30 Bands, Three Nights, One Good Time: Blackoutfest Returns to The Union

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This weekend The Union Bar & Grill will host the 18th annual Blackoutfest, a yearly celebration of underground punk/garage music, presented by Athens’ own Blackout Booking.

“It’s a weekend that’s jam-packed with some great rock and roll music and awesome Athens bands, too. It’s always been that way,” said Brian Koscho, who will play a set Friday night with his new band Unmonumental.

Koscho is also a co-founder of Aquabear Legion, an Athens-based organization that promotes and supports Ohio music, and has been involved with Blackoutfest for several years. This year’s event is being co-sponsored by Aquabear Legion and Splooge Magazine.

“Blackoutfest is part of the fabric of what makes Athens unique. It’s one of the reasons I love living here,” said Koscho. “I think the longer things go on and continue to meet their purpose and make people excited, the more people take notice. But other than that, it’s still three days of rock and roll at The Union in the middle of April…so not too much has changed.”

Scott Winland, who runs Blackout Booking, also remarked that, for the most part, Blackoutfest has remained virtually unchanged over two decades.

“The lineup changes every year, but it still remains a three-night event with a bunch of great national, regional and local acts,” he said.

Every year Winland has his hands full coordinating dozens of bands for the annual fest. Doing so isn’t exactly easy, but he manages to stay positive about the process.

“It’s always a little tough, but it’s such a fun party, I can’t really complain,” he said.

“Scott is the one doing the heavy lifting on this one,” added Koscho. “I’m just helping to get the word out and continuing to throw support behind an unbelievable weekend of music and an Athens tradition.”

Blackoutfest’s “Pre-Party” kicks off Thursday night around 8 p.m. It’s the sparsest bill of the weekend–which is saying something, considering that seven bands will be playing that night.

Among Thursday’s acts are Knoxville, Tennessee’s Burning Itch, which recently signed with Sub Pop and will be opening for grunge legends Tad this summer. Weird Science, County Pharaohs, Sportfishing USA, Shower Beers, M.O.P., Fat Elvis and Melk round out the lineup.

In order to acommodate a whopping 10 bands, the doors will open at 6 p.m. Friday for the Aquabear Blowout. Natural Child, another act from Tennessee, is scheduled to play, along with Athens bands Hex Net, The D-Rays, Unmonumental, Homemade Drugs, Birthday Suits, Hook & Eye, Unholy Two and Columbus-based bands EYE and Grafton.

“I love Grafton, and it’s been a few years since they have played, so I’m very excited about that,” said Koscho.

Splooge Magazine’s “Sploogeout” gets underway Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m., with 12 bands slated to play. Blackoutfest veterans Whale Zombie will perform, as well as Cheap Time, Useless Eaters, Messrs, Shockwave Riderz, Greg Ashley Band, Gardens, Frankie Teardrop, Ferals, Small Steps, Mom’s Weekend and Method Air.

Now that all the booking, scheduling and promotional work is done, all that’s left for Winland to do is simply enjoy the shows–something he hopes other local music fans will do as well.

“It’ll be the most fun they’ve had in a really long time,” he said. “So much good music!”

Visit Blackoutfest’s Facebook page for more information.