After a five-year absence, Athens Popfest finally makes its long-awaited return today. And while the four-day festival boasts some spectacular headliners — like Deerhoof and Daniel Johnston, to name a few — attendees would do well to check out a number of exemplary local acts, too. Considering one of the defining goals of the event is to introduce folks to exciting music they’ve never heard of before, curious fans are sure to be rewarded if they arrive early and give the Athens underground a chance. In that sprit of exploration, here are ten hidden gems — some established, some emerging — to catch at Popfest this year.

Antlered Aunt Lord

Antlered Aunt Lord

Thursday, August 11 at the Georgia Theatre
Set Time: 8:45 p.m.

Antlered Aunt Lord is the solo project of Tunabunny drummer Jesse Stinnard, who just so happens to be quite adept at churning out off-kilter garage pop and frazzled fuzz anthems on his own. His latest LP, Ostensibly Formerly Stunted (and on fire), was released earlier this year, continuing Stinnard’s streak of eccentric yet tuneful records bursting with unvarnished creativity.

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Dead Neighbors

Dead Neighbors

Thursday, August 11 at the Georgia Theatre
Set Time: 8 p.m.

For a band that engages in lo-fi slacker rock played with a sly wink and a bemused shrug, Dead Neighbors do their damnedest to cover the indie rock spectrum. Across their three releases, the group pulls from punk, shoegaze, surf, pop, math rock, and who knows what else to create a sound that’s lively and inventive.

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Eureka California

Credit: Stacey Piotrowski

Eureka California

Saturday, August 13 at the Georgia Theatre
Set Time: 10:30 p.m.

Eureka California’s music strikes exactly as their name would indicate — both as an exclamation and a distinct destination that hints at euphoric ideals like freedom and sunshine. Jake Ward and Marie Uhler’s rocket-fueled take on crunchy pop is as catchy as it is exhilarating, so expect an array of fist-pumping anthems delivered at maximum volume. As our own Russell Rockwell wrote earlier this year: “Like Japandroids with a dose of ’60s pop, this is sunshiney music that makes you feel warm inside while your eyeballs are melting.”

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Feather Trade

Feather Trade

Friday, August 12 at the Georgia Theatre
Set Time: 8:45 p.m.

This dramatic post-punk trio carry the torch for dark glamor in Athens; just this year, they opened for like-minded nightcrawlers the Soft Moon. They’ve also honed an impressive array of covers, from latter-day Wire to Phil Collins. Right now, Feather Trade own little more than a demo and a few videos to their name, so you’ll have to catch them live to fully submerse yourself in the shadows.

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Gláss

Gláss

Thursday, August 11 at Little Kings
Set Time: 2:30 p.m.

Ever since they relocated from Greenville, South Carolina, post-punk trio Gláss have injected the Athens scene with a much needed dose of somber intensity. But while their demeanor may be stern and their music for the most part moody and frigid, don’t think that the band can’t flip the switch and burn down the house.

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Hunger Athem

Hunger Anthem

Wednesday, August 10 at Little Kings
Set Time: 4 p.m.

This scuzzy trio formed a couple years back, and has since touted their world-weary, rough-and-tumble songs around the Southern states. In his spare time, frontman Brendan Vaganek crafts stories from ordinary life, and that knack for perceptive authenticity carries through in his songwriting. While Hunger Anthem only has one tape to their name thus far, another album is in the works. Guided By Voices fans should definitely check ’em out.

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Outersea

Outersea

Saturday, August 13 at World Famous
Set Time: 6:45 p.m.

In typical Athens fashion, several veterans of the scene joined together for this new band of space travelers. Featuring current and former members of Grape Soda, Maximum Busy Muscle, Sea of Dogs, Hot Fudge, and Dark Meat, Outersea unite surf jams with quirky electronics to glide across the stars.

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Ruby the Rabbitfoot

Ruby the Rabbitfoot

Saturday, August 13 at the Georgia Theatre
Set Time: 9:45 p.m.

In a town known for ringing guitars, you wouldn’t think to look for a rising synthpop star. Yet Ruby the Rabbitfoot shines with glittery production, sophisticated arrangements, and Ruby Kendrick’s coy and clever lyrics. Look out for her latest LP, Divorce Party, on the merch table when she plays Saturday night.

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Shehehe

Shehehe

Thursday, August 11 at Little Kings
Set Time: 4 p.m.

Every festival needs a dose of rowdy, infectious punk and Shehehe are here to make sure Popfest attendees get their fair share. The Athens mainstays play classic anthemic punk with an exploratory edge for those of us who prefer our underground music a bit more challenging.

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Tunabunny

Tunabunny

Thursday, August 11 at the Georgia Theatre
Set Time: 11:30 p.m.

Often outsiders in their own hometown, Tunabunny revel in collapsing the borders between rock, pop, and the avant-garde. While they’re best known for their shambolic Pavement-esque sound, their fourth and latest album, Kingdom Technology, features a slew of skewed noises from a synthesizer found in a dumpster. Live, the Tunabunnies often swap instruments, bang things together, and create loads of feedback drone. Be prepared for madness.

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Athens Popfest kicks off today and runs through Saturday. To order tickets, check the full schedule, look at lodging options, and more, visit their website.

More Info
Web: athenspopfest.com
Facebook: @athenspopfest
Twitter: @AthensPopFest