City Spin: Athens, GA
Music is our most universal language for conveying motion, emotion, and the feeling of a time and a place. Movies feature swelling soundtracks. Brands select their 30 seconds of commercial sound. So when it comes to personal travel, what could be more essential than the perfect playlist?
In this series, Georgia-based performer and music trivia geek, Hannah Thomas, submits city-specific lists for exploring music in her favorite pockets of the South. First up: Athens, Georgia.
Notes on the Playlist
- “Devil Music” - Randall Bramblett : a musician’s musician, Bramblett has served as a session player for acts such as Greg Allman, Bonnie Raitt, and Widespread Panic. The multi-instrumentalist is also a talented solo performer and songwriter, as evidenced in this song about Howlin’ Wolf.
- “Loveshack” - B-52’s : the iconic band originated in Athens, forming over an impromptu jam session that followed flaming volcano drinks at a Chinese restaurant in town.
- “Where the Devil Don’t Stay” - Drive-By Truckers : the Truckers are one of Athens’ most beloved bands with sell out shows at the 40 Watt every year during Homecoming. Though most members of the band now live elsewhere, Athens is their collective home.
- “Chickenman” - Indigo Girls : though Indigo Girls are considered a Decatur, Georgia duo, they spent much of their early careers playing venues in Athens, including Uptown Lounge, which is now defunct. Indigo Girls - Live at the Uptown Lounge from 1990 features a guest performance by another Athens star, Michael Stipe of R.E.M.
- “Country Folks” - Bubba Sparxxx, Colt Ford, Danny Boone : originally from Lagrange, Georgia, rapper Bubba Sparxxx moved to Athens in 1996, where he met industry veteran (and now manager and business partner) Bobby Stamps. Stamps noticed him rapping after a University of Georgia football game. On this track he is joined by another Athens native, Colt Ford.
- “Right Hand On My Heart” - The Whigs : The Whigs recorded their first album in a fraternity house in downtown Athens. They’ve since toured the world with Kings of Leon, The Black Keys, Hold Steady, and Drive-By Truckers.
- “Twenty-One” - Corey Smith : Corey reportedly wrote this song about his time spent attending the University of Georgia.
- “The Ones That Like Me” - Brantley Gilbert : Brantley Gilbert is a native of Jefferson, Georgia, located just outside Athens. Gilbert began getting attention early in his career as an independent musician opening for Corey Smith. After writing hit songs for the likes of Jason Aldean, Brantley has been releasing a number of charting country records of his own.
- “Nicotine and Arsenic” - The Packway Handle Band : consistently named one of Athens’ best bluegrass acts, The Packway Handle Band has played shows around the world, including evenings with The Avett Brothers and Shovels & Rope.
- “Feel It All Around” - Washed Out : Ernest Greene, Jr. attended UGA and graduated with the intent to work as a librarian. Striking out there, he started making music and gained traction on Myspace. He has since put out three studio albums under the name Washed Out, and his song, “Feel It All Around,” is the opening theme for Portlandia.
- “In The Aeroplane Over The Sea” - Neutral Milk Hotel : the band emerged out of a few other projects Jeff Magnum was working on in Athens in the 90s. In the Aeroplane Over the Sea became one of the most lauded indie rock albums of all time, and when the band reunited after a 15-year hiatus, they did so at the 40 Watt.
- “Up All Night” - Widespread Panic : Panic is one of a handful of jam bands that are still playing to die-hard crowds. The band formed in Athens in 1986, with comparisons to the Grateful Dead and Phish. They hold the record for consecutive sold-out performances at Red Rocks (54 shows) and will be playing their 60th show there this summer.
- “Girlfriend” - Matthew Sweet : Sweet went to Athens for college, specifically with the music scene in his sights. While there he collaborated with Michael Stipe, having met the R.E.M. frontman during a concert in his hometown. The duo project was called Community Trolls, and Sweet also played guitar in Stipe's sister Lynda Stipe's band, Oh-OK. In 1991, Sweet broke through on his own with a power pop album called Girlfriend.
- “Lay It Down” - Magnapop : Lead singer, Linda Hopper was a member of the late 70s, early 90s music scene in Athens, Georgia. She and Michael Stipe met in an art design class and eventually joined him in the experimental music group called Tanzplagen, along with Stipe's sister, Lynda, and other local musicians. After the group folded, Stipe and Hopper formed Oh-OK, whose line-up later included Matthew Sweet and David McNair. The project ended in 1984 and Magnapop started up in 1989.
- “It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” - R.E.M. : given that R.E.M. are one of the best selling music bands of all time, there are two monument sites in Athens in their honor: Murmur Trestle, a preserved railroad trestle that is pictured on the back of the band's 1983 album "Murmur," and a preserved R.E.M. Steeple at the site of a church-turned-apartment building where the band, then called Twisted Kites, played its first gig.
40 Watt Club - (28 Washington St | Athens, GA 30601) - the 40 Watt’s reputation is part of the grunge appeal, being arguably one of the most famous music venues in the South. The 40 Watt helped launch American punk rock and new wave alongside CBGB and the Whisky a Go Go. The 550 standing-room only venue continues to host national touring artists and serves as a home-base for renowned local bands such as of Montreal, Drive-By Truckers, and The Whigs.
Caledonia Lounge - (256 W Clayton St | Athens, Georgia 30601) - located directly behind the 40 Watt Club, Caledonia Lounge is an intimate rock club with an indie atmosphere that hosts local, and regionally touring bands.
Classic Center - (300-400 N Thomas St | Athens, GA 30601) - The Classic Center is the region’s convention center and performing arts theatre. Aside from the usual mix of meetings spaces and event services, The Classic Center also hosts some big name acts at 440 Foundry Pavilion.
Creature Comforts Brewery - (271 W Hancock Ave | Athens, GA 30601) - while the primary activities at Creature Comforts are beer drinking and socializing, the hip brewery also dabbles in live music, hosting special events and music series throughout the year.
Flicker Theater and Bar - (263 W Washington St | Athens, Ga 30601) - Flicker is a laid back, neighborhood bar with the usual gamut of happy hours, special programming, and live music most nights of the week.
The Foundry - (295 East Dougherty St | Athens, GA 30601) - a repurposed iron mill, The Foundry is a multi-tiered music venue that hosts nationally renowned bands as well a local and emerging artists.
Georgia Theater - (215 N Lumpkin St | Athens, GA 30601) - the Georgia Theater consistently brings in incredible touring artists that fill its 1000+ person main room. Looking for something a bit more intimate? The theater also features regional artists and acoustic acts on the roof, alongside a full bar and restaurant.
Hendershot’s Coffee - (237 Prince Ave | Athens, GA 30601) - coffee, booze, and a bonafide stage, who could beat that? Open seven days a week with a little something for everyone.
Nowhere Bar - (240 N Lumpkin St | Athens, Georgia 30601) - Nowhere Bar, located across from Georgia Theatre, is an old dive the locals love to frequent. Pool, beer, live music, and a common musician’s hang.
The World Famous - (351 N Hull St | Athens, Georgia 30601) - The World Famous is a small restaurant and bar with an intimate stage, friendly bartenders, and easy-going appeal.