Atlanta has a tendency to get really into itself. This is self-evident—#FILA, “Welcome to Atlanta, where the players play,” and countless other references that hail our city—and with good reason. Atlanta’s got a lot of good shit going on right now: we’re the new Hollywood, bringing in billions of dollars for the film industry, we’re the epicenter of hip-hop, and our indie music/DIY community is once again on the rise, spawning artists breaking on a national and international level.
What I’ve noticed on the other side of this swelling self-love-borderline-obsession that runs thick in our music scenes is that Atlanta tends to get so caught up in itself and then somehow collapses back into itself. Maybe that’s because we haven’t really had a vehicle outside of ourselves to help us carve a cornerstone onto a national landscape. Is this due to a lack of ambition? Or it is due to some levels of self-consciousness? (Or scene-consciousness, rather?)
Enter Irrelevant Music: a locally owned and operated record label and promotional armed run by Kyle Swick, which hosts the annual Irrelevant Music Fest which returned with its fourth fest this past July, featuring an array of genres across five bills on four nights between 529 and the Earl. The lineup was curated to showcase the levels of explosiveness happening in the perimeter—such as ATL heavyweights drag-punk outfit Material Girls, R&B/hip-hop duo the Queendom, Latinx expression punks Yukons, up-and-coming post-punk curators Riboflavin, and a long-awaited return of post-punk noise outfit Lyonnais—but also invited touring acts (such Patois Counselors of Charlotte, Gustaf of NYC, Ed Schrader’s Music Beat of Baltimore), leveling Atlanta up to be a destination for bands on a national level. And even better? Not a single night was more than $25 to attend—the opening night was a $5 cover. Not only does Irrelevant deliver quality, but it makes it accessible. While the cover is cheap, the talent is not.
This was my third year attending Irrelevant Music Fest, only to watch it grow and breathe more than the two years before. Beyond this annual festival, Irrelevant Music and Swick continue to work to help artists rise to their own potential and curate more diversity and intersectionality within our scenes which often feel overwhelmingly clique-y. Irrelevant arrived at a perfect time when things had begun to feel somewhat stale, and yet, overly saturated. With my regular attendance to almost anything Irrelevant, there has developed a sense of trust: trust that Atlanta music and its kids are a-okay and doing the damn thing. And doing it well.
Below is our gallery featuring images from this past year’s Irrelevant Music Fest, all by our editorial photographer Richard Martin.