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Home or Away?

Another weekend, another festival decision

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Two weekends ago, Atlanta could choose between a large radio-sponsored music festival or a large magazine-sponsored music festival. Turns out it rained and both kind of lost due to poor turnouts, despite littering Atlanta with celebrities both larger-than-life and up-and-coming.

This week, the hipsters, bohemians and local music snobs have to make a choice between the always-a-blast, one-and-a-half-hours-away celebration of the college town where everyone's in a band known as AthFest, or the never-a-dull-moment, hometown three-night rock show plus batter-covered tube-steak extravaganza called Corndogorama.

Typically, those who hang out in East Atlanta or Athens don't have to make this choice. Usually, the two local fests are staggered on neighboring weekends. But 2005 is a year of new choices. And for this particular moment in time, if you've heard and love bands like Pylon, the Whigs, the Forty-Fives and A Fir-Ju Well, the choice at hand is the same one presented at the beginning of every baseball videogame: home or away?

To make it easier on you - and assuming you have transportation to pull this off - we've tried to break down the events of the weekend and declare daily winners based on lineup, price, convenience and other miscellaneous items. Because this is Creative Loafing and not that Athens alt-weekly, we declare home base as the intersection of Ponce de Leon Avenue and Boulevard. So music fans, here's where you're going this weekend:

Thurs., June 23

At AthFest: The after-party at the 40 Watt for Flagpole's local music awards show and the AthFest CD release party features Love Tractor, a Public Image Ltd.-channeling reunited elder from the Classic City's '80s heyday; Count Kellam, an earnest singer/songwriter and former member of the folk-pop band Bain Mattox; and Coulier!, a math-by-way-of-metal and post-rock-courtesy-of-buzz band.

At Corndogorama: There's a show being labeled "Baby Corn," but for the sake of the bands taking part in the real festival, we're going to discount this show. It's not as if there's going to be any meat on sticks at the Earl tonight.

Decision: Neither Love Tractor, Count or Coulier! has any upcoming dates scheduled in the Atlanta area. Fill your tank and head east, and grab some fries and feta at the Grill before the 68.9 mile ride home. Work on Friday may be a bit of a drag.Fri., June 24

At AthFest: The festivities start on one of two free outdoor stages with Chapel Hill, N.C., gimmick band SNMNMNM, who use a tuba for its low-end sound, punctuate all its songs with exclamation points, and use the band members' first initials for the name. How quaint. Also on the streets are rustic Americana songwriter Ken Will Morton & the Wholly Ghosts, and influential frontman of U.K. new wavers Swell Maps, Nikki Sudden. The two headliners are accordion-equipped, commune-dwelling, Elephant 6 psych-poppers Elf Power, and Athens legends Pylon, who jangled back into existence last August.

In the clubs, AthFest keeps the intensity just as high as in the open air. The 40 Watt hosts heavy-rocking scene stalwarts Jet By Day, dance-math wunderkinds We Versus the Shark, and metal-tinged disco from the Psychic Hearts. Caledonia Lounge also features a strong lineup boasting a new collaboration between three-fourths of the now-defunct Paper Lions and a quarter of Maserati called Teenage Meth Lab (good formula, C+ name). Also on the bill is a healthy and ready-to-dance I Am the World Trade Center and a new Maserati lineup. Elsewhere, there's the Palace-ish musings of Phosphorescent; a trio of bands from Elf Power member Laura Carter's Orange Twin label, including the Late B.P. Helium; Zach Gresham's meandering musings vehicle Summer Hymns; and Atlanta alt-rock playboys Second Shift and Red Letter Agent, who can only benefit from Coldplay releasing a new album.

At Corndogorama: Earl booking agent Patrick Hill pulled out all the stops for Friday night, booking a veritable who's who of local indie rock. He's got the smoky-voiced Troy Bieser of the upright bass-equipped Telegram kicking things off, followed by organic Athens folkies Hope for Agoldensummer. The always funny Y-O-U will try to take its antics to the Earl's small stage, before Mary Byrne and Hot Young Priest tear through a set of fem-spiced pop rock. Then come the big guns: Michelle Dubois fronts the muscular indie pop of Luigi, and wistful indie rock comes through out-of-towners the Oranges Band, not to mention lovable scene veterans and harmony purveyors the Close. The night ends with the psych-drenched free-for-all that is the four wandering souls of A Fir-Ju Well.

Decision: This one's a tough call. But considering frequency of performance — you'll have plenty of other chances to catch the bands at the Earl — and the fact that Pylon, Nikki Sudden and Elf Power are playing for free, a road trip may be in order. The eventual tie-breaker: We Versus the Shark is one of the best live bands the state of Georgia has seen in a while. Another 68.9 miles each way for you.Sat., June 25

At AthFest: The festivities get started at noon on the outdoor stages, but the serious rocking gets going around 6 p.m. when the twangy croon of Clay Leverett's Chasers hit the stage, followed by Open Mic Madness 2002 winner Bain Mattox and his wealth of folk instruments. They're joined on the main stage by aging punks with punch Five-Eight and headlining newbies the Whigs, who have been making waves since 2003 and are still without recorded material.

In the clubs, there are some refugees from Friday's Corndogorama lineup: The Close go east along with Y-O-U and Hope for Agoldensummer. (Jet By Day takes the hint and heads for the ATL.) The swamp rock Star Bar crowd will be happy to see Mother Jackson and Southern Bitch, while roots and bluegrass reign at the Georgia Theatre thanks to Randall Bramblett and Stewart & Winfield. Skinny boys with heart tattoos and indie kids who make their own stickers will flip for the twee-pop Happy Happy Birthday to Me Records showcase featuring Boyracer and 63 Crayons (Get it? One less than a 64-pack?). Elsewhere, rap gets a turn when Minamina Goodsong and Ishues hook up with instrumental hip-hoppers eLeMeN.O.P. Tasty World turns from frat boy land into post-punk den when Heros Severum and math rockers Cinemechanica and Disband drop in.

At Corndogorama: Musically, Corndog will be on target starting around 3 p.m. when the alt-country duo No River City begins. Shortly after, a corndog eating contest follows, as does '90s Athens outfit Magnapop, which is seemingly playing the wrong festival. Then there's an indie-rock power alley made up of new scene favorites like abstract noisemakers Deerhunter, the carefully constructed punk of the Liverhearts, and the hypnotic dance punk of the Orphins. The night ends when two of Atlanta's favorite garage-rock outfits blast the Earl's doors off. The sweat-stained Woggles and the stylized Forty-Fives finish things off like a real ol' time house party.

Decision: Draw. It really depends on where you are tonight. If you're in Athens, stay. Ditto for those in Atlanta. Sun., June 26

At AthFest: A full day of music begins with a worship service led by the Morton Praise Band on the outdoor stage at 11 a.m. Then there's more bluegrass from the Packway Handle Band, more roots from Cigar Store Indians, the '80s Brit-pop lovin' Bill Mallonee, and the once-famous VH1-crowd star Shawn Mullins.

At Corndogorama: There will be no prayer services at the Earl today. Instead, Corndog will end as it traditionally does, with its most aggressive night of music. Come survey the damage done to the backroom when the Sonic Youth bastard spawn Untied States clutter the air with disorderly but deftly planned art rock. The brothers Rizzudo apply their frantic synth-based compositions to curing your beer and corndog hangover, sandwiched between Teenage Meth Lab and Maserati, who come in from Athens to polish things off.

Decision: While AthFest goes soft and cuddly for a leisurely Sunday, things in East Atlanta will continue at full throttle. There's no reason to stop now. If you're looking for a real day of rest, quit driving. Grab a corndog and hit the Earl. Hell, it's only 3.6 miles from home base and you can sleep in.

music@creativeloafing.com

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