Mothers by Shervin Lainez
After watching a slew of corporate sponsored festivals pop up in Atlanta, with line-ups neglecting local musicians, booking agent and promoter Kyle Swick set out to build an event that highlights bands seen as irrelevant. “The idea was to sort of just have a celebration of our city, our community,” Swick says.
That idea came to mind roughly a year before Irrelevant Fest broke ground in 2016. After mentioning the concept offhandedly to some artists and friends for months, Swick finally decided to run with it, starting the booking process in January 2016. Following its highly successful first run, Irrelevant Fest makes its return this weekend, July 20 through 22.
“At first I wasn't sure, I was really just winging it,” Swick says. “After the first year's line-up came together, and we sold-out all the shows, each night proved to be a warm and humbling engagement and I knew it was something we would be doing again.”
Trashcan by Stephon Hood
This year’s bill is stacked with artists ranging in locale and genre, playing up Irrelevant’s mission of an accessible festival. But this is still done via a curated process, with each night of the weekend catering towards a different audience.“While I am a huge advocate for mixed genre bills, they have proven to not always be the best way to get an artist’s message across to a large audience,” Swick says. “With the festival line-up I really wanted to represent as many facets of Atlanta's music as possible, and that is something we will continue to do, and hopefully do better, with each passing year.”
Drag-punk locals Material Girls, Irrelevant Fest alumnus Deep State and new wave trio Omni kick off the weekend at the Earl on Thursday. 529 welcomes Massachusetts’ Boy Harsher, Awful Records powerhouse Lord Narf and Atlanta activist Sequoyah for a night of brooding beats on Friday. Tennessee's Daddy Issues and dance-punk quartet Nihilist Cheerleader raucously fight the patriarchy at 529 on Saturday afternoon. And to close out the fest, the Earl hosts Athens’ folk-rock quartet Mothers, electronic-fused math-rockers Palm and Atlanta newbies Trashcan Saturday night.
Daddy Issues by Kelsey Hall
While still clearly placing an emphasis on the importance of local music, Irrelevant Fest 2017 incorporates more out-of-town bands. “On one hand it's about exposing the music scene that we've cultivated in Atlanta to outsiders, and on the other hand it's about giving local artists a chance to play for audiences they might not usually get to play for,” Swick says. “At the end of the day, this festival is about promoting Atlanta. There is some really important music coming out of this city right now and it's our job to make sure people hear it.”
Omni by Sebastian Weiss
Along with the addition of more transplant acts, this year’s event seems to somewhat contradict the original intent of an inclusive and accessible festival for fans. Both 529 and the Earl host 21+ events, leaving underage music lovers out. “While the age limit is not something I'm particularly satisfied with,” Swick says. “I do consider this to be an upgrade from last year, as in I think having the festival in one location will make it more convenient for artists and attendees alike.”
Irrelevant Fest is still ruling Atlanta’s DIY music scene, despite these minor setbacks. Larger events like Music Midtown and Shaky Knees, while homegrown, fail to include local musicians, and neglect audiences who can’t afford the brand name price tags
“I have always preferred smaller, more intimate settings when it comes to seeing live music, so corporate festivals don't really even register to me as music shows at this point,” Swick says. “To me, it seems more like going to Six Flags or Disneyland than it does going to a show. I do however think that festivals with a lot of money behind them can be a great opportunity for artists, which is why when a large festival comes into the city and features little to no artists from said city, it can be a bit irking.”