Story and Photos By: Brooke Bunce, Contributor
Saturday marked the premier of Athens’ very own Groove Street Fest, organized by Paul Drury (director of the summer fest Boogie on the Bricks) and Jack Gould (saxophone player of First Street Heat.) The outdoor festival took place at The Dairy Barn Arts Center and brought together bands from all over Ohio to jam out in a Bonnaroo-type atmosphere.
As would be expected with any street-style musical fest, art vendors were aplenty at Groove Street, featuring handmade jewelry, do-it-yourself tie-dye and even a djembe drum booth. The lineup featured 12 bands, including notable names like headliner and Athens regular Papadosio, First Street Heat, Elemental Groove Theory, Any Colour, HELLNAW, The Pinstripes and Mojoflo.
Columbus band Twenty One Pilots were somewhat out-of-place compared to the rest of the Groove Street lineup, but that did not hinder their performance in the slightest.
Decked out in skeleton costumes, the band put on one of the most memorable sets of the day. Composed of two members, the group combines piano, drums and synthesized beats to create a brand of music that is truthfully indefinable. Lead vocalist Tyler Joseph successfully riled the timid, not-yet-intoxicated crowd into moving and shaking to his sometimes singing, sometimes screaming and sometimes furiously rapping lyrics. Accented by drummer Josh Dun’s hard-hitting drum beats, Twenty One Pilots utilized audience participation to their full advantage, at one point even moving Dun to the crowd to play percussion amongst the crowd while Joseph pounded the drums on stage. They definitely amped up the Groove Street energy and readied the audience for a night full of jamming.
Lima, Ohio natives HELLNAW (Hell Naw) took the stage shortly after, showcasing another two-member group that packed a punch. With speak-singing vocals reminiscent of Cake and heavy jazz-inspired bass lines, HELLNAW fit the bill of the expected Groove Street act. The group’s fast-paced funk continued to keep fest-goers moving, but there were times when it seemed the drawn out jam sessions were more for the enjoyment of the musicians than the audience.
As the night progressed, glow sticks were unleashed and the hillside continued to fill with Groove Street attendees. Highly-anticipated bands soon took the stage, which included Elemental Groove Theory, First Street Heat and headliner Papadosio.
Members of Elemental Groove Theory joined First Street Heat on stage and vice-versa, transitioning the two acts virtually seamlessly for an antsy crowd. Both Athens favorites and multi-membered, the two soulful bands delivered high energy performances that crowded the tiny festival stage. As always, EGT and FSH put on eclectic, funky, soul-inspired and ethnic-infused sets that left the crowd stomping their feet, swaying their hips and wanting more.
To end the night, Papadosio delivered their unique brand of jams that can only be described as electric-house-funk-soul. Extended instrumental jams suggestive of Ratatat and harmonic vocals demonstrated why it is that Papadosio has gained success across the country. Hypnotic flashing lights and fog enhanced the atmosphere of the performance and ended the night on a psychedelic note, leaving Groove Street attendees hopeful that the festival will become a yearly staple.