Athens In Perspective: Harvey Milk @ Scion Rockfest

Scion Rock Fest
February 28, 2009
Atlanta, Georgia, Masquerade Park

Guest Author: Nick Bennett

It could not have been a better day for the Scion Rock Fest; gloomy overcast skies peered down on the pits of mud outside the Masquerade in Atlanta, setting a perfect scene for the 20+ metal bands that appeared Saturday. Surprisingly, all four stages ran close to schedule which made the day quite enjoyable.

After getting punched smacked in the face by California’s thrash outfit Trash Talk, Tyler and I headed to purgatory to check out Athens’ Harvey Milk. The first thing I noticed is the group’s lack of concern for image and stage antics and chose to focus on their craft during performance, a refreshing change. These guys have earned major respect from many in Athens, rightfully so, and I was able to pick out a few die-hard Milk fans in the crowd sludging along with the sporadic and often-syncopated drums and thick guitar riffage. Creston Spiers’ (vocalist/guitar) style is entrancing; as his bellows and belts waned to moans, Speirs’ captured the essence of Harvey Milk’s heavy sludge-rock that made me proud to live in the same town as this outfit.

Five hours later we found ourselves outside under an enormous tent waiting and standing on slippery, muddy ground, for Atlanta’s own metal legends Mastodon. The group found themselves headlining a 20+ band ticket (including some of their idols: High on Fire and sludge metal gods Neurosis) and did not fail to please. Guitarist/vocalist Brent Hinds walked on stage sporting a beautiful 12-string which he proceeded to shred, but later returned to a classic 70’s-era maple SG and a gold Les Paul. The hour and a half set never slowed down for much except for a guitar change or a gulp of Corona, and Mastodon’s prowess took over as a pit erupted instantly and never closed until the show ended. Troy Sanders boomed out his low aggressive bass and vocal parts as Hinds provided the psychotic vocals we are accustomed to hearing from Mastodon. Playing choice hits from multiple albums, Mastodon’s inventiveness was apparent and their toying with time, dueling guitars, haunting vocal styles, and other standards in metal makes this band stand out as innovators who never stray too far from some conventions (providing ample classic thrash and sludge).

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