Sigh in July: A Southeast Summer Oasis 7.21 - 7.22.17

Live Wire
Athens, GA

Words & Photos by Julie Hutchins (Tipping Point Designs)

Sigh in July is a musical oasis for the summer music drought in Athens, GA. Primarily a college town, Athens becomes a sleepy place when the students leave. Universal Sigh uses this magical time to curate Sigh in July. In the past, Universal Sigh were frequent summertime residents on the Georgia Theatre Rooftop. The weekly residencies allowed Sigh to open their catalogue for hardcore “disighples” and attracted touring bands eager to meet heady southeast peeps. These residencies left US asking, “How do we incorporate more of our friends in our summertime get down?” Now, in its 2nd year, Sigh in July hosts regional and national touring bands, artists, and vendors! I have the pleasure of being involved with SIJ from the very beginning and it is truly incredible to watch the steady growth of the southeast music community.

Sunny South Blues Band and Moon Chief opened the festival with a bounty of soul blues rock. Next, Kilroy Kobra gave a full performance of their debut album Man of the World. The concept album is tracked to a motion picture of the same name. Man of the World features upbeat psychedelic rock and soft, sublime tunes. Each song is unique and as an album it is a full circle of peaks and valleys. Kilroy Kobra leaves you feeling nostalgic and inspiring. As the sun slowly descended, the Hedonistas brought a wave of friends from Atlanta. The quintet’s funky energy and nonsensical lyrics are light-hearted and fun. The Voodoo Visionary horns joined the stage and dialed up the funky meter to a 10.

Following the Hedonistas, Mister Sigh Dye graced the main stage. Members of Universal Sigh and Mister Tie Dye comprised a 14-piece symphonic orchestra. The set featured originals from both bands and Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” and Snarky Puppy’s, “Shofukan.” Mister Tie Dye’s fanfare was downright sexy. Tie Dye’s original compositions are breaths of fresh air in the era of modern jazz. The smooth brass and disciplined dynamics masterfully build and ease tension. Universal Sigh’s debut album, Atoms & Void features horns so it was great to see sigh classics like “Marcus Mayhem,” “Atoms & Void” and “Hopsecutioner” reach their full orchestral expression. As the set closed, power trio, The Night Shift., seamlessly transitioned into a soulful, energy pumped tweener set. Their powerful vocals and atmospheric bass kept the momentum churning throughout the 15-minute change over.

Kenosha Kid is Athens (and the universe) best kept space jazz secret. Dan Nettles, Robbie Handley, Marlon Patton and Rick Lollar are fearless trailblazers in the futuristic field of meta-modern jazz. Kenosha Kid typically plays quintessential originals and is known for traversing harmonic surf-rock improv landscapes. Sigh in July was blessed with a set of raw, fresh material. The new pieces were an unexpected surprise for their loyal fans and a highlight of the whole festival. The Night Shift. rocked another tweener set rager and Voodoo Visionary funked everyone’s souls. Their highly experimental set dissolved space and time. The Voodoo Krewe brings a palpable energy everywhere they go.

Saturday kicked off with an array of local Athens bands. Heart of Pine segued into Athens Tango Project. The Athens Tango Project featured lovely classical rumba tunes and even attracted their own tango troop. The trio is comprised of violin, accordion, and stand up bass. The interplay of the melancholic accordion, sweet violin, and deep bass is lively and expressive. True local Athenians continued as Tallulah George opened the outdoor stage. Brent Bolde’s wily tunes tell tales of the earth, simple life, and pontifications of the future. Folk songs mixed with Jerry vibes and tasteful jazz innuendos make for a tasty afternoon delight. Next, Cycles from Denver, CO took the main stage. These tour warriors dominated Sigh in July with four sets on Saturday. Their highly anticipated main stage debut melted minds. They also played the 3 tweener sets and used the 15 minute intervals to leap into extensive shred. Cycles is on fire!

Partials kept the fire burning with their inventive dreaminess. The quintet builds layers of soundscapes with rolling synth waves and percussive enunciations. Partials songs create an organic digital soul mesh and are indicative of a new age in sound. They are as hard as smoke to catch, but when they play, magic takes place. Be on the lookout for their EP release, Glossolalia.

The night continued with Asheville, NC friends Jahman Brahman. Their uplifting songs and infectious groove inspired the acro-yogis to an impromptu jam-sesh. The flow of the bodies coupled with the dynamic flow of music had the energy swirling and soaring. Groove Fetish stepped in and shredded the atmosphere with progressive fusion groove. Their fresh rock prowess enticed Universal Sigh’s Steve Terry to sit in few a few licks and giggles.

Many thanks to MVP artist at large, Jones Maynard, for sharing his world knowledge of percussion with innumerous bands all weekend! Jonesy sat in with almost everyone and still had stamina for the last set. Universal Sigh is the mountaintop of unique artistic expression. Their crafted compositions reflect expertise, exploration, and unparalleled sound. They debuted “The Cover,” a dastardly western funk, and rekindled “Anatta,” a 15-minute composition that begins peaceful and climbs into an intense frenzy. The entire room bellowed “Knights of Cydonia” as sigh galloped off into the night. “Theatrics” an incredibly cinematic and dramatic piece closed the set. During the dark, mysterious musical voyage, I had the great pleasure of tossing popcorn and popsicles to the fierce disighples who raged to the end. Universal Sigh was coaxed by the merry crowd to play one more song and “Bedrock & Paradox” sent our friends and family home with the joyful release of groovy, free improvisation.

All of the sets were recorded and multi-tracked by Georgia State University TV. Be on the look out for the footage release. Overall, Sigh in July is extremely affordable and easy to access. However, the facileness lead to some patrons only checking out their favorite band. Personally, my favorite part of the festival experience is receiving exposure to upcoming bands. In the future, it would be awesome to see Sigh in July morph into a camping event, but right now, we are so grateful to operate out of a comfortable space. Also, in the future, it would be nice to see the line-up diversify with more electronica and bluegrass. Those genres are not necessarily reflective of our regional scene, but as the festival grows, so will the diversity.

From top to bottom, Sigh in July is a home team event. They are partnered with Live Wire, Ever Upward Entertainment, and Nuci’s Space, a local non-profit suicide prevention organization. Ever Upward Entertainment label boasts Universal Sigh, Jahman Brahman, and Cycles. Athens is home to Sigh, Mister Tie Dye, Partials, Kenosha Kid, Tallulah George, Sunny South Blues Band, Heart of Pine, Moon Chief, and Athens Tango Project. Voodoo Visionary, The Night Shift., Kilroy Kobra, The Hedonistas, and I.R.E all hail from Atlanta. Brothers, Daniel, Brendan, and Andrew Robertson manage Live Wire’s beautiful space. The recently renovated facilities are designed with music in mind. I cannot say thank you enough to the staff and production team. Endless gratitude to each person who spent their weekend with US. It is true bliss to make music for the people we love!


Popular posts from this blog

Livetronica Sampler 3.22.11

Billy Strings 4.18.19

Buckethead: Gimmick or Guitar God?