ATHFEST Club Crawl featuring Bully (Main Stage)
Bobby's Shorts, David Barbe & Inward Dream Ebb (Main Stage), Easter Island, Booty Boyz (Rooftop), Xanny P, The High Divers (Rooftop), Los Coast (Rooftop), Parker Gispert, The Jahnnies (Rooftop)
215 N. Lumpkin St
Athens, GA, 30601
Doors 6:00 PM / Show 7:00 PM (event ends at 2:00 AM)
This event is 18 and over
Bully (Main Stage)
In rock – as in life – change is unavoidable, often painful, but ultimately necessary, and Alicia Bognanno and her band Bully have dealt with a lot of it since their debut record Feels Like hit in 2015. Now with a new label and another couple years worth of life experience, the 12 new songs on Losing feel like perfect anthems for a generation still learning to harness the power of resistance. With a vocal style that is as pretty as it is powerful, and emotionally resonant lyrics, Alicia channels the loss of innocence and reveals a raw honesty in songs that are distinctly hers.
I love Bully the way I love Sebadoh, Dinosaur Jr and the Breeders. Their sound takes me back to the stripped down and thoughtfully engineered songs that haunt me long after they’re gone and never get old. Another good reason to be with Sub Pop, who have always been associated with music that is built to last.
I feel like all my best work has been born of heartbreak and upheaval; maybe most musicians feel that way. “The title of the record – Losing – kind of says it all,” Alicia says. “After being on the road so long and coming back to Nashville we all had a lot of changes going on in our personal lives that we were trying to deal with / adjust to and that was really the motivation for this one.”
“Feel the Same” is about being stuck in the claustrophobia of a manic state of mind. It’s Alicia’s favorite song to scream. “Seeing It,” she says, is about the unique anxiety and vigilance about personal safety that comes with being a woman: “Such a blurring place to be / stuck in your own body.” Lately Alicia has been lending her voice as an advocate for gun control, women’s rights and speaking out in support of animal rights. In some ways my generation were in a bubble in the 90s; I never gave any thought to what Bill Clinton was up to, for instance – but in 2017, Losing sounds like a personal and necessary call to arms to me; we need rock n roll now more than ever.
Bobby's Shorts is a Grateful Dead tribute band featuring Athens, GA's hottest peppers. they bring the same rawness to the Dead's music that Bob Weir's short-shorts brought to the band in the depths of the 1980's. but don't worry, we don't play Space.
David Barbe & Inward Dream Ebb (Main Stage)
Formed by brothers Ethan and Asher Payne in 2010, Easter Island creates panoramic, post-rock inspired dream pop. Behind the wall of towering drums, glassy guitars, and the forceful tide of synthesizers, hide soft-spoken melodies, tender harmonies, and understated musings on the subtle, yet visceral moments in life.
Often compared to sonic pioneers of the 90s and 00s, Explosions In Sky, My Bloody Valentine, Pedro The Lion, and Sigur Rós, Easter Island makes no compromise to explore unknown sonic territory, embodying the “feeling that you’d stumbled onto something great...knowing that you had a potential game changer in your hands” (Pop Matters).
In 2011, Easter Island’s “Proud” from the debut EP, Better Things, was featured on ABC’s Off The Map. Their debut LP, Frightened, was released July 2012.
Booty Boyz (Rooftop)
Xanny P is a white suburban culture vulture with no cheese, no hoes, and no swag. With no proof of any parental guidance, local farmers claim that Xanny was raised by horses. After his reign as 3-time Equestrian State Champion, Xanny’s career came to an abrupt halt as he was rushed to the hospital for an alleged overdose. Medical records show no trace of Xanax or any other substances in his system; however, Xanny P claims that Xanax changed his life (hence the name). Xanny P’s music sounds like being alone with Stormy Daniels in a bouncy house. His signature sound is often attributed to Baby God, his resident producer. Baby God is a powerhouse hip hop composer with an impressive catalogue of intensely moving work. Baby God and Xanny P have a mysterious relationship, reminiscent of a mother/son dynamic at times. Baby God claims he created Xanny P using one of his own ribs, although Xanny P recalls nothing from his childhood. The two perform wildly eccentric live shows, which some have described as a similar experience to “taking acid at your grandma’s funeral” or, “getting a tattoo on the inside of your body”. If you’re a fan of Amanda Bynes, Ron Artest, or any of the cast or crew of Ancient Aliens, you’ll be sure to enjoy Athens most popular rapper: Xanny P.
The High Divers (Rooftop)
“We all moved to Charleston (SC) on the same day, and there was nothing else in our minds but forming a kick ass touring rock band”, says frontman, Luke Mitchell. With some extensive tours under their belts, as well as some opening slots for notable acts such as Nathaniel Rateliff & The Nightsweats, Delta Spirit, Shovels & Rope and Drivin N Cryin; The High Divers are steadily becoming exactly what they’d envisioned since day one.
After a horrific crash in June—in which a semi truck hit and flipped their tour van, injuring all band members and crew—caused an unexpected delay, Charleston's The High Divers will at long last release Chicora, their follow-up to 2015's Riverlust, on March 2, 2018 via True Blue Records.
Chicora takes its name from the Charleston neighborhood the band calls home, and it's fitting, given they did all the recording in their living room. And although the album was already finished before the van accident, it also serves as a reminder of the community that rallied around the band in its time of need.
The band played over 50 shows just a month after their crash, and The High Divers will be hitting the road again in January, with an extra taste of home with them this time around: they'll be joined by Mitchell's sister and her band, Hannah Wicklund & The Steppin' Stones, on the aptly named Sibling Rivalry Tour. Chicora will be released on March 2, 2018 on True Blue Records.
Los Coast (Rooftop)
Los Coast is the brainchild of Trey Privott and John Courtney and is completed by Megan Hartman on bass, Damien Llanes on drumkit, and Nat Wright on keys. Together, their music is a punchy, psych-tinged, lyrical variety of rock and soul.
Los coast formed like Voltron, and Trey happened to be the heart. He is Los Coast’s “Stax-worthy” vocal feature. To put it simply, “there’s something about Trey’s voice that resonates with you.” He was introduced first to jazz—by his uncle Hiram Bullock—but trey’s musical enthusiasm embraces gospel, punk rock, folk, and hip-hop, among other genres, and his eclectic songwriting style reflects his catholic musical interests. John is a multi-instrumentalist primarily featured as lead guitar.
John’s style is rooted in experimental rock and modal jazz and heavily influenced by an appreciation of music theory developed studying mood, texture, and composition at Berklee College of Music.
Los Coast has released two singles (which may be downloaded at loscoast.com) and plans to release its debut album very soon!
Parker Gispert was still in college when he helped form the Whigs in the early 2000s. But after five critically-acclaimed albums, hundreds of tour dates all over the world with the likes of Kings of Leon, Drive-By Truckers, the Black Keys and many others, and television appearances everywhere from the Late Show with David Letterman to Jimmy Kimmel Live!, the Athens, Georgia-bred rockers decided to pull back on activity in 2017.
Which left Gispert, who had spent the majority of his adult life either in the studio or on the road with the band, at a crossroads.
“It occurred to me that if I wanted to record and tour that I was going to need to do it solo,” the singer, songwriter and guitarist says. “I'd always thought about it in the back of my mind as something that I wanted to do one day, but ‘one day’ had never really come.”
Now, ‘one day’ is here in the form of Sunlight Tonight, Gispert’s debut solo album (produced and mixed by Emery Dobyns). The eight-song effort finds Gispert, known for leading the Whigs through raw and jangly southern-garage rave-ups, taking a decidedly different musical approach—biting electric guitar riffs are cast out in favor of gentle acoustic picking and strumming, and his band mates’ raucous rhythms are traded in for minimal accompaniment that includes light bass and drums, orchestral strings and even trumpet. Gispert’s lyrics, meanwhile, are his most introspective and personal to date (albeit with a bit of humor thrown in here and there) and they’re delivered in a vocal style that finds him pushing out on his range. “I didn't need to project over a band, so I was able to sing in registers I hadn’t really used before, like a lot of high falsetto,” he explains.
The end result showcases a different side of the artist, to be sure. But it’s one that Gispert felt compelled to explore. “A lot of guys from rock bands that go solo, they just hire another bassist and drummer and go make another album,” he says. “I didn’t want to go that route.”
Ultimately, his change in musical direction was helped along by a change in geography. A longtime resident of Nashville (by way of Atlanta, and then Athens), Gispert last year accepted an invitation from a friend to visit his 100-acre hemp farm, located roughly an hour outside Music City. “It was like out of a total time warp,” Gispert recalls of the property. “No heat or AC.
No animals. No active crops. Water from a well. It was just, like, a house and a plot of land. I ended up staying there for a year.”
That plot of land was where Sunlight Tonight came into being. “I would wake up early and get my guitar and walk outside and come up with all these songs,” Gispert says. “And without a band to turn to as the deciding factor on, say, a melody or a lyric, I ended up turning to the scenery and the landscape I was dealing with instead. The farm was like my collaborator—it kind of answered everything for me, as weird as that sounds. And the songs started coming pretty quickly.”
The first one that came is also the one that opens Sunlight Tonight—a psychedelia-laced meditation titled “Through the Canvas.” Built on a bed of acoustic guitar and cello, the song finds Gispert laying out what is essentially a statement of purpose: “Suddenly I got up / Suddenly I could move / shook off all the bullshit that was weighing down my shoes.”
Explains Gispert, “With the Whigs, I had been in that band since I was a teenager. So when that slowed, I found myself in a place where I was almost paralyzed, like, What do I do next? It was just confusing. But that song sums up what happened when I got to the farm. It was like, suddenly I got up, grabbed a guitar, walked down to this big field and...”
Shook off all the bullshit?
Gispert laughs. “Yeah. And bullshit was exactly the word to describe it. It was all the worries. All the fear. All the drama. All the stuff you can’t even articulate. After I put all of that behind me I was able to set out on this journey of making a solo record.”
That journey ended up being very unlike any Gispert had embarked upon previously. For starters, he says, “I wrote all of the songs for the record while outside, and that’s something I’d never done before. Usually I’d be in a cramped apartment or a studio space—not, like, walking around outside in a big open field at 1:00 AM, just singing and playing.”
He laughs. “And the good thing is, I was on this secluded property, so nobody could see me—it didn't matter if I looked like a total goofball just wandering around in my jean shorts strumming an acoustic guitar.”
The material that Gispert came up at the farm with was primarily acoustic-based, but at the same time still incredibly diverse, from the dark folk of “Magnolia Sunrise” to the ambient tones of “Life in the Goldilocks Zone”; the T. Rex-y groove-glam of “Volcano,” to the lo-fi garage-fuzz of “Is It Nine”; the exuberant mariachi-horn-rock of “Too Dumb to Love Anyone” (the one composition Gispert says was originally written with the Whigs in mind) to the oddball genre exercise “Do Some Country.”
That last one also features some witty wordplay (“I am a rock artist,” Gispert sings, before adding, “I paint pictures on limestone”), as well as a unique origin story regarding its title. “I was at a Nikki Lane show,” Gispert recalls, “and in between songs this woman in the audience kept yelling [in heavy southern accent] “C’mon Nikki! Do some country!” And my friend and I were just like, ‘Man...that would be such a sweet song title!’ ”
There are other lighthearted moments on Sunlight Tonight, such as the nursery-rhyme-like “Is It Nine,” on which Gispert attempts to determine which number would fit best into the alphabet. The genesis of that riddle? “It was just a ridiculous question I asked myself, and I had never heard a song about that particular question before,” he explains. “So I thought for my first solo album it would be a good idea to have one track that was uniquely ‘Parker.’ Because there are so many love songs or political songs or whatever out there already.”
Which is not to say that Gispert shies away from those topics on Sunlight Tonight. “Too Dumb to Love Anyone,” for one, addresses his present station in life as an unwedded man. “I'm 36, and most of my friends are at that point where they’re getting married and having kids,” he says. “And my friends' wives will say things to me like, ‘Parker, when are you gonna meet somebody and join the club?’ So I always say, the only thing standing in between me and a great relationship is that the idea has never occurred to me.”
Then there’s “Magnolia Sunrise,” which unfolds somewhat uneventfully, with Gispert grabbing breakfast at a local diner (“Coffee, Tennessee / grits made to order”) before an anxious waitress shatters his mundane tranquility: “There’s still a lot that could go wrong,” she tells him.
As the guitar accompaniment builds and the orchestral strings turn frantic, Gispert intones, ominously, “One Saturday morning / there will be no warning.”
The narrative, Gispert says, “is based on a real interaction I had, at a diner right down the road that I’d go to all the time in the mornings. I ended up talking to this waitress who was having irrational fears of, like, a hurricane coming, or a nuclear threat. It brings up this idea of, you could be chilling out, enjoying your day, and when you least expect it, that's when something happens—tragedy could be right around the corner.”
Clearly, Gispert’s environment and experiences at the farm factored heavily into the words and music he wrote for Sunlight Tonight. But when it came time to record the material, he left his rural surroundings behind and headed back into Nashville, cutting tracks at Blackbird Studios and Hacienda Studios, with producer Emery Dobyns (Patti Smith, Antony and the Johnsons) at the helm. Dobyns also added various instrumentation to the tracks, alongside contributions from Black Keys drummer Patrick Carney, former Sparklehorse vocalist Sol Seppy and Adele bassist Samuel Dixon, among other musicians. “It was like there was one phase of the record, which was me alone writing everything,” Gispert says. “And then there was the second phase, the studio phase, which was very much a team effort, with Emery shaping the record sonically and production-wise.”
When it comes to playing this material live, however, Gispert has been going it alone—an atypical arrangement for him onstage, but one that he’s been finding incredibly satisfying. “I love it a lot,” he says about being out on his own. “I feel really comfortable up there by myself, and in some respects I'm able to connect with the crowd in a way that I never was able to do with a band.”
That said, Gispert still gets plenty of opportunities to play with his band, as the Whigs continue to reconvene for sporadic live shows, including a recent spate of dates celebrating the tenth anniversary of their 2008 record, Mission Control. But far from his solo endeavors having a negative impact on the group, he’s found the opposite to be true. “I'd always been afraid of doing something solo because I thought it might mess up the band vibe, but now I'm able to see that it actually helps,” Gispert says. “When we do get back together to play, it's fun and it's fresh and it has new life.”
As for what the future holds, Gispert is open to any and all possibilities that might follow in the wake of Sunlight Tonight. “Because I didn't even see any of this happening, you know?” he says. “So I can’t really say what comes next. But it’s almost like a weight off my shoulders to not really know where I'm going from here.”
One thing he can say for sure: the farm that served as both inspiration and companion to Gispert throughout the writing process for Sunlight Tonight is now a thing of the past.
“I’ve moved away,” he reports. “I’m living over by a lake now.”
Gispert laughs. “I’m trying to switch it up.”
The Jahnnies (Rooftop)