It was clear from the first few notes of No Clouds’ set that JORTSFEST 2015 was going to be a unique festival. The three-piece pummeled the surprising number of early attendees with melodic hardcore, catching us all off guard with a level of musical ferocity not usually seen at 4:30 in the afternoon.

The free, DIY, all-ages fest was designed and curated by Maria Sotnikova and Michael Leon to bring various musical genres together in farewell to summer. The musical diversity was obvious when the next band, Femignome, took the stage. Sisters Anna and Kate Jacobson continue to broaden and refine their rollicking garage rock and really got the crowd into their set with short, punchy songs such as “I Hate High School.”

As their irrepressible beats bounced over the bobbing heads of the audience, people continued to stream into Under the Couch at Georgia Tech. Femignome was followed by the bluesy surf rock of Antarcticats, who channeled Link Wray with their song “Typhoon,” and the boisterous power pop of Sea Ghost. This was Sea Ghost frontman Carter Sutherland’s second JORTSFEST (the first was with his band Yolk in 2013), and his comfort with the crowd was obvious as he enlisted audience help for an uneven, but energetic cover of the Strokes’ “Reptilia.”

Femignome - Live at Jortfest

Dakota Floyd’s acoustic pop punk set was a nice breather after the wild antics of Sea Ghost, but the crowd was soon again whipped into a frenzy by the Scraps. I had heard rumors of their live show intensity, but I was still surprised by the absolute vocal violence of singer Livvie Brookshire. She growled and screamed at a blistering pace, sending shockwaves through a venue which at this point had become rather sweaty. The high point of their set was “Schizophrenic,” which combined the band’s dirty garage punk with vicious Iron Maiden-style shredding.

After the Scraps’ set, the fest seemed to hit a lull, but despite the smaller crowd, Dog Years’ infectious emo energy and impressive musicianship kept the energy going for Tape Waves’ dreamy beach pop. This Charleston, SC duo continues to receive accolades for their 2014 album Let You Go, and played the most laid-back set of the day, inundating the audience with sugary vibes for a 30-minute set which felt much too short.

The only other out of town band on the bill, Gillian Carter, played next and delivered a challenging mix of dark, experimental post-hardcore which I could hardly believe was coming from only two people. The Palm Bay, FL band was on the 24th stop of their tour and somehow still blazed through their set without missing a note, while still engaging in some instrument switching antics. Local favorites Twin Studies closed the fest with their poppy shoegaze, a welcome respite for the tired crowd. The concentrated perfection of their mechanical style was a dramatic shift after the unhinged energy of Gillian Carter, but as they drifted seamlessly from song to song, they unified the wide range of acts from the day under a buzzing and echoing wall of sound.

Like the previous two years, this year’s JORTSFEST is a testament to the energy that comes from a wide diversity of music. As I left the festival all I could think was how weird it was that all the bands ended up fitting so well together, but I can’t wait to see what odd mix of music Sotnikova and Leon have planned for next year.


All photos by Kenedee Hodges. Click to enlarge.

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