What started last year as a 25h anniversary celebration for famed Atlanta venue The Masquerade, this year’s second annual Wrecking Ball festival will serve a very different function: a de facto goodbye to the celebrated concert space in its current and original home (don’t worry, The Masq isn’t closing down for good, just relocating to a new location in West Midtown). Set to take place this weekend, Aug. 13 & 14 (with a pre-party slated for Aug. 12), the festival’s sophomore year ups the ante in lineup, matching last year’s mix of nostalgia and modern musical relevance, and boasting a jaw-dropping slate of bands ranging from punk to emo to indie to hardcore, post-hardcore, alternative, and more. We’re road tripping down to cover, and if you’re planning on making the trek too, we’ve put together a handy festival guide, breaking down the must-see bands by day. Kicking things off, these are the 13 Saturday performers you can’t miss! Grab your single-day or weekend tickets, and check out our essential picks below!
#13: DADDY ISSUES
Saturday | Purgatory | 7:05pm
Hailing from right here in Nashville, Daddy Issues actually got their start as a parody of Twitter account before taking up instruments and deciding to make a go at becoming a proper band (a refreshing anthesis to the over-trained, uber-techincal typical Nashville trajectory). A pair of early singles, “Pizza Girl” and “Ugly When I Cry,” helped garner immediate attention in 2014, paving the way for the gals’ 2015 debut, Can We Still Hang, released through tastmaking local label Infinity Cat. With a self-described sound that “lies somewhere between witchy grunge and surf glam,” the trio’s lyrical prowess, a mix of empowerment and lighthearted, sarcastic self-awareness, provides a surprisingly poignant juxtaposition to their raw instrumentation, and has helped the group quickly find themselves on the road, on festival bills, and the subject of national press. It’s easy to get swept up in Wrecking Ball’s big names, but we wholeheartedly recommend adding these up and comers to your must-see list.
LISTEN | “Ugly When I Cry”
WATCH | “Drop Out”
#12: THE OBSESSIVES
Saturday | Purgatory | 3pm
Emo doesn’t really mean anything anymore; to most, it’s at best a blanket term for all things vaguely pop punk or melodic and indie, at worst a catch-all for the Warped Tour and Hot Topic scene, conjuring up images of eyeliner and skinny jeans. When we talk about emo and the so-called “emo revival” though, we’re referring to an actual, definable musical movement and genre, which, surely, has influenced offshoots and multiple waves since its mid-’80s origins and ’90s heyday. Before fusing more with indie rock in the ’90s, early emo was a direct offshoot of hardcore, and its seeds were sewn in Washington, DC, a hotbed of the hardcore scene at that time. The point of this long story, which, if you’re attending Wrecking Ball, you likely already knew, is to say that despite its roots, the DC scene seems like something of an afterthought nowadays. Up and coming duo The Obsessives, however, are doing their part to reclaim its relevance, even if they recently moved from their home city to the pop punk mecca of Philly. Barely out of high school, the duo’s smart, substantive, gut-wrenching, and vulnerable debut Heck No, Nancy was one of last year’s best under the radar releases, and, a definite band to watch, they seem poised to help lead the charge in the scene’s revitalization, and harbor the potential to ascend to the level of its biggest names.
LISTEN | “Daisy”
WATCH | “Camping” (Official Music Video)
Saturday | Heaven | 2pm
Natives of Atlanta, Microwave’s frequent trips to Music City managed to catch our eye in recent years, and we’re definitely not the only ones singing the group’s praises. Funneling punk sensibilities into an indie and eclectic sound, also channeling elements of emo and post-hardcore, the band’s debut 2014 full-length, Stovall, is an incredible release that channels so much of the emotion and aesthetic of many memorable scene classics. Able to land gut-wrenching earnestness with his confessional delivery, frontman Nathan Hardy possess a sad, reflective, and honest relatability, and the group’s compelling live show has led them to tours with the likes of The Wonder Years, Motion City Soundtrack, and letlive. Microwave seem primed to become a breakout success by the time their next album rolls around, so catch them on the club stages while you still can.
LISTEN | “Stovall”
WATCH | “but not often,” (Official Music Video)
#10: DIET CIG
Saturday | Purgatory | 7:05pm
Punk-tinged pop rock duo Diet Cig hail from New Paltz, NY, and wowed us twice this year at a Nashville show alongside Daddy Issues as well as at Shaky Knees. 2015 was the year the group, vocalist Alex Luciano and drummer Noah Bowman, began to find a national audience, thanks to their insanely good debut EP Over Easy. Anthemic, earnest, personal, and witty, Luciano’s lyrical style is charming and relatable, and the band’s overall vibe is just begging for a wider audience. The duo’s interplay is magnetic and their chemistry readily apparent spilling over from recording to forge a shockingly well-rounded, insanely energetic live show for a band without a ton of tour experience. They’re set to play Purgatory, the fest’s smallest stage, but if you need a more intimate, exciting, and up and coming performance to watch, Diet Cig are poised to steal the show.
LISTEN | “Harvard”
WATCH | “Dinner Date” (Official Music Video)
#9: THE MENZINGERS
Saturday | Heaven | 3pm
Formed a decade ago in Scranton, Pennsylvania, heartland punks The Menzingers rose to prominence following their critically acclaimed, breakout 2012 third album On the Impossible Past. Having shared the stage with big and diverse names like Against Me!, mewithoutYou, The Bouncing Souls, and Taking Back Sunday, the band have managed to fuse traditionalist punk rock with heartland rock and even some folk flair, appealing to punk purists and harboring more grit and raw edge than contemporaries with similar sensibilities like The Gaslight Anthem. Masters of nostalgia and with a catalogue that runs the emotional gamut of longing, love, loss, frustration, and uncertainty, the group’s 2014 effort Rented World furthered their inspired run, and honed what Impossible Past had set up. The band are seemingly prepping to release their highly-anticiated fifth LP soon, and just dropped a brand new single this week, “Lookers,” which may or may not be included. Rising stars in the punk world and an amazing live force, The Menzingers are one of our favorite rock bands making music today, and you should absolutely see them any chance that you get.
LISTEN | “Lookers”
WATCH | “Nice Things” (Official Music Video)
#8: TOUCHÉ AMORÉ
Saturday | Heaven | 4:20pm
A visceral, genre-bending, impassioned, and often emotionally ravaging ball of art-punk angst and post-hardcore mastery, Burbank, California’s Touché Amoré have become of the premiere bands to showcase a balance between heavy and melody, all the while reaching for a higher concept than any of their peers. Since first coming together in 2007, the group have unleashed three fantastic album, each successively better than the last, with 2013’s Is Survived By arriving as something of a modern post-hardcore masterpiece, landing the group universal acclaim and netting them tours across the globe. After some time off, Touché are prepping to release their fourth LP, Stage Four, later this year, and it’s poised to be their most essential record to date. After the untimely passing of his mother in 2014, vocalist Jeremy Bolm, a gifted lyricist and a singer capable of projecting so much emotion through his raw style, seems to be using his music as a way to cope and open up, turning tragedy into some of the most devastatingly beautiful songs the band have ever made. If you’re never seen a Touché show, this is an essential set, and, if you have, then you already know not to miss it.
LISTEN | “I’ll Deserve Just That”
WATCH | “Palm Dreams” (Official Music Video)
Saturday | Park North | 3:40pm
A genre-bending, artsy San Francisco-based project that tastemaking outlets love to love, relative newcomers Deafheaven rose to overwhelming international acclaim following their surprise hit sophomore effort Sunbather in 2013. Originally formed as a duo by core members George Clarke and Kerry McCoy, Deafheaven’s early demos warranted enough interest to bag a record deal and prompt their expansion into a full band, culminating in the release of their fantastic debut, Roads to Judah. By Sunbather, which Clarke and McCoy wrote alone, the group had already shuffled to a whole new lineup (that still remains intact), and Deafheaven’s layered, aggressive, and complex sound had caught the attention of critics and fans worldwide. Their long-awaited followup, New Bermuda, dropped last year, and the black metal meets post-metal meets shoegaze outfit continue to tour with a wide variety of artists in support. On a lineup with a healthy amount of heavy music, through largely skewing hardcore, Deafheaven’s intense, thick, and unrivaled sound might just put them at the top of the pack.
LISTEN | “Sunbather”
WATCH | “Luna” (Live)
Saturday | Heaven | 6:35pm
One of several highly-anticipated reunion sets at Wrecking Ball (another, under-appreciated North Carolina emo/post-hardcore group Milemarker didn’t make our list, but their 1:30pm Park North set would be a smart way to start your Saturday), Boston’s Piebald have largely been dormant since disbanding in 2008, save for one reunion show at Bamboozle in 2010 (which this writer saw and loved). As far as reunions go, they lie somewhere between the bands so huge that fans never stopped begging, and bands who largely lived below the radar in their day, but found fame posthumously. Formed in 1994 and originally aligned with the Boston hardcore scene, the group cemented their lineup and began adopting a sound more influenced by the alternative, indie, and emo scene of their time. After an early amount of DIY success despite a few setbacks, Piebald found widespread acclaim with their 2002 sophomore album, We Are the Only Friends You Have, fueled by radio and MTV staple “American Hearts.” Even with buzzworthy rising acts like My Chemical Romance, Minus the Bear, and Fairweather supporting on the road, along with stints on Warped Tour, Piebald seemed to exist just ahead of their time, and dissolved as the scene hit a period of identity crisis. Since then, old fans have become nostalgic and a new generation has discovered them, making the atmosphere primed for their return, which kicked off this week with a run of shows leading up to Wrecking Ball. The band have no plans after this tour, so this might be your last chance.
LISTEN | “Haven’t Tried It”
WATCH | “American Hearts” (Official Music Video)
Saturday | Park North | 6:45pm
15 years into their existence, and more than five since they cemented their status as indie rock mainstays with 2010’s Halcyon Digest, hometown Atlanta shoegaze-y noise popsters Deerhunter (not to be confused with The Dear Hunter) are still going strong, celebrating the recent release of their seventh album, Fading Frontier. Combining elements of ambient punk, shoegaze, garage, art-rock, post-punk, and retro pop, the hard to categorize band have been a critical darling from the start, really picking up traction in the blogosphere throughout the late ’00s amidst a series of lauded releases and lineup shuffles. The future of the band was cast into doubt, when in late 2014 frontman Bradford Cox was hit by a car, sustaining serious injuries. However, Cox is back in good health, and his experience helped inform a new perspective and focus on last year’s Fading Frontier. With their layered, dreamy, and experimental style, Deerhunter are one of the most impressive and fresh live acts making music today, and, while they might not be as conventionally “punk” as much of this bill, we promise that they’ll rock every bit as hard.
LISTEN | “Helicopter”
WATCH | “Breaker” (Official Music Video)
#4: THE JULIE RUIN
Saturday | Park South | 7:45pm
If you’ve not yet caught wind of The Julie Ruin, you could be forgiven, since the relatively new New York rockers formed only in 2010, and have released just two full-lengths, the most recent, Hit Reset, this year. However, you should know them for their pedigree, as both frontwoman Kathleen Hanna and bassist Kathi Wilcox were part of seminal punk group Bikini Kill (and for their post-BK projects like Le Tigre and The Frumpies), widely considered pioneers of the riot grrrl movement. Kathleen actually released a solo album under the moniker “Julie Ruin” in 1998, but the band The Julie Ruin came much later, rounded out by Carmine Covelli, Sara Landeau, and Kenny Mellman. They released their debut, Run Fast, in 2013, and have really been amassing buzz for Hit Reset, which feels like a culmination of Hanna’s storied and influential career, incorporating a sense of humor, strong feminist themes, punk bite, and even some dance influence. While Saturday evening headliners L7 deserve equal praise for their badass-rocker-girl-feminist contributions to the grunge and alt-rock scene as well as culture at large (and, though not ranked, their 9:45 set will be a stellar end to the day), Kathleen Hanna’s longevity and The Julie Ruin’s freshness have us even more excited. The group are also slated to play Mercy Lounge next week, for you Nashvillians who need a double helping, but we can’t wait to catch them for the first time in a festival context.
LISTEN | “Ha Ha Ha”
WATCH | “I’m Done” (Official Music Video)
#3: DIARRHEA PLANET
Saturday | Park South | 2pm
If you haven’t yet seen the live spectacle that is Diarrhea Planet, you’re essentially missing out on one of the most fun, inspiring, and wildest rock bands to emerge in recent memory. Formed as sort of a noise rock side project in college, DP have evolved to become a stadium-primed, epic ball of rock and roll excellence, and, on the heels of new album Turn to Gold, their Wrecking Ball outing promises to be one of the weekend highlights. With a four-guitar arsenal, the group have ascended from their poppy, anthemic, punk and party rock early days to an internationally lauded rock powerhouse, thanks, in no small part, to their unbelievably great 2013 breakout LP I’m Rich Beyond Your Wildest Dreams. Since then, DP have also dropped an EP, along with their brand new effort, and have continued to tour the country, winning over legions of fans and even making a recent late night debut on Seth Meyers, the same night the President of the United States appeared on the proceeding Tonight Show. Diarrhea Planet are not just one of the best rock bands to spring from Nashville, but one of the best bands in the entire world right now, and you should never miss a chance to catch them in person.
LISTEN | “Life Pass”
WATCH | “Separations” (Official Music Video)
#2: DRIVE LIKE JEHU
Saturday | Park North | 8:45pm
Ranked so high not only for their influential, legendary, and short-lived career, but also because Wrecking Ball marks one of only a handful of performances since reconvening in 2014 after laying dormant for two decades, Drive Like Jehu’s comeback still feels entirely surreal. Active for the first five years of the ’90s, the San Diego post-hardcore group blazed the trail for emo, math rock, and indie to follow, credited with helping bridge the gap between the more directly hardcore descendant early emo, and the more indie-derived, melodic shift it would take in the ’90s (drummer Mark Trombino, especially, would have a direct hand in this, producing albums for groups like Jimmy Eat World, Mineral, and Blink-182). Though they failed to make a huge splash in their day, with only an eponymous 1991 debut and 1994 sophomore release, Yank Crime, to their name, DLJ have developed something of a legendary cult following since their demise, and can be directly credited for helping popularize a genre that would rule the radio a decade later. Initially inspired to reunite two years ago for an opportunity to collaborate with a famed organist for a one-off show, the band played just a handful of dates in 2015, with a run this year that seems similarly light. Busy with other bands, careers, and businesses, this reunion felt unlikely from the start, and we’d be shocked if it’s long-lasting; don’t miss this unlikely piece of punk history while you have the chance!
LISTEN | “Sinews”
WATCH | “Even If It Kills You” (Live)
#1: HEY MERCEDES
Saturday | Heaven | 5:25pm
Topping our list, Chicago alt/emo outfit Hey Mercedes are currently in the midst of their first tour in over a decade. Formed out of the ashes of influential emo/post-hardcore group Braid (who are also once again active as of a few years ago), the band’s six year run from 1999-2005 was short, but immensely influential, helping pass the touch from the last bastion of golden era ’90s emo to a new crop of bands who would subsequently further morph and massively popularize what the scene helped shape, killing the bloated alt rock and nu metal scene that ruled the radio at the turn of the millennium. Fronted by the prolific Bob Nanna, Hey Mercedes took on a more melodic and pop-informed bent than Braid, releasing two full-lengths, Everynight Fire Works and Loses Control in 2001 and 2003. Moderately successful in their day, Hey Mercedes, like Piebald and Drive Like Jehu, have only grown in recognition and reputation since their demise, reuniting for a few one offs over the years before finally mounting a full comeback this summer, just in time for the 15th anniversary of their debut. It’s not clear if this was meant to be a long-term reunion, so if you’ve ever dreamed of seeing Hey Mercedes, or want to revisit them one last time, we’d recommend taking your chance.
LISTEN | “Eleven to Your Seven”
WATCH | “Quality Revenge At Last” (Official Music Video)