Dawgs take on AthFest

Jester, Ashely Walls and Elijah Johnston, all students at UGA, will be performing in the 2019 AthFest Club Crawl on Friday, June 21, 2019, in Athens, Georgia. (Center photo/Gabriella Audi, www.gabbyaudi10.wixsite.com/mysite-1)


Jester will be taking the Mainstage at the Georgia Theatre during the Club Crawl for its first performance at AthFest Music and Arts Festival, which also happens to be its last time playing together as a group.

The band, consisting of University of Georgia students Tommy Trautwein, Andrew Wilson, Clay Milling and Hayden Busch, has been together since summer 2017 after the members’ freshman year and will end its time together two years later at the 23rd annual AthFest.

Jester came into being once Trautwein, Wilson, Milling and Busch decided they were serious about playing music and began holding regular summer practices at Trautwein’s house in the summer of 2017. Over the course of several months, the group wrote a handful of original songs.

“Someone had asked me to play a gig on the second day of school … and I was like, ‘Yeah!’” Trautwein said.

But he didn’t have a band yet. Wilson suggested the four get together and write some songs over the summer to prepare for the gig. The rest is history.

“Immediately it was just amazing chemistry and everybody was so fired up about it,” Trautwein said.

In March 2018, less than one year after Jester’s inception, the band had the opportunity to play at the Georgia Theatre as an opening act for Light Brigade.

“We opened up [the Georgia Theatre], which was a dream,” Trautwein said. “It was on the bucket list for all of us.”

From that performance, Jester proved that it was serious about playing music and got its foot in the door for future performances.

In 2019, after a strong few months of playing shows and writing songs, Jester decided to take a break from performing.

They met for a few practices. School got busier. And eventually, Trautwein said it felt like the band was forcing it. The members decided to come back when they were ready.

That time never came, and the band decided the best course of action was to stop playing together.

“Everyone was so involved in their own things and didn’t think that Jester was doable with everybody’s different levels of motivation,” said Trautwein.

Though this will be Jester’s final show, it still have two new singles to perform that were produced in April 2019. The band will be debuting “Know I’m Not” and “Fix” at the Club Crawl, as well as a few unreleased songs in addition to its go-to set.

“We’re just so grateful for Athens and all the support and love its given Jester,” Trautwein said. “We’re so excited to play our final show on the stage we love the most in front of our friends and family and the Athens community.”

Ashley Walls

Local musician Ashley Walls has always wanted to sing. Now, she’s preparing to move to Nashville to pursue a career in country music.

Walls got serious about writing music in middle school and began recording her songs in high school. She performed everywhere from high school pep rallies to music venues around metro Atlanta.

Since coming to the University of Georgia, Walls has performed in headlining gigs, often at The Foundry, as well as in singer-songwriter rounds.

But geing a student as well as a performer is not all it’s cracked up to be. Walls often times finds herself choosing between excelling in her studies, at her promotions internship with Six Strings Southern Productions or on the stage.

“It’s also hard, like the struggle of, ‘Hey, should I be studying for my test or should I be practicing for this show?’” she said.

Walls has also gotten experience on the business end of her career, saying the music business has taught her how to be a “better businesswoman.”

“It’s helped me make better negotiation deals, like booking myself and getting paid more,” Walls said.

Walls played in the AthFest Club Crawl last year at The Foundry as well. Most of her gigs are at the venue.

“I just have allegiance there,” Walls said. “Before I came to UGA I played there once and the booking agent really liked me, and now we’ve become friends since I play there so much.”

The singer-songwriter is excited to play her rock-country music at The Foundry for the AthFest Country Music Showcase, as she said the venue is typically more folk-themed than rock-themed.

“During AthFest [The Foundry] leans more towards contemporary country, like modern rock,” Walls said. “The crowd’s a little bit different, I’d say they’re more geared towards rock music, which is why The Foundry kind of changes who they bring in.”

Though Athens is very much a music town, moving to Nashville will be a big jump for her. Walls knows she has to go into it with a game plan — her ultimate goal is to be signed by a booking agent and to go on tour with a big act.

“I’m going to co-write in the mornings and then play in writer’s rounds at night till the summer,” she said.

Elijah Johnston

Elijah Johnston, a rising third-year journalism major, is a solo singer-songwriter and a bass player in the band Well Kept.

Johnston does it all — he writes his own music and plays in a band, all while being a full-time student. He admits that keeping up with everything can be a struggle.

“That’s tricky,” he said. “I’m not always the best at prioritizing things.”

Johnston partially credits his ability to be both a student and a musician to the nature of the journalism program at UGA and the support of understanding professors.

“I’ve had professors kind of work with me on certain things or be gracious to me in certain ways because they know there’s this music stuff going on, so it’s been easy to navigate for the most part,” Johnston said.

He’s been playing guitar and bass since he was 14 and writing his own music for almost as long. But Johnston didn’t seriously get involved in the Athens music scene until the past year.

“It used to be a thing where I would go home and do it and it wasn’t particularly serious,” Johnston said. “I think, start of sophomore year I decided to have it be a bit more of a thing I was invested in, and part of that was doing it in Athens rather than just at home.”

He started playing bass for the band Well Kept, fronted by Tommy Trautwein, in February 2019.

“It happened very naturally,” Johnston said.

Trautwein plays bass in Johnston’s live band, so the two “kind of switched roles.”

“It was never like ‘Let’s sit down and start a band,’” he said. “It was like ‘Let’s just do more.’”

“Wonderful,” Johnston’s new EP, was released in March. The experience was new for him because it was the first time he let others in on his creative music process.

“It was kind of scary because it’s hard to let people help you sometimes,” Johnston said.

Johnston is performing as a solo artist at AthFest, rather than as a member of Well Kept. He said this gives him more opportunities to connect with the crowd, but also adds an extra layer of pressure.

“I think when I’m playing my stuff … it’s kind of on me to entertain people and be ‘the guy,’ but there’s also the added bonus of it being all my music,” Johnston said. “[In a band] I’m not really in charge of making sure everything goes well or sounds great, I’m just responsible for myself.”

Johnston plans on performing a mix of music from “Wonderful” in addition to some of his older songs at the AthFest Club Crawl.

As for whether Johnston has new music coming, he simply said “The grind is not stopping.”

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