AthFest 2013 was as busy as ever this year, the streets packed with music fans of all different persuasions. I couldn’t catch every show obviously, but I’ve compiled a list of the top five most notable shows I did see.
My Top Five Most Notable Shows of AthFest 2013
Cult of Riggonia – Farm 255
I’d been meaning to catch these guys for a while. Earlier this year, their inclusion on a bill with Motion Sickness of Time Travel intrigued me, as did their Flagpole Magazine description – something about soundscapes and tribal beats. Barely elevated on the Farm 255 side stage, CoR weaved through their multi-layered jams, marriages of tribal ambient and freak-folk reminiscent of early Animal Collective. Interludes between songs consisted of sped-up chatter, cascades of synth and modified field recordings. It’s worth noting that the show was highly visual too. They draped ornate fabrics over speakers, the vocalist cooed into the open mouth of the stuffed animal adorning his mic and the band proudly displayed signs bearing intricate, childlike designs (most likely hand-drawn) similar to those gracing all of their cassettes. Watching the group navigate their way through such a disorienting set was truly fascinating.
pacificUV – The Georgia Theatre Rooftop
I last saw pacificUV at a fashion show three months after the release of Weekends. Though I haven’t listened to their new LP yet, if their live show indicates anything I’ll probably enjoy it. They’ve dropped most of the ill-fitting synth-pop elements of Weekends, added the ethereal vocals and lyrical stylings of poet Laura Solomon and aimed for straighter, more reverent dream pop. I’m a sucker for male/female unison vocals and pacificUV nailed it, upping the spaciness of their new material – songs that are far more Radio Dept. than Depeche Mode or Chromatics. The moody lighting on the Georgia Theatre combined with their brightly colored, geometric projections (think Neon Indian, Psychic Chasms era) only heightened the experience.
Cars Can Be Blue – Ciné
Oddly enough, this was the first time I’ve seen revered Athens indie pop act, Cars Can Be Blue. Introduced to them in 2010, I was attracted to the dark humor and unabashed poppiness of “Doctor,” a song off that year’s Wuxtry Record Store Day Compilation. Live, Cars Can Be Blue sounds like a smuttier, more proficient Black Tambourine. In completely straight-faced unison, the duo implored the audience to “piss all over [their] tits” on “I Am a Slut,” a sordid cut from their upcoming Trace the Tension LP. While that may strike you as cheap novelty, the band has the twee-pop sensibility and subtle musical prowess to back their numerous, dirty-minded tunes. Other highlights from what was perhaps my favorite AthFest performance include noise-pop-punisher “Monster,” All The Stuff We Do standout “Do You Remember?” and frenetic closer “You Should Be Begging.”
Easter Island – The Georgia Theatre
Easter Island’s bombastic dream pop sounds arena-ready without, for the most part, sounding too cheesy. Though they’re guilty of a few Coldplayish sing-along choruses here and there, they otherwise put on a show that imagines Adorable and Ride as stadium-packing headliners. Even at their most subdued they commanded attention, easily justifying their spot on the large Georgia Theatre stage.
Modern Skirts – Pulaski Street Stage
To be completely honest, I’ve seen Modern Skirts three previous times and I’ve never been impressed by their live show. Apparently I’ve only seen them on “off nights” though. The final Modern Skirts performance was more of an event than an actual concert, but it was still the best I’ve seen them perform. They’ve always displayed tight musicianship but this time around they backed it up with heightened stage presence, tasteful use of horns and a carefully constructed setlist. Touching on each of their three LPs, they led the audience through a surprisingly brief tour of their career ending on “September Days.” The most intense feeling of finality set in with a particularly inspired version of “New York Song,” though – it’s huge chorus practically shouted back at the band while they played it one final time.
That’s it! Though I wish I had caught even more shows (particularly murk daddy flex and NYMPH), I couldn’t be everywhere at once. Thanks for checking out our AthFest 2013 coverage, we’ll see you again next year!