’s “12 Bands of AthFest 2012”

Now in its 16th year, AthFest, Athens, Georgia’s music, kids, and art festival is back and better than ever for 2012! Boasting two FREE community stages, 12 participating venues and a huge vendor section, the city is going to be transformed into a giant party that you won’t want to miss out on. Originating years ago, the non-profit organization was created to educate and engage people via music and arts, to enhance the success of local musicians and artists, as well as the success of Athens as a community and has done just that.We made it up there last year and were blown away by performances from Futurebirds, Reptar and Washed Out and the festival organizers have thrown together a line-up that definitely tops the previous. AthFest is probably the most accurate depiction of the local culture and character you can find of the city and is quickly becoming one of the most well known showcases in the South. Given there’s just so many things to do and bands to see, we figured we could clue you in on a few bands that are our picks for this year’s schedule. We hope to see you there!

1. The District Attorneys – 6/23 – 7:15pm @ Hull St. Stage

Formed in Athens in late 2009, this five piece put together one of the best Americana-pop releases I’ve heard in the past year with their April 2012 release of Slowburner. Released through This Is American Music, the album
has a thick coating of lyrical honesty that avoids unnecessary complexity, all the while being complemented by ‘verbed out guitars that are as much Buddy Holly as they are Band of Horses. It makes sense that they’ve shared the stage with everyone from Fountains of Wayne to Centro-Matic to Johnny Corndawg. – Sean Pritchard

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2. Bit Brigade – 6/23 – 1:00am @ Caledonia Lounge

Although my history of video gaming is limited, Bit Brigade will undoubtedly bring out the inner 13 year-old within me with their lightning guitars and soaring shred-fests. Here’s the setup: a band plays the soundtrack to a famous video game while a gaming guru plays the entire thing live. With no mistakes. The game is thrown up on a screen for everyone to see while guitars wail and rip in proggy goodness. I’m not sure what epic game they’ll be playing Saturday night, but in the past they’ve rocked Ninja Gaiden, Mega Man II, and Castlevania 3.  Bring your game face. – Grafton Tanner

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3. Betsy Kingston & The Crowns – 6/24 – 2:45pm @ Hull St. Stage

As if Athens hasn’t produced enough gorgeous, talented females over the past few years (I don’t need to name names, you know who you are), Betsy Kingston is hard to take your eyes off of. In a mere 10 months of playing together as a band, she and her troupe have covered plenty of ground and have their sights set the open road. Betsy and the Crowns have found a niche that’s going to treat them very fairly; dark soulful pop that won’t hesitate to break into a foot-stomping beat. Equal parts of Joplin, Patsy Cline and Jenny Lewis.

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4. Grape Soda – 6/23 – 1:00am @ Cine

If fuzz-pop is more of your thing, then spend your late Saturday night at Cine with DIY popstars Grape Soda.  Other than possibly having the coolest band name in Athens, Grape Soda also makes some of the most interesting and danceable micro-pop. The brothers Lewis (Mat and Ryan) are usually the only two members you’ll see onstage, but their sound is full, loud, and analog. Give their debut album Form a Sign a spin, and make sure to pick up one of their iconic t-shirts. – Grafton Tanner

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5. White Violet – 6/21 – 10:30pm @ 40 Watt & 6/23 – 10:45pm @ 40 Watt

Nate Nelson began writing and recording songs over ten years ago and released them under his name, earning a reputation for straight-forward and earnest folk tunes that lamented about the beautiful imbalances of life. After being joined by a group of friends, who together molded a fuller sound to pieces of his work, and eventually became what is now White Violet. While keeping up with a timeless Athens sound, these four are certainly crafting a presence that is entirely their own. Look out for them. – Sean Pritchard

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6. Modern Skirts – 6/22 – 1:00am @ 40 Watt

Modern Skirts have been an Athfest staple for the past few years, and I’ve made it a point to see them time and again. Their musical aesthetic has evolved from sunny Cali-pop to dark, garage electro, and this span of sensibilities parallels their refusal to be pigeonholed into any one genre. You’ll dance. You’ll sing along. You’ll even rage (ever heard “Under Bridges and Overpasses”?). Watching the Skirts is witnessing the recent history of Athens compressed onto one stage, and that variety is something not to be missed. – Grafton Tanner

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7. Young Benjamin – 6/22 – 10:00pm @ New Earth Music Hall

The moniker that Matt Whitaker ( a former “Band of the Month“) performs under comes from a nickname he was given by his grandfather during his last months alive. The elaborate and beautiful songscapes that Whitaker has been producing have been catching the attention of fans all around the South East. Young Benjamin was featured at the Savannah Stopover Festival in Savannah in March and made his debut (both on-stage and at a small pre-party) in Macon on April 14th at Mercer University’s Bearstock 2012 Festival. He was more than impressive then and I can’t wait to see how he’s progressed since. – Sean Pritchard

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8. Atlas Sound – 6/22 – 7:30pm @ Pulaski Street Stage

Deerhunter frontman Bradford Cox is one of the premiere composers of our time. His drifting, gauzy music and fragmented lyrics recall a place that could only exist somewhere between sleeping and waking. It’s beautifully pained music that grapples with childhood, loneliness, and sickness. I consider Cox a bit of a revolutionary. I guess I’m required to mention his hour-long cover à la Faust of “My Sharona” from a few months ago, but if you really want to get at what Cox is doing, try looking up his Bo Diddley performance in Wax ‘n Facts on YouTube. I’ll be the guy front row for this one. – Grafton Tanner

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9. Lera Lynn – 6/22 – 12:00am @ 40 Watt

Yet another Athenian that’s as easy on the ears as she is the eyes, Lera Lynn’s name has been popping  up on blogs and in magazines around the country. As of recently she was picked up by Garrison Keillor and the Prairie Home Companion crew to accompany them in Atlanta and has covering some miles with a short tour up through the East Coast and Mid West. I’m excited to see this recent TBI Compilation Vol 4. artist, as I’ve heard her solo shows are just as awe-inspiring as her full band shows. – Sean Pritchard

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10. Mad Axes – 6/23 – 10:00pm @ Little King’s

Ath-rap often gets overshadowed by the slew of pop and rock bands in this city, but Mad Axes is about to change that. Former Deaf Judges MC’s Louie Larceny and Walter Kovax make rap that pays homage to the fathers of hip-hop, such as Public Enemy, The Fat Boys, and 2 Live Crew. I saw these guys open for Shabazz Palaces and was hooked immediately. – Grafton Tanner

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11. Grass Giraffes – 6/23 – 12:30am @ 40 Watt

I don’t think I can write a better description of why I would suggest seeing this band than they already have. Other than I saw them on my most recent birthday and that was cool. Enjoy. “That Grass Giraffes is a funny family. If you’re thinking Parenthood, the Athens-based act would fit somewhere between Rick Moranis’ genius house and Steve Martin’s beastly brood. Odd couple eddie the wheel and Steven Trimmer have joined at the hip to form one of the most proficient songwriting duos this drowsy little town has seen in some years. When you throw in bassist Javier Morales, a trusted connoisseur known for his work with the Dream Scene, and drummer Bobby Casso, a hyperactive sixteen-year-old with a penchant for Camels and Keith Moon, you’ve got a bona fide band that’s sure to raise some rainbows.” – Sean Pritchard

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12. Tumbleweed Stampede – 6/22 – 11:00pm @ Georgia Theatre


If the prospect of seeing a show at the renovated/rejuvenated/just plain dope Georgia Theatre isn’t enough, then the sunny pop of Tumbleweed Stampede should send you flying toward the corner of Clayton and Lumpkin.  Tumbleweed specializes in the kind of guitar-pop that could satisfy any lover of Vampire Weekend or the multitude of bands that made up Elephant 6. Horns soar over jangly guitar. Baritone choirs call and respond.  While you’re in town, stop by Wuxtry Records and snag a copy of their full-length release, Guts. – Grafton Tanner

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