Editor’s Note: As we head into our last week of content on The Broad Collective, our talented teams of interns were given the opportunity to wrap everything up on our site as part of their final project for the semester. They chose to focus on the spirit of Athens by taking a look at five themes that have best come to represent what this city means to them. All week long they will be sharing stories, interviews, photos, videos, and most importantly, their reflections on these five rhythms that tell the story of Athens. Our intern team is made up of the following folks . . . all of which you should hire immediately before they become rock stars.
Anyone that’s heard of Athens Georgia is familiar with the prevalence of music that exists and thrives within our city limits. Next to plentiful bars and football, it’s basically the calling card of our city. This staple has attracted so much great attention to the city and has launched some real talent into the national scene. The mix of home studios, bars, venues and hungry young talent combine to make the great conglomeration that is the music scene here in Athens. So much is based out of our town that gets credited on a widespread level that it is easily identifiable as one of the top components that define Athens.
The Athens music scene is founded on an indie feel that pervades its style with each new listen. The small town feel of the industry gives it a DIY vibe that’s very tangible and easy to get into. The backbone of the Athens music scene are the local bands. Whether it be the college student “side project”, the part-time bartender, part-time touring band, or the “straight outta Go Bar” townie band, the scene is oriented around a personable and face-to-face experience where the members of the band know their audience and are a dedicated part of the town around them.
Athens-based local labels like Orange Twin and Normaltown Records have come some of the best talent that the Southeast has seen. A group of talented musicians called the Elephant 6 started attaining their success here, and formed a few successful projects that still gain critical acclaim to this day, including Elf Power, of Montreal, and The Minders. The Athens music scene is studded with unique talent that gives it the reputation that it has. The talent that flows freely from all around the southeast with Athens as a central music haven is unmatched by almost any other town of our size.
Aspiring musicians from all over (Tampa Bay, Florida for band Son & Thief; Cleveland, Ohio for Wanderwild, and countless others from Atlanta) flock to Athens to pursue the multitude of opportunities there are here to play, record and grow. Shane Toriscelli, lead singer of Son & Thief, points out that Athens music culture is different from his hometown of Tampa, Florida in that the music fans here are continuously loyal and will continue to come support artists that put on a good show. Shane notes that the fact that only a few local bands can pack out the 40 Watt is really important, and he has felt the positive effects from that.
A band like Wanderwild, headed by lead vocalist Matt Martin is another great example of a modern take on Athens indie feel. Matt lives in a house near Mama’s Boy and records all of the parts to his music in his home studio. He’s also currently working on music videos for each track on his first EP, which he shot in and around Athens. Stylistic choices like these are what make Athens scene so unique.
When discussing the impact of the scene here in town, it’s important to take note of the venues that make this happen. Small venues that give bands their first sets are just as integral to the scene as historic venues like the Georgia Theater and the 40 Watt. It’s cool to the think the role that these historic venues have had on the musical atmosphere of today, just like the small venues will have on the future. Bands like the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Nirvana and Neutral Milk Hotel all played in Athens at the origin of these historic venues, and they all helped shaped those venues into what they are now. But spots like the Caledonia Lounge, the World Famous, Flicker, the Foundry and so many others are just as influential to the scene, as well. These venues give local bands a shot at performance, an occurrence that might not happen otherwise. Bands like Walden, The Sweet Heart Beets, Bridges, The Summer Sonics and more have been able to get their start and begin to get the stage time they need to hone their skills. In a town the size of Athens, it’s really quite amazing that there is the quantity of stages there are for bands to get to do time on. This is really the foundation for what makes Athens music so great; the access to great venues for aspiring bands.
There’s something for everybody in the Athens music scene, and that’s what shapes it into the unique atmosphere that has been created. There is so much local talent that is hungry for success and yearning for the best that it’s no surprise that so many great bands have been launched from our city. As a music fan, I’m extremely excited to see where the future of the Athens music scene lies and how it will continue to grow and evolve along with the spirit of Athens.