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Athens Popfest Founder Mike Turner on Why He Brought It Back

Moving to a new town can be daunting. For starters, there’s the whole “leaving your old life behind” aspect, which is enough to throw anyone into existential uncertainty. Settling into your new digs and fostering fresh relationships is a whole other story. Yet Florida native and Athens Popfest founder Mike Turner wasted no time making the Classic City his new home in 2004.

“The first Popfest was just to celebrate [Turner’s record label, Happy Happy Birthday to Me] moving to Athens. There wasn’t a plan to do a second one or another one beyond that,” he says. But despite having no experience putting on festivals—Turner says his booking up to that point consisted solely of single-night house and club shows—Popfest continued to flourish over the years, bringing in some of independent music’s most notable names as headliners.

With lots of performances from the Elephant 6 and HHBTM families, as well as appearances by artists like Mission of Burma, Bob Mould and Throwing Muses, the festival took off. Putting together an event of its scope, however, even with the help of Turner’s fellow Athenians, proved to be a taxing venture, and the festival has been dormant since its 2011 edition.

“I needed to take time off and wanted to work on other things,” says Turner. “It would take up a large part of my year, which made doing anything else kinda difficult.”

Returning this week for the first time in five years, Popfest is once again set to bring Athenians and outsiders together for multiple days of music. Taking place at the Georgia Theatre, Little Kings Shuffle Club and The World Famous from Wednesday, Aug. 10 to Saturday, Aug. 13, the festival’s lineup includes Daniel Johnston, Deerhoof, Elf Power, Ought and a reunion of legendary local band Love Tractor, plus a slew of up-and-coming talent.

One can only hope that this year’s comeback event convinces Turner to make Popfest a regular occurrence again. “I’m very excited about it just being back,” he says. “It’s been nice seeing people playing and attending getting excited.”

See the full Popfest schedule in the Calendar, and make sure to check out the program insert in this week’s print issue. Stay tuned for more Popfest coverage in the coming days.