"Atlanta has produced a good number of great pop-rock and power-pop bands over the years," says guitarist Lee Flier of garage rock/power pop hybrid What The...? "But most have flown decidedly under the radar. I think a lot of people in Atlanta would appreciate the city's pop bands, if they knew about them."
Enter Los Angeles-based music fan/educator/journalist David Bash.
For the past 10 years, Bash has produced the International Pop Overthrow festival. Over the years, the fest has expanded from L.A. and Chicago to include stops in New York, Boston, Nashville, San Francisco, Seattle, Vancouver and even 'cross the pond in the Beatle birthplace of Liverpool. His original goal was simple, Bash says from his California office. "I wanted to bring an international pop scene together under one umbrella, with the aim of overthrowing conventional radio standards."
Bash is aware of the lack of mainstream support for accessible, modern pop-rock and hopes the shows will build a few inroads to the mainland. "For many years, the term 'pop' has been anathema in the music industry, and many bands who play melodic music have preferred to call it something else, like 'indie rock' or 'alternative,'" he says. "I think the taboo is slowly but surely being lifted, as young artists like Rooney, the Click 5 and Drake Bell are proving that pop music is actually cool."
He's bringing the fest to Atlanta, he says, because the city has a rich pop scene, dotted with a core of excellent bands that deserve to be heard. He painstakingly listens to each submission he receives, selects venues and even introduces acts onstage. The operation is basically Bash, with a little help from his friends -- and advice from his network of fans and bands. "First and foremost," he adds, "I have to like the songs."
All varieties of popitude will be well-represented at the Atlanta convergence. Besides What The...? -- international veterans of the L.A. and Liverpool IPO -- the lineup boasts more than 30 bands, most from Atlanta and the surrounding region. The event begins Wednesday, Feb. 21, at 10 High and continues Thursday, Feb. 22, and Friday, Feb. 23, at the same venue with an array of acts, concluding Saturday at Vinyl.
"There are some local bands we mesh well with, and you'll see most of them at IPO," says What The...?'s Flier, who has been active in both L.A. and local pop circles as a performer, producer and writer. "We all fit together [on the bill], but do we fit in with the rest of the Atlanta scene? I'd say we don't. It's still very much an underground thing at the moment."
Here are a few Georgia-based bands sure to make this year's IPO festival go pop:
Thee Crucials -- Thursday, Feb. 22, 10:30 p.m. 10 High. Thee Crucials are a part of a small but dedicated core of '60s-influenced local bands. Their aggressive approach is fueled by pop and inspired by the abandon of Little Richard and the raw elements of the Kingsmen's trashy garage, mid-'60s Atlantic Records' R&B, Baggys-esque surf, and Sonics-styled garage.
The Californias -- Friday, Feb. 23, 11:30 p.m. 10 High. Blending key elements of the sound that made California an incubator of pop in the '60s, the good-time music of Georgia's the Californias melds sunny Brian Wilson-influenced harmonies with a driving Beatle beat.
Magnapop -- Saturday, Feb. 24, 10 p.m. Vinyl. The final evening shakes and pops with star-power sets from What The...? (8:30 p.m.), the venerable Swimming Pool Q's (9:30 p.m.) and the intelligent pop of the crafty, reclusive '90s-era pop purveyor Paul Melancon, debuting a new lineup of his critically acclaimed Arts & Sciences project (10:30 p.m.). The main attraction is internationally acclaimed Atlanta and Athens all-stars Magnapop (10 p.m.), still going strong after 20 years with hardcore followers at home and abroad. Magnapop's 2005 release, Mouthfeel -- its best album to date -- was released by Decatur's Daemon Records. The event closes with a performance from former Star Collector leader Joe Giddings (11:30 p.m.), joined by several of his former bandmates and pals.
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