Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Athfest 2009: And the winner is...

Thursday, June 25th 2009
Flagpole Athens Music Awards Show

Ah, Athens! It was great to finally be back in my favorite city!

My friend Sheila and I got into downtown just about half an hour before the Flagpole Athens Music Awards started. As we waited in the lobby for another friend to arrive, I noticed several people dressed in an array of eye-catching clothing milling around in a side room just beside us. These, I assumed, would be the celebrities of the night. Even though I'm still a relative newcomer to the Athens music scene, I could sense that the members of this group were the people to watch. I'll admit, it helped that I caught a glimpse of Hardy Morris, the lead singer of Dead Confederate walking around back there just before Trent Allen of the band Dreams So Real paused next to us to ask some of the workers where the presenters were supposed to be. Sightings like these merely fueled my anticipation for the show and the days ahead.

Having never attended an official awards show in my life, I was eager to see what would happen once the presenters and bands stepped onstage. We managed to get seats relatively close to the front but still far left enough that I had to crane my head a bit to get a good view. However, it transpired later in the evening that we had some of the best seats in the house. Little did I know that a majority of the winning bands were seated in the dark area just beside us. Also, I could never have guessed that the distinguished-looking gentleman right behind us was one of the presenters for the night. The best was yet to come though.

Pretty soon after the show began, Deaf Judges, a local hip hop and rap group, took the stage. Well, I say "took the stage," but in reality, they made the whole theatre their stage. They tossed beach balls into the audience before they started so that the air was filled with flying spheres during (and following) their performance. These balls even played a hilarious part in the awards proceedings when the Half Dozen Brass Band got a beach ball chucked at them good-naturedly as they were giving their acceptance speech for the Best Jazz Band award. Then, during the perfomance, one of the members of Deaf Judges ran into the audience and jumped on a chair right behind my friend Diana to rap to the crowd in close quarters. I told you we had great seats!

Another highlight of the night was when American Cheeseburger won for Best Punk/Hardcore Band. Unlike the other winning bands, their acceptance speech didn't include any speaking at all. Instead, one of the members donned a rubbish-filled trash can for a hat, mumbled some sort of incoherent sound into the microphone, and then poured water onto his head before leaving the stage. What a sight! My favorite moment of the night by far, though, actually happened because of a glitch. During the presentation of the finalists' videos for the Best Music Video category, the film started skipping which disrupted the music horribly. Kenosha Kid, the band playing music in the pit for the awards show, filled in the gaps of the Dead Confederate glitching video with an impromptu performance of the missing parts of background music. There's nothing better than seeing a band make something awesome out of a problem like that!

The only thing that really put a damper on the evening was this guy, Clay Leverett, who kept making jokes at the expense of recently deceased king of pop, Michael Jackson. The jokes were in bad taste, and it wasn't long before he was booed off the stage. Also, a few times during the show, I felt like an outsider at an exclusive party. Inside jokes that only longtime citizens of Athens could understand ran rampant throughout, but luckily, these were harmless.

However, on a more positive note, some of the biggest cheers of the night went to those who really deserved them. The second biggest cheer was for my fellow blogger and friend Jordan of AthensMusicJunkie who's become a sort of celebrity around these parts for her extensive and dedicated blogging about the bands of Athens. Don't tell her that, though! She'll deny it completely. But truly, the girl did a great job presenting a special award to the man in charge of UGA's music business program. The loudest, most heartfelt cheer, though, was also a bittersweet one for Wilmot Greene, owner of the recently destroyed Georgia Theatre. When he walked onstage, everyone in the theatre gave him a standing ovation. It was wonderful seeing all of the people of Athens join together in their earnest determination to see the theatre rebuilt and the years of memories maintained!

Then soon after all of this, the show was over, but for my friends and I the night had just begun. The awards show after party had already started, and we weren't about to miss that!

Check back regularly for more blogs about Athfest 2009, and don't forget to check out the concert videos at http://www.youtube.com/echoreynofathens!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Athfest 2009: Here come the blogs!

Hey everyone! Whew, I'm back from Athfest, and I'm exhausted, but I just can't get over how amazing it all was! Experiencing all of that musical joy for the first time was wonderfully spectacular. I'm practically speechless! Don't worry, though. I'll have plenty to say once I get started with these blogs.

I've decided to write several show reviews and blogs from each day of Athfest, so that I can share every little awesome tidbit with you! I'll be posting them regularly over the next few days. Also, soon I'll be adding Athfest concert videos and a vlog to the Echoreyn of Athens YouTube channel as well. Stay tuned!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

It's Athfest Time!

Just a small part of the crowd at Atlanta's Summerfest 2009

Tonight, Athfest 2009 kicks off with the Flagpole Athens Music Awards at 8 pm in the Morton Theatre! As anyone who reads this blog can guess, I'm more than just a little bit excited about Athfest. In fact, I'd say I'm beyond tremendously ecstatic that I'm going to be able to attend. This will be my first Athfest experience, so get ready to be bombarded with enthusiastic entries about all of the bands that I encounter. Like any severely dedicated blogger (or slightly crazy Athens music enthusiast), I leapt straight into the 170+ list of bands provided on the Athfest website, listening to all of the ones I hadn't heard before on their myspaces. From that list, I was able to create a much shorter list of bands that I hope to catch live. While it's quite unfortunate that some of my new potential favorites will be playing at conflicting times, I've picked a few for my can't-miss list, including already quite well-known bands Dead Confederate and Love Tractor. Also, old favorites Venice is Sinking and Doctor Squid will be sharing some tunes with us at the festival as well. This should certainly be a weekend to remember!

Don't forget to pick up your wristbands and choose your list of must-see bands. I'll see you there!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Echoreyn of Athens takes over YouTube

The introductory video

You might have guessed it was coming, and here it is! The Echoreyn of Athens YouTube channel! Click to enjoy! I plan on filming live show footage from as many of the concerts I attend in the future as I can, so be sure to check the channel regularly (or subscribe) in order to satisfy your desire for more Athens and Atlanta music. Not in the local area? Well now you can experience part of the shows from the comfort of your computer! In essence, you'll get to see a small hint of what I see at these shows. Not sure which bands you want to see live? Hopefully, these videos will put the flavor of each of these acts on the tip of your tongue, so it'll be easier for you to choose. For me, watching these videos over and over fills me with anticipation and enthusiasm. I can't wait to see them perform again and check out even more bands!

Also, I'm going to try something different on the channel as well: a semi-monthly Echoreyn of Athens vlog. That way I'll be able share some of the biggest local music news from each month with everyone on YouTube too. I can't wait!

So there you go! I already have footage up from the Crumbling Arches show on May 8th at the 40 Watt as well as several videos of both The Constellations and Manchester Orchestra at Summerfest on June 7th. Hope these vids pleasure both your eyes and your ears!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

A Hint of Things to Come

The mysteriously shiny wall at Go Bar

Hello, dear readers! I'm currently working on something that will better enable me to share the shows I see with you! I came up with the idea several months ago when I first began to blog about my experiences in the Athens music scene, and soon my vision will become a reality. My good friend AMJ had a similar brainwave too, so between us, we'll most likely manage to create a comprehensive gold mine of tiny morsels from each of the acts in the Athens area. And don't worry, you Atlanta fans and Atlanta bands! I plan to spread the visual love beyond my cozy little college town as well. To give you a hint of what's to come and to share a few cool little ear-pleasing pieces I've found around the internet, here are some tidbits you might enjoy.

Remember the absolutely breathtaking Aman Amun show that I experienced at the beginning of May? Well, if you missed it, don't fret! All is not lost. On his website, he posted a lovely video of the live performance of his song Scapegoating. As you may recall, I described the show as a "work of pure brilliance, " and now you'll be able to get a glimpse of why I said this. Click here to amaze your senses! Keep in mind, though, that no video can truly capture the all-encompassing world that you enter when you go to an Aman Amun show. This is just a taste; nothing can match the atmosphere of the live show!

I would also like to share a YouTube channel with you that made me smile. My favorite "friendly, neighborhood folk singer," Pholksinger Josh, recently recorded videos of himself performing several of his songs with bonus commentary as well. Want to know why he wrote the Pathetic Love Song That [He] Said [He] Wouldn't Write? He'll tell you! How does he feel about the controversial song Battlefield? He'll let you know! I urge you to check out his channel.

Hope those treat your eyes and tickle your eardrums! Come visit my little blog again soon for the unveiling of my latest blog project!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Summerfest 2009: Manchester Orchestra gives us a tremendous finish

Thirty minutes before Atlanta band Manchester Orchestra took the stage, a sea of people began to form in anticipation of the band's entrance. Excitement filled the air as the hundreds of eager fans converged beside the stage. Being still relatively new to the music scene, this was my first experience with an audience this size, and the sheer amount of energy running through the crowd, even in the overwhelming Atlanta heat, amazed me. To enhance the excitement even more, a local radio station pronounced the Virginia Highlands "the place to be for music today" just as the band was setting up.

Finally, it was time for Manchester Orchestra to begin. Following an announcement from the woman who organized the festival, cheering filled the park. Then the band jumped straight into their set. Their sound was a unique take on alternative, indie rock with unexpectedly soft vocals and quite a variety of instrumental sounds. Although I'd been listening to some of their songs online for quite a while, this is another band that truly must be heard live to be experienced as it should be. Hearing them at Summerfest was a feast for the eardrums!

Up near the front of the stage, I was surrounded by people singing along to every word of their songs, from their massive hits to their lesser-known tunes. The joy that encompassed the park was tangible. A few boys in their late teens right in front of me were so enthusiastic about the band that they grabbed each other in excitement whenever the lead singer would announce the title of the next song to be performed, and one of them even began tearing at his hair, much like those teenage girls who were fans of the Beatles back in the day. Several guys had their eyes closed, feeling the music as well, and one girl beside me was screaming the words to the songs passionately. Honestly, watching these fans was nearly as entertaining as watching the band itself. It's always nice to see people with this much enthusiasm.

As the hour and a half set came to an end, the eager crowd, thirsting for more musical nourishment, called for an encore. Unfortunately, due to sound ordinances, the band was unable to comply. However, there was a gleeful sort of feeling that pervaded the park as everyone began to clear out. Indeed, all three of the bands made for quite an amazing show!

Also, this whole experience has gotten me so incredibly excited for Athfest. I can't wait!

Summerfest 2009: The Constellations rock the park

The next band to step up to the plate was nine-member Atlanta band, The Constellations. I've never seen so many band members onstage at one time, and I was particularly amused by the group of backup singers and dancers they called the clap squad. However, my amusement turned to awe when they began to play. I can honestly say I've never heard anything like this band before in my life! Like many of my favorite bands, their music can't really be placed into any genre. On their myspace, they describe their style as psychedelic ghettotech showtunes, and I could add gothic alternative rock and rap to their list of adjectives as well. It was a veritable explosion of insanity, but such an explosion never sounded so good!

Lead singer Elijah Jones impressed everyone in the audience with his energy and personality as well. He used the whole stage as his playground and danced around it wildly while playing several instruments and singing. Then he pulled off his shirt to reveal his quite spectacular array of tattoos. Between songs, he entertained the crowd with some hilarious comments ranging from warnings about his various family members in the audience to some suggestive thoughts about the members of his band. Then he topped the show off by rocking on the guitar while on his back which left him with a great big gash from some of the onstage equipment. Like a true rockstar, though, he just got up and enthusiastically continued to create musical magic for everyone there. All in all, I blown away by this band's style! What an opening act for Manchester Orchestra!

Summerfest 2009: Ponderosa starts things off

To my delight, Atlanta brought me a taste of Athens at Summerfest in the middle of downtown on Sunday. I arrived just in time to catch the band Ponderosa start their set. Although they're from Athens, I had no idea what to expect from the long-haired band till they began to play. My ears were pleasantly rewarded. Their danceable tunes kept me on my feet, and several others in the audience bounced along to the songs as well. Really though, I envy the children in attendance who began leaping and dancing exuberantly, no questions asked. Ah, to be so free!

The band had a southern rock quality that everyone there couldn't help but enjoy. Having been on tour for a while, they challenged us to sing a few lines of one of their songs as loudly as those in the towns they've previously played sang them. Unfortunately, this challenge didn't go as planned largely because it was a bit too early in the afternoon for that kind of thing. However, I admire their attempt, and I truly liked the songs they shared with us. It was a wonderful way to begin to my Summerfest experience, but the event was far from over. Check back soon to read about the two Atlanta bands that played for us later that day: The Constellations and Manchester Orchestra!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Stellate: What I've Always Waited For

Sheila and I with the members of Stellate

The best part about living in Georgia is that there are two epicenters of rock: Athens and Atlanta. Since, most tragically, I had to leave Athens for the summer, I'm monumentally lucky to call Atlanta my temporary home. This luck manifested itself in great quantities this past Saturday when I got to see my favorite Atlanta band Stellate perform at Hot Topic in North Point Mall. I've been dying to see this band live ever since guitar player/singer Adam mentioned it at a chance meeting two years ago, so this was practically a dream come true!

As my friend Sheila and I walked into Hot Topic, we were greeted by a smiling Carly Kane, lead singer for the band, who was handing out flyers for the show. After informing her that we had made the trip just to see Stellate, we stepped through the racks of striped knee socks, ruffly skull skirts, and shiny corsets to the makeshift stage area near the front of the store. A few minutes later, they began the set I'd been waiting to hear since I started my hands-on musical education. Stellate filled our ears with the energetic pop rock that their fans love, performing all of the songs from their latest EP, I Get A Rush, as well as several of my other favorites from the days back when the band was known as Helios. No one in the store could keep themselves from dancing, and several people joyfully sang along to the lyrics as well. It was a performance like no other, indeed!

And you know how I feel about the ever-important band/fan connection... not only was it there this time, with Stellate, it was thriving! One little girl around 7 years old enthusiastically asked for an autograph from Carly in the middle of the set, and she cheerfully complied. Later on, the same little girl picked up a guitar pick that Adam had dropped only to have him give it her as a keepsake from the show. Carly, Adam, and guitar player Jon even managed to share the show with the large group of passerby that gathered outside to see them play by rocking out in the Hot Topic store window. Their infectious enthusiasm filled the room with such euphoria that, when they finished their set, they were called to encore two of the songs from their EP. Then, afterwards, each of the members signed CDs and took pictures with several eager fans.

As the culmination of two years of waiting, the Stellate experience was truly spectacular! I hope I'll get to see them again incredibly soon!