Photos and Review by Chandler Mays
This year’s Hijacking Music Festival went off without a hitch, and was nothing less than astounding. For ten straight hours, I treated my eardrums to some monumental sonic shenanigans within the cozy confines of East Atlanta Village’s famous 529 Bar. The layout was perfect with a stage on both sides of the showroom. This allowed the bands’ set-up times to overlap with performance times, which gifted the crowd with extremely short waiting periods between shows. Now, let’s talk about these shows, shall we?
Swank Sinatra – 4pm
I unfortunately walked into 529 right as Swank Sinatra were breaking down their gear. I talked to a few folks who said the show was amazing, so I regret missing it. I have every intention of catching their next show at the Clermont Lounge in January… I better start hydrating now.
Nigredo – 5pm
Aching guitars reverberate into a cavern of echoes while Tool-esque bass lines massage your brain. The music drags you into the ether, slowly building as moaning high-end guitar sounds infiltrate the tune. This gorgeous sound continues to build until it drops into a nuclear explosion of thunderous chords and drums, then seamlessly glides back into a groovy melody. They would plateau long enough to allow you to ground yourself, then another explosion would drop. Defying all logic, the song would somehow get even heavier as the band would drop the tempo to half speed, loudly crashing each cymbal and strumming each chord with impeccable precision. This raw sonic power ran like a derailed freight train into a cacophony of distortion and modulation, leaving you breathless… And that was just one song. By the time Nigredo was finished, I found myself reduced to rubble, questioning my very existence. These guys get more epic every time I see them.
Hail the Titans – 6pm
This avant-garde rock band from Alabama presented to Hijacking a controlled exercise in chaos. Alien synth sounds played over distorted math rock compositions as the guitarists played complex melodies, entrancing the audience. Just when you could get a grip on what they were doing, a psychotic breakdown would occur. The drums and guitars furiously thrashed through freakout melodies within intricate time signatures, then they would switch gears when you least expected it. It was an amazing display of unpredictability. No single sequence would linger for long, constantly changing rhythms and song structures. I was very impressed with how the band had configured these lengthy elaborate songs and executed them with such dexterity. Hail the Titans blew peoples’ minds, and have become a welcome addition to Atlanta’s music scene.
Tricil – 7pm
Atlanta’s own John Jacobus creates captivating electronic music under the Tricil monicker. Mixing together unique electro, dubstep, and industrial sounds, Tricil sounds to me like a mix between Nine Inch Nails and Amon Tobin. He creates innovative electronic sounds, but keeps them structured over crunchy bone-snapping dance beats. The songs were lush with a variety of layered samples, and he would occasionally sing with a raw high-energy voice through heavy filtering. After getting my face melted by two intense instrumental bands, Tricil was a welcome change of pace as I was able to get my groove on to some deliciously intelligent dance music.
Hanzelle – 8pm
The most delightful surprise at Hijacking was undoubtedly Hanzelle, a Nashville quintet that unleashed a killer set of ethereal synth pop. The drummer had an electronic performance pad attached to his drumset, which allowed him to play electronic beats live in real time. Hanzelle’s music was intoxicating as two keyboardists layered synth melodies over fast-paced jazzy rhythms reminiscent of the more experimental Radiohead songs. The guitarist plucked out lavish tunes as lead singer Casey Kaufman’s flowery vocals fit perfectly within the mix. Possessing a truly hybrid sound, it’s hard to accurately describe the style of music Hanzelle creates, but I do know that it sounds great, and I want some more.
Sneaky Hand – 9pm
After seeing these guys for the first time at Nophest, they immediately jumped into my list of favorite local bands. Their infectious energy is boundless as they rock and wriggle their way into your hearts, minds, and feet. It is impossible to watch a Sneaky Hand show while standing still. As soon as the delectable garage funk music started, an invisible hand of immeasurable sneakiness slapped everyone into motion, making us all better people for dancing out all the bad juju and negative energy we’ve built up since the last Sneaky Hand show. Lead singer, Matt Maher, constantly reminded the crowd to smile big, because endorphins released from happiness will get you high on life. “We came here tonight to get close and break each others’ personal bubbles,” he shouted. “You signed ‘yes’ at the door!” This band is a riot. Do yourself a favor and catch the next Sneaky Hand show. You won’t regret it.
Cusses – 10pm
This rock trio with a hottie lead singer brought the thunder with a delicious slice of sass to Hijacking. Cusses didn’t waste any time as they dove right into “The Wait Is Over”, the opening track off their debut self-titled album. The audience immediately responded enthusiastically, ready for more tasty licks, rocking rhythms, and howling vocals from Savannah’s new exports. Angel Bond kept everyone’s energy levels high as she jumped and thrashed her way through the set, singing with style and charisma. Her vocals lend themselves perfectly to guitarist Bryan Harder’s heavy rock riffs that play within catchy pop melodies, which created the perfect concoction of ‘pop with a punch’. Brian Lackey was a true rock drummer as he kept the crowd pumped up and played out ferocious rhythms throughout the entire set. My favorite song off the new album is “Worst Enemy“, which perfectly embodies the tried and true method of turning pain into rock ‘n’ roll.
Fine Peduncle – 11pm
Cole Murphy played some astounding neo-soul electronica as Fine Peduncle. He captivated the audience with his extremely wide vocal range as he managed to hit notes that most females would have trouble reaching. His electronic compostions were super funky as he would sing like Prince on acid and occasionally play drums along with his songs. Fine Peduncle is a true performer. He would stand on his table, play a beat pad with his feet while modulating a song with his hands and singing into a mic held in place by his teeth. His melodies were otherworldly, yet altogether inviting, and the crowd danced and swayed in amazement. My favorite song he performed was “Copularium“.
Jungol – 12am
These talented Atlanta musicians helped close out Hijacking with another fantastic set of synth rock songs. Deftly walking the line between pop and experimentation, beautiful vocal harmonies would float above sexy synth melodies, accompanied by haunting reverberating guitars and groovy rhythms. With songs such as Leper, Jungol would entrance the crowd with their hypnotizing sound, leaving us incapable of doing anything but to sway and stare. But that’s not all this band has in their arsenal. With songs like “Hound” or “Places”, they also know how to put down the computers and deliver badass prog-oriented rock songs that will surely knock your socks off. Jungol is one of Atlanta’s most talented and creative group of musicians, and you will always have a blast at their shows. Be sure to keep up with their “Go Softly” video series, which will eventually feature 12 experimental films utilizing music from each of the members’ side projects. The first installment involves a creepy adult fetus in the woods who finds a red suitcase… It’s awesome.
Psychedubasaurus Rex – 1am
I’m not quite sure what I experienced, but I do know that it went on for over two hours, and I loved every minute of it. Psychedubasaurus Rex appears to be a collective group of rotating musicians that hop on stage and jam together for as long as there’s an audience to play for. Drummers, guitarists and vocalists constantly changed throughout the night and the jams were intense. Audience participation was welcomed as crowd members would join in on bongos or scream into the mic. My friend Matt even got a turn to hop on stage and rip it up on the bass guitar. Members from Sneaky Hand and Jungol also joined in on the shenanigans. This two-plus hour extended jam session was the perfect way to finish an epic day of live music. Don’t miss your chance to catch the Hijacking Music Festival next year!
Full Gallery after the jump…