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Flagpole’s Guide to the AthFest Music & Arts Festival: Highlights to Map Out Your Weekend

Credit: AthFest theme artist Lydia Kinsey

Returning to the center of downtown for its 26th year, the three-day AthFest Music & Arts Festival takes place this weekend June 21–23. In addition to more than 100 performers across three outdoor stages and 12 club crawl venues, the free festival features an artist market, vendors, food trucks, kids activities and more.

In benefit of the nonprofit AthFest Educates, which raised more than $100,000 for arts and music education last year through AthFest and the AthHalf half-marathon, the festival highlights a diverse array of creatives and musicians. One of the goals of this year’s board and booking committee was to select a significant number of fresh musical acts new to the AthFest stages. A brand new crowdfunding initiative allows donations to be made to AthFest Educates as votes for participating performers, with the highest fundraising performer securing an evening main stage slot at AthFest 2025. Donations can be made at

Affiliated AthFest events begin Thursday, June 20 and continue through the weekend, including Nateball’s Little Funny Bone, the official kickoff party and Athens Art Book Fair. Check out the details on all things AthFest below, and see “AthFest Schedule and Performer Listings” for Flagpole’s comprehensive performance schedule.

Club Crawl

As headliners close out their sets on the outdoor stages Friday and Saturday evening, 12 different venues will get into gear to keep the party going. The easiest way to get the full experience of show-hopping is to purchase a club crawl wristband. For $35 in advance or $40 day of, wristbands grant access (subject to capacity and age restrictions) to shows at Ciné, Clarke’s Collective, Flicker Theatre & Bar, 40 Watt Club, The Foundry, Georgia Theatre, The Globe, Hendershot’s, Live Wire Athens, Nowhere Bar, Paloma Park and The Roadhouse. A VIP Day Pass ($75) includes access to all Club Crawl venues, a keepsake mug, three beer vouchers, and access to VIP areas near the outdoor main stage as well as at the Georgia Theatre and 40 Watt Club. A full VIP Weekend Pass ($150) will throw in a commemorative T-shirt and extra three pours. Wristbands and VIP passes can be purchased in advance at or in person at the festival merch tent. 

AthFest Artist Market

While live music may take center stage, the annual AthFest Artist Market is an integral part of the festival and an exciting opportunity to discover artists and makers from across the region. This year’s bustling open-air market will feature over 70 booths lining Washington Street between Hull and Lumpkin streets. Ranging from fine art to hand-crafted items, original works will vary among paintings, drawings, mixed media, photography, digital art, fiber art, clothing, accessories, jewelry, sculpture, ceramics, glass, woodwork, furniture and more. As a juried market, awards and cash prizes will be distributed to Best in Show, second place and five honorable mentions. The artist market will be open Friday from 5–10 p.m., Saturday from 12–10 p.m., and Sunday from 12:30–8 p.m. 

AthFest Theme Artist

Every year a different local artist is selected to create the festival’s artwork that appears all over town from merchandise, banners, posters, advertisements, billboards and even the cover of Flagpole. This year’s theme artist is Lydia Kinsey, a professional tattoo artist at Pink Goblin Tattoo & Piercing, a woman-owned and operated studio located in the Chase Park Warehouses. An Athens resident since 1999, Kinsey graduated from UGA’s Lamar Dodd School of Art with a BFA in painting in 2013. She began apprenticing at a downtown tattoo shop immediately after, and is currently about a decade into her career. Her theme artwork combines her signature “trippy traditional” style with inspiration from the film poster aesthetic of giallo, an Italian film genre of murder mystery horror-thrillers. Kinsey’s illustrations will return around town this fall ahead of the AthHalf Half Marathon & 5K.


Adjacent to the rest of the fun, KidsFest transforms the block located on Washington Street between Lumpkin and College avenues into a playground of arts and crafts, demonstrations, ticketed bounce houses and inflatables, and other kid-centric activities. The outdoor KidsFest Stage hosts performances suited for all ages. The first day kicks off with the UpNext Showcase spotlighting middle and high school musicians from the Full Moon School of Music. The rest of the weekend will feature a variety of music and dance acts, either geared towards young audiences or featuring young entertainers themselves. KidsFest will run Friday from 6–9 p.m., Saturday from 10:30 a.m.–6:15 p.m. and Sunday from 12:30–5 p.m. In addition to entertainment on the outdoor stage, a free KidsFest Dance Party with DJ Mahogany will be held indoors at the Georgia Theatre on Saturday from 1–3 p.m.

Food Truck Eats and Cool Treats

One of the new additions to AthFest is the food truck park Union Fare, located at the surface lot between the Morton Theatre and West Washington Street parking deck, which plans to become a permanent fixture this fall under Hospitality South (owners of Paloma Park, Sandbar, Emporium and more). Cafe Racer, Kelly’s Jamaican Foods, Taqueria La Parilla, Munch Hut, Propaganda Pizza, La Chancla and Tamez Barbecue will all be located in this lot. The usual cool treats like King of Pops, Kona Ice, Smoothie King and La Michoacana will be along the main stretch of the festival offering some reprieve from the June heat.

Beer Gardens and Festival Zone Wristbands

Inside the designated Festival Zone, attendees can purchase a $5 Festival Zone wristband that allows them to freely walk around the festival area with purchased beer or wine in hand. There will be four beer gardens within this zone where wristbands and beverages can be purchased, in close proximity to the action so attendees can get right back to watching bands or browsing vendors. Beer garden bars, wristband sales and merchandise will be cashless this year, so make sure to bring a card.

Videos, Photographs and More 

Whether you’re unable to attend this weekend or simply want to relive the magic, there are several different ways to experience the sights and sounds of AthFest from the comfort of your own home. Returning as an official affiliated event, JOKERJOKERtv will host a virtual broadcast featuring interviews, performances, music videos and other programming highlighting this year’s artists. Following a pre-show this Thursday from 6:30–8:30 p.m., the livestream will be aired via YouTube (@JOKERJOKERtvofficial) on Friday from 4–10 p.m., Saturday from 11 a.m.–10 p.m. and Sunday from 11:30 a.m.–8 p.m. The live streaming platform will specifically broadcast The Foundry’s Saturday show with The Shut-Ups, David Barbe, Armistead’s Armi and Sneakers. 

In anticipation of AthFest, wORT Ort Internet Radio, a new station streaming live at, will play AthFest artists 24 hours a day through the end of June. Gregory Frederick of the Athens GA Live Music YouTube channel will be the festival’s official videographer this year, and Flagpole readers can look forward to a giant roundup of videos in his weekly recap. AthFest’s official photographer, Mike White, will post images to his website, while Flagpole photographers Mason Pearson and Jake Zerkel plan to share galleries at 

Label and Promoter Showcases 

Choosing between so many great acts can often lead to decision paralysis. Sometimes it helps to instead lean on the thoughtfully curated showcases presented by the labels, show promoters and artist collectives that steadily build their respective scenes year round. 

On Friday, Indecent Artistry, a boutique label services, booking and management company headed by Adam Wayton (Telemarket, The Pink Stones), will present Hiding Places, Honeypuppy, Coma Therapy and Wieuca at Nowhere Bar. Metal, typically underrepresented across the lineups of family-friendly festivals, can be found exclusively at Shadebeast’s show at Ciné. Classic City Rotary & the Vic Chesnutt Songwriter of the Year Awards will simultaneously host a comparably laid-back evening with singer-songwriters at The Globe that night. 

On Saturday, Live Wire will host the best of both worlds inside and out as ATHFactor-Liberty Entertainment and Volumes Hip Hop team up for a full night of hip hop while Nightshade Family keeps the beats flowing with EDM DJs and a silent disco. Normaltown Records and Strolling Bones Records, both imprints of New West Records, will present a showcase at Nowhere Bar with Rose Hotel, Spencer Thomas, Elijah Johnston and The Pink Stones, the first two of whom both recently released new albums.

The Classics

It’s impossible to capture the current Athens music scene without a nod to its past, and AthFest always features a handful of throwback acts that contributed to that rich history. Closing out the Hull Street Stage on Saturday is the moody, Southern post-punk band Kilkenny Cats. Formed in Athens in 1983, its hypnotic and haunting melodies were pivotal in the early local post-punk scene. During the Saturday night club crawl, Armistead’s Armi will be performing at The Foundry—a live debut of a new project from a well-established artist, Armistead Wellford. Known as a founding member of Athens’ Love Tractor, Armistead will be joined by local staple musicians and special guests. Headlining that night is Sneakers, a North Carolina-based band that released an influential six-song EP engineered by Don Dixon in 1976. Its influence trickles down to important Athens bands like R.E.M. and the Elephant 6 Collective.

Once an Athenian, Always an Athenian 

AthFest is not only a popular time for former residents to venture back to town and reconnect with friends, but an ideal time for musicians who’ve moved away to do the same. Soulful singer-songwriter Kyshona Armstrong, who made the leap to Nashville several years ago, will return to the place where she got her start to share tunes off of Legacy, a new album inspired by her family’s once-unknown history. Rock and rollers Reverend Tribble & The Deacons, whose singer Conner Tribble now lives in Mexico, have already sold out their homecoming show in July, so it’s wise to catch them now on the main stage. Local shows are also few and far between for transatlantic band Feather Trade, whose singer and guitarist Chisolm Thompson moved to the UK several years ago.

Catch ‘Em While You Can

Although AthFest is a predominantly local-centric festival, it shares its stages with some talented touring acts from around the world, too. The powerhouse art-punk duo Lung composed of classically trained opera singer and cellist Kate Wakefield and drummer Daisy Caplan will perform on the Hull Street Stage Saturday. On the Main Stage Sunday musician Jamil Rashad’s project Boulevards will bring its soul, country, jazz, hip-hop and indie rock infused funk from Raleigh, NC. At the 40 Watt Club alternative country rock band Susto will headline Friday night, and the longtime pop-punk band Left Front Tire will perform Saturday. Kicking off the Georgia Theatre performances Saturday is Maps & Atlases, a Chicago based group influenced by alternative rock, folk and experimental music.