If watching Iggy Pop caper and cavort around an East Atlanta stage with his wired strut and primal howl is you’re idea of a dream, you’re not alone. When PBR Field Marketing rep Luis Sandoval and his team of organizers began planning the second iteration of Project Pabst Atlanta, the Godfather of Punk sat high atop their wish list of performers. From there it was just a matter of moving through the list and searching for complimentary acts — edgy, innovative, cathartic — that crossed over genre lines and, to a lesser degree, cultural boundaries.
But while Iggy Pop, Dinosaur Jr., the Internet, Peaches, and Atlanta’s reigning queens of punk, the Coathangers, may provide the star power and marketing pull necessary to draw wide interest and put bodies onto the streets of the East Atlanta Village this Saturday, the bulk of the remaining acts are tied heavily to the local music scene. And that’s no coincidence. When conceiving this year’s festival, Sandoval, a former local promoter and artist manager, pushed his colleagues to allow him to book a local stage, now known as the Captain Pabst Stage. Somewhere along the line, however, the festival expanded beyond a single stage of local acts and essentially ended up with two.
Take a look at this year’s schedule and you’ll notice the bills for both the Captain Pabst Stage and the EARL are comprised exclusively of artists associated primarily with the Atlanta and Athens music scenes. That’s an impressive feat to be sure, but perhaps more striking is the diversity of acts and music genres involved. Credit some of that to Sandoval’s wide-ranging palate, as well as his willingness to trust his gut and draw from first-hand experience.
“My booking process is really simple,” Sandoval says. “Over the past couple of years working for PBR I’ve been fortunate to sponsor all kinds of shows and parties. I saw Lord Narf open for Princess Nokia at MJQ. I saw Vincas and RMBLR rip at The Mess Around. I saw Goldyard play a benefit for Grip Plyaz. I’ve seen A Drug Called Tradition all over the city! I took mental notes, and when I got the go-ahead I knew the lineup had to be as diverse as the year I’ve had.”
In order to help attendees comb through the extensive list of locals performing this year, we decided it would be prudent to create this handy preview to Project Pabst 2017. As a means of providing some separation between artists, we also placed each act into one of three categories, which we’re calling the Groove, the Dark, and the Ugly (cue Ennio Morricone). It may not be the most elegant system, but it does answer basic questions regarding each artist and maybe provide some important clues to those deciding whether they want to dance or rage against the light on Saturday. Let’s get started.
Ruby Velle & the Soulphonics
Playing the Unicorn Stage // 1 p.m.
Ruby Velle & the Soulphonics have long remained Atlanta’s premier classic soul-revivalist collective, but as the group continues work on their long-awaited sophomore full length, the band is promising a significant evolution beyond the deep Stax funk and polished Motown stomp they’ve become known for. With a voice both elegant and powerfully raw, Velle can bring down the house and the Soulphonics have consistently proven they have the fiery grooves to keep it burning long after the show is over. – Avery Shepherd
Playing the Captain Pabst Stage // 1:45 p.m.
One of Awful Records’ most underrated magi, Lord Narf squats into the label’s trademark haze and spits filthy potshots at her myriad foes. Although she’s most at home in beast mode with Slug Christ, her Witchcraft mixtape projected Narf into many swampy lands, with the likes of labelmates Father, Ethereal, and Tommy Genesis. – Lee Adcock
A Drug Called Tradition
Playing the Captain Pabst Stage // 4:15 p.m.
Merging the exploratory spirit of psychedelic rock with insistent krautrock grooves and shimmering shoegaze textures, A Drug Called Tradition craft the sort of wide-screen odysseys you need to surrender to in order to truly appreciate. The Atlanta trio remain one of the local scene’s most active participants, so come prepared for a tight and steady dose of well-layered fuzz and mind-bending sonic jams. – Guillermo Castro
Gentleman Jesse & His Men
Playing the EARL // 5:50 p.m.
It’s been 10 years since Carbonas released their final LP, but in the decade since, Jesse Smith has been perfecting his own vintage brand of power pop as Gentleman Jesse & His Men. Smith’s songwriting has been championed for its witty phraseology as much as its catchy hooks, but there’s a rich wisdom behind each track that comes from slugging it out in the Atlanta punk scene for nearly 20 years. To be sure, the high-energy tracks aren’t a bad soundtrack for swilling beer, but pay attention and you’ll find some serious emotional depth beneath the raucous rock and roll. – Russell Rockwell
Playing the Captain Pabst Stage // 5:30 p.m.
Alt-rap? Trap-pop? However you want to label Goldyard, the only reality that matters is the group knows how to craft street-wise bangers from any number of aesthetic angles and creative viewpoints. AT and In-Doe don’t require much in the way of production to let their faded bars fly, but fortunately the duo always come armed with an arsenal of narcotic funk to get the crowd moving. – AS
The Difference Machine
Playing the EARL // 11 p.m.
The Difference Machine’s psychedelic hip-hop grooves and blunt-blasted beats will take you to the edge of the cosmos and back, but not before dropping some seriously heady knowledge on you along the way. Frontman/rapper DT has long been one of the city’s most potent and inventive wordsmiths, and the group’s dense, exploratory aesthetic provides the ideal platform for his third eye flow. – AS