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SlingShot 2016: A Field Guide

SlingShot 2016: A Field Guide

 

 

 

This past weekend’s Slingshot Festival was something of a choose your own adventure scenario. While many a Classic City weekend can be spent taking in musical acts of all flavor, this weekend in particular was a veritable smorgasbord of auditory delights, piled high with options. And who doesn’t like options?

As in years past, organizers stacked the decks with such an assortment of talent the biggest dilemma for festival goers was who to see next. In the spirit of, you know, journalism I did my best to see ‘em all. I did not succeed, but damn it if I didn’t I have a good time trying. I’ll save the band by band break down for the poor suckers who have to interact with me in real life. For you, dearest internet strangers, I offer my Slingshot 2016 highlight reel.

 

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The Suffers. Dear, god in heaven, The Suffers.

 

Being a “gulf coast soul” neophyte prior to arriving at the Georgia Theater Thursday night I had no idea what to expect from this as  of yet unknown to me band hailing from somewhere in Texas. Strolling out onto the stage I’m struck first by the sheer number of band mates. 1…2….3…4….holy crap…5?…6…really?…7.. ok, damn.…you guys can count…. 10.

TEN freaking people walk out, one of which is wearing a fire engine red, full sequin, dress and an equally glorious glowing halo of an afro the likes of which I haven’t seen since  that time I taught my Mom how to use YouTube and then subsequently ended up spending the better part of one twenty-something Friday  evening watching old Roberta Flack performances with her {toooootttally worth it by the way}. I am, needless to say, intrigued.

Here’s my theory on bands with, like, a bajillion members: It’s bit like naming your kid Tiger. Expectations of epic-ness are high. Don’t show up with that many people unless you mean to absolutely lay waste to the stage.

And sweet ninja warriors, did The Suffers lay waste to that stage.

You know those impossibly cool dinner parties you think you’ll be hosting/ attending once you’re a real, actual, legitimate grown up? (Just me?) The ones with the chic to death menus that are somehow both impressive and full of stuff you actually want to eat? Probably being held at your coolest yet most chill friend’s house?

There are definitely string lights somewhere and the music is this perfect cocktail of retro, but modern; super cool, but approachable,  and upbeat but  not ,like, obnoxiously upbeat? There’s a trumpet AND a saxophone  (as well as a host of other instruments you’re usually too much of a pleb’ to fully appreciate) but you still feel like you “get” it and a smokey voiced siren at the mic sounds so good she might make Adele half contemplate shooting herself in the face for a second. I mean, she won’t do it. She’s Adele. But she’ll pull a hard stare and think about it. (Still just me? Typical.)

Well THAT band would be The Suffers. While attempting to describe them to a friend later that night I’m pretty sure I said something to the affect of, “If the Alabama Shakes kidnapped the guy who plays the super dope trumpet part of that one Justin Bieber song none of us will admit publicly to liking, and then all piled into a time machine that somehow magically teleported them all to the moody supper club scene in Goodfellas that would so be this band that I just saw”.  And while my pithy remarks on the subject may not be the most eloquent thing I’ve ever said, nor the most fair to the band considering the superior musicianship of each and every member of their ensemble, I generally stand by it.  I’m a reductionist jerk, but I’m a reductionist jerk who’s now a total fangirl. If you have the opportunity- go out of your way to check this band out. Seriously. Do it.

 

Friday I found myself in a bit of a musical quagmire. There were several acts I really wanted to see but sadly technology has not yet advanced to the point of there being two of me running around so I had to make a choice. I went with Deep State at the 40 Watt and I don’t at all regret that decision. They rock. End of story.

 

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The real Cinderella story of the 40 Watt on this particular evening though was this two broad tour de force called Crunchy.

First of all, they had on matching little black tees emblazoned with the feminist anthem “The future is female” so uhhhh, HI, let’s be best friends for the rest of all eternity k thanks.

Secondly, and this reference is probably going to alienate all the millennials, but honestly I’m doing you guys a favor since this is nothing a little Netflix can’t remedy & really you’ll all be better people for broadening your horizons in this regard…..

Once upon a time in the mid to late 90’s, when the bands were gargage-y and the Jacksons were Luscious, there was a tv show called Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In addition to, as her moniker might lead one to infer, handling the slaying of vampires this flawlessly outfitted; perfectly coifed teen also partied every single school night at a swank night club for teenagers called The Bronze.

If you’re thinking this makes absolutely no sense, well, it doesn’t but such was the charm of the 90’s. Sense was for the birds, all we cared about was looking cool. The Bronze always had THE coolest, guitar driven, slightly angsty, oft times female fronted bands playing. Being a garage-less city kid of dubious musical ability and little to no hope of ever starting one such band myself, I LIVED for the idea that a Bronze-esque establishment would one day open nearby so that I too might kick it with brooding creative types instead of doing my Algebra homework.

Alas, it was not to be.

Fast forward more years that I care to cop to,  and grown up me saunters in to a bar, on what is technically a school night, and encounters the girl band of my adolescent dreams. Crunchy guitar, female vox, and all the attitude and eyeliner you’d expect from pair of bonafide 90’s babes. Regardless of what it actually sounds like, the best of what music is suppose to be finds a way to transport us to places we fear we can no longer reach. Thanks, Crunchy, for the cab ride back thru my misspent youth!

 

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Up next, we headed back to the Georgia Theater to scope out a singer songwriter hailing from the Mid West that I have a total lady crush on.

Angel Olsen is an aptly named person if ever there was one. Calling her voice angelic is something of an understatement though. It’s funny how just the night before I’d watched the very same stage, filled with so many musicians I could hardly conceive of it ever being otherwise, and now this wisp of a songwriter with not much more than her hauntingly crystalline voice, bitchin bangs, and stripped down guitar chords challenged me to reconsider if I’d ever even been there at all.

I was standing in nearly the same place, and yet I was miles away. What a strange and beautiful thing to crowd watch at a concert. To observe as a hush fall over hundreds of people all straining to hear every soaring note or dipping dive of a single voice as it begins to sing.

Perhaps even more powerful than a room full of people jumping up and down in unison is the sight of an entire theater standing there in rapt stillness.

There’s much I could say about Angel’s performance but I fear most of it would fall woefully short of capturing just how beautiful it truly was. There was a earnestness and vulnerability that maybe one shouldn’t try to put into words for others, and I was so stricken by the honesty of what she did up there on that stage that I don’t have the full benefit of my usual cynicism or wit to even attempt it.

As a side note: props to her lighting guys. Hands down the most evocative and elegantly understated lighting design of the entire weekend. Those guys never get any love, here’s to you!

 

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The final day of the festival kicked off at Creature Comforts. Day-drinking, bands, free food and a sneak peek at the handiwork of some of the Repurpose Project’s participants- not bad for a Saturday afternoon! Several bands rocked the outdoor stage, but Dirty Dishes and New Madrid were stand outs .

After stuffing ourselves with a melange of deep fried delectables at World Famous, we headed back to our next round of shows. Suicide Year, Gaslamp Killer & Crystal Castles. Well done Slingshot for stringing together this trifecta.

Suicideyear kicked things off with dope beats, atmospheric feels and a good ol’ fashioned emotional baselines. I’m very into the idea of soundtracking my life and I can honestly see several Suicideyear tracks making the cut.

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Gaslamp Killer was up next.

This guy is cinematic, intense, and very into his craft. Blending beats and an unstoppable arsenal of global goodness into an what felt like a very sexy jaunt around the world, GLK was easily my favorite DJ performance of the weekend. While I will flail around like a crazy person with the best of them for just about anything with a good beat, I have to be honest in saying I don’t typically find myself identifying with DJs at all.

I like the music. I just can’t relate as readily to the people making it. That wasn’t the case with Gaslamp Killer. He wasn’t just vacantly standing behind a turntable playing snippets of songs we already love, he was inhabiting that space and weaving together lush, dynamic, soundscapes.

It brings to mind the way in which a collage artist takes bits of existing imagery and spins it into a work entirely it’s own living breathing entity. His sense of purpose was palpable. This guy was doing something, sharing something. it’s hard not to be moved by that sort of raw performance. Plus the music just made you want to move your body and  then perhaps buy a plane ticket to somewhere you’ve never been before.

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Last but not least, Crystal Castles. I won’t be too much of a hipster and wax philosophical about this year’s headliner. Suffices to say, collectively, we the general populace were jazzed. Edith Francis strode out onto the stage in a getup reminiscent of Faye Dunaway circa Bonnie and Clyde, cinched at the waist, as you might expect, with a cooler-than-thou neon orange glow necklace. We haven’t even started dancing yet and I felt light headed. She is painfully cool. What transpired next was a fitting tribute to the festival as a whole. It felt like the entire city of Athens packed into the venue, and shoulder to shoulder we danced it out. Slingshot, you did yourself proud and hooked us up! Can’t wait to see who’s on the ticket next year!

Jen Tello

Jen Tello

Jen here. Bon Vivant and reveler extraordinaire, ready to risk life and liver to bring you a no bs look at nightlife, culture and all the other things you probably want to be doing this weekend. I don’t write like a “writer” because ,honestly, no one ever calls their writer friends at 2 am asking where the party is.



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