The 23rd annual AthFest Arts and Music Festival kicked off Friday, June 21. The KidsFest stage — located on the corner of Lumpkin and East Washington — welcomed four different bands, all of which brought different styles and characters to the forefront.
Cheese Dream started off the night at 6:00 p.m. with an energetic performance filled with personality. The drummer, Thomas Evans, took off his shirt early in the set and set the tone for an enjoyable and lively 30 minutes despite the Athens heat.
The band has been together for nearly three years, according to bassist Parker Dillard, and its chemistry was palpable for the entirety of the show.
There was also inexperience on display at the KidsFest stage. The second act, which started at 6:50, featured JV Band from the Full Moon Studio, a music school and recording studio based in Watkinsville, Georgia.
JV Band didn’t show as much character or liveliness that Cheese Dream brought, but after all, it was the second show it’s ever played. It performed a handful of well-chosen covers, including Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Fortunate Son.”
In between songs the members of the band were reluctant to talk to the crowd and one of their teachers from the Full Moon Studio, Scott Nicholson, used it as a learning experience for the young musicians.
“Too much dead air,” Nicholson playfully shouted from the crowd.
When 15-year old vocalist Matt Fuller began to engage with the crowd a little bit, Nicholson approved.
“[Fuller] is one of the ones that’s a little bit older,” Nicholson said. “It’s been hard to get other people to sing in the band so he’s kind of assumed that role. So I was like, ‘Well, Matt, you better make sure you entertain the crowd.’”
Nicholson started coming to AthFest as a performer in the late 1990s, and claims the other members of the JV Band will loosen up and get more confidence while performing as they get older and gain more experience.
Following JV Band was an all-girls band called Bloodsugar, which took the stage at 7:40 while AthFest volunteers plugged in additional fans on the stage to combat the humidity.
All of the band members attend school at Clarke Central High School, but the bassist Eva James and drummer Luna Pollack were recent additions after the previous two members quit.
After their second gig together, Bloodsugar plans on continuing together and making their own music in the future. During their 30 minutes set, they performed covers of songs like “Psycho Killer” by the Talking Heads and showed off multiple different styles with their other songs.
The final band, Fishbug, was the most entertaining of the four and perfect nightcap to the first day.
Bassist Parker Dillard and guitarist Moss Ivy were featured in the first band, but made a second appearance with their younger and flashier group. Dillard and Ivy were wearing scrubs and kicked off the set with some humorous antics, first by pouring water all over each other while drummer Isaiah Pope warmed up. Then, after Pope was finished warming up, they played a gag making it seem like Pope had passed out and needed medical attention.
“He’s gone, we need to resuscitate him,” Dillard said as they proceeded to fake-defibrillate the lifeless drummer back to life so they could continue the most lively act of the day so far.
All of the songs were originally written and lead singer and guitarist Stella Perkins brought a range of vocals and energy to the stage that had the crowd bobbing their heads and asking for an encore by the time 9:00 p.m. rolled around.
They finished off the night with another creative and booming original, “It Doesn’t Matter.”
KidsFest continues on Saturday morning at 10:30 a.m. and will last until 5:30 p.m.