could tell by their facial reactions alone that this was a nice moment of closure for the band.

R. Ring

Though they’ve been performing as a duo since 2011, it’s fair to say that many people at the Georgia Theatre were likely hearing R. Ring for the first time. The band is made up of Kelley Deal, known as the Breeders’ lead guitarist, and Mike Montgomery of Cincinnati-based punk band Ampline. Together they perform sparse, experimental rock with slight, occasional hints of the ’90s alternative scene both musicians were born out of. Their set on Friday was an engaging and eclectic collection of songs. The most impressive of the bunch was “Steam,” a sort-of ballad from R. Ring’s recently released debut album, Ignite the Rest. Montgomery performed vocals and acoustic guitar on the emotional track as Deal sat on the floor, providing backup vocals and playfully distorting the soundscape.


Outside of its initial release—a re-worked and heavily edited version of a WUOG “Live in the Lobby” performance—local rock band Saline has yet to put out any proper music. Judging by the group’s set at Little Kings on Saturday, its album slated for release later this year is something everyone should be getting excited about. Playing fuzzed-out, shoegaze-inspired melodic punk, Saline’s set was eardrum-bustingly loud. Behind the wall of sound were accessible, poppy melodies and meticulously arranged instrumentals that showed that a great deal of care have gone into these songs. Saline is one of the most important acts in Athens, and its live set is proof that it has a possible album-of-the-year contender waiting in the wings.