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Wrecking Ball 2016 day 1: Gorilla Biscuits, Piebald, Drive Like Jehu, L7 & more (pics, review)

photos by Amanda Hatfield

Atlanta’s second Wrecking Ball music festival began yesterday (8/13) and wraps up today. The fest is set up with two main outdoor stages that have alternating sets, plus they use the two rooms in The Masquerade (the upstairs room Heaven and the downstairs room Hell), and a small side stage right next to the venue. It’s admittedly a bit harder to catch everything you want to see than a fest where everything’s inside, since a lot of your time is spent waiting on line to get into The Masquerade. Once the lines get moving though, they move pretty quick, and with a few sacrifices made, it’s very easy to have a great time.

Tons of great stuff went down on Saturday that I wasn’t able to see, like Deerhunter, The Julie Ruin, The Bouncing Souls, Cold Cave, Ceremony and Good Riddance, but the highs of what I did catch were very high. My favorite set of the day hands down was Gorilla Biscuits, who played last on the Heaven stage. It’s still kind of crazy that this is a band who initially existed for just four years and didn’t release too much material, yet now it’s a normal thing to get a few chances a year to see them, and that they’re such a vital live band every time. The songs in their set are over 25 years old, yet they play them with more energy than half the younger bands on fests like these, and Civ still looks and sounds dedicated to every word. Sometimes “nostalgia” is a dirty word, but it’d be unfair to criticize GB for embracing it — especially since the majority of the crowd looked like they weren’t even born yet when “No Reason Why” was written. The last time I saw GB was also at a festival (Fun Fun Fun Fest 2014), and they were just as terrific then too. If you ever find yourself at a fest that they’re playing, don’t miss ’em.

Another huge highlight for me was the band who played Heaven directly before GB, Piebald. Piebald are currently on a reunion tour, their first tour since they broke up in 2008 and first shows since their one-off at Bamboozle in 2010. I don’t know if Piebald have ever fully “gotten their due” in a mainstream or critical way, but their fans LOVE them and that came across very clearly at their Wrecking Ball set. The band’s most-loved album is of course 2002’s We Are The Only Friends We Have, and when they played stuff off that (and they played a lot of stuff off that), you could hear hundreds of people yelling every single word. The band seemed super happy to be back and genuinely thankful for the great turnout, and they sounded as great as they did back in the day. One thing I kept thinking during the set, is that for all the recent interest in power-pop-with-classic-rock-leads, it really is the perfect time for Piebald to make a comeback.

Other great stuff: synthpunk/post-hardcore vets Milemarker (who are also recently reunited) sounded fantastic at their early afternoon set outdoors. The new songs and the old favorites blended together seamlessly. The Menzingers killed it as always in the Heaven room, playing their great new song “Lookers” and all the usual crowd favorites. I missed Touche Amore during the fest, but caught them opening Thursday’s aftershow where they mesmerized with a set that focused on their earlier days. Deafheaven always manage to be an unlikely highlight of outdoor festivals and that was true on on Saturday too. They played their post-rocky black metal under the sun and it couldn’t have felt more perfect. The reunited Hey Mercedes made a very solid return, which wasn’t too surprising of course since frontman Bob Nanna is insanely active with his many projects. Drive Like Jehu and L7 wrapped up the day with outdoor nighttime sets and made for a very nice ending to the fest.

The fest concludes today (8/14) with Quicksand, Thursday, Dinosaur Jr and more. Pictures of Saturday are in the gallery above.

UPDATE: Day two happened.

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