Ready to take the road less traveled and discover a musical Mecca you might not even know existed? Well, welcome to Athens, GA. Famed for being a sleepy, little college town, this city has also churned out some of the biggest New Wave and/or rock bands in the United States. The B-52s … R.E.M. … Pylon … Widespread Panic. The list goes on and on.
And if you find yourself a scant 90 minutes east of Hotlanta – you can channel your inner music aficionado to see where it all began. Dare we say, we’ve found the perfect way to revisit your (sonic) youth?
Turns out the city’s historic Athens Welcome Center now offers inexpensive music tours that are chock full of insider knowledge. Stalwart guide Paul Butchart knows all and will frequently pepper in topical nuggets of information. For instance, he pointed out a non-descript yellowish building in downtown Athens. He mentioned R.E.M owns said lair and will occasionally hunker down to record music or simply commiserate there. Posters for The B-52s Kate Pierson’s upcoming solo concert at the Georgia Theatre were plastered as far as the eye could see. Not surprisingly, most of those homespun bands still have ties to their alma mater. And all the local record stores, thrift shops and music halls all pay homage to the myriad of bands that helped pioneer a genre of music.
Butchart – who remains chummy with a lot of the various local rockers – kept the fun facts coming fast and furious throughout the day:
For instance, the Love Shack may have burned down, but the old wooden railroad trestles from the cover of R.E.M.’s Murmur album remain … and they have become one of the go-to landmarks on the 2+ hour walking tour. For a while, the trestles were in danger of being torn down. Fortunately, R.E.M. fans from all over the world came together to write the mayor of Athens and remind him of their cultural significance. They’re a bit more worn and hidden by overgrown trees, but they’re still standing – a testament to R.E.M.’s voracious fan base, Butchart mentioned. (He should know. He was the drummer for the band Side Effects – which opened for R.E.M.’s first live gig.)
“In the 1800’s,” Butchart told MyFavePlaces.com … “people who were looking for culture came to Athens.” Over 200 years later, the town is still rife with music history. You want to reenact some of the famous album cover artwork of your college years? Pay homage to Michael Stipe or Cindy Wilson? On this tour, you can ride the (new) wave of nostalgia all day. There’s so much to see and do it’s safe to say you can lose your ever-lovin’ mind … uh, along with your religion. Visit http://athenswelcomecenter.com for more information or to schedule a tour.