MusicMusic Features

Athens Music 101: How to Get Involved in the Scene as a Student

The new school year brings with it a new crowd of young folks, many of them eager to immerse themselves into Athens’ storied music scene. If you are one of these people—welcome! With a little assistance, you can integrate yourself into the creative community without hurting your wallet or your brain. We asked several Flagpole contributors, all either current or former UGA students, what they think are some of the most effective ways to get involved in local music. Here are their helpful hints. Go forth and rock out!

If you’re anything like me, Athens’ music scene has been on your mind since getting accepted to college here, but figuring out how to get involved as a student can be kind of scary. Festivals and venues always need interns and volunteers—eager young people around to get things done. My first job at a venue in Athens was selling merch for one of the Indigo Girls. I got paid, and I met a lot of people who ultimately led me to the job I have now. Check out festival and venue websites, and get to work! [Jessie Goodson]

With something happening almost every night, the music scene can be overwhelming, even to those who have been in it for years. Fortunately, there is a list of every show at every venue published weekly in the Flagpole Calendar. All you have to do is pick up a Flagpole or go to the website and pick a day that you’re free. Pro tip: Go see your favorite band on a weeknight instead of waiting for them to play Friday or Saturday—weeknight shows, especially on Monday and Tuesday, are often free or $5. [Rosemary Scott]

I was just one of two students from my South Carolina high school to attend UGA in the fall of 2009. And though I made it out to a show or two with my musically inclined roommate or a friend I’d met in a Facebook group over the summer, one of my biggest regrets is not hitting the ground running and soaking up more of the music scene early on. Speaking as someone who barely knew anyone else my age (my two older sisters, who also attended UGA, left me with some good connections, but what twentysomething wants to hang out with an angsty, sleep-deprived freshman?), don’t let your social anxieties or lack of a partner in crime keep you from discovering a new favorite band—or, better yet, someone in the exact same boat. [Andy Barton]

When I first arrived in Athens, I relied on my older friends to help guide me through the scene. There are so many cool, hip people here, it was easier for me to rely on others to tell me what they liked, instead of discovering it for myself. Because of this, it took me years to discover the smaller venues and bands that have now become my favorites. It turns out that those hipsters who I thought would reject me are some of the most welcoming, genuine people I have ever met. No one cares what you look like, how many shows you’ve been to or how long you’ve been in the scene. (And if they do, they’re probably more worried about what you think of them, anyway.) Don’t be afraid to go to shows by yourself. It’s exponentially worse to drag your friend who may not want to be there, and you’re more likely to make a friend or two if you’re not distracted by someone else. [RS]

As ridiculous as it may sound, hanging out in a few very specific places helps one acclimate to a new place big time. Whether it’s a coffee shop on the edge of downtown or a bar with a spacious lounge area, getting to know the people who also frequent that space can introduce a lot of new music into your life. It’s Athens—everyone knows someone in a band, so it can’t hurt to be kind, or to talk about music with a stranger. Just remember to tip, and tip well. [Maria Lewczyk]

If you want to get into the music scene, find people who make music. Guitarists and beat-makers are everywhere, but drummers—and especially drums—are harder to find. Lots of musicians tend to gravitate towards the WUOG 90.5 FM community, so consider joining the college radio station. There are also amazing house shows happening all the time, so look out for those to meet cool people who love music. [Reid Koski]

“Squeaky wheel and all that” is a phrase I’ve heard most of my life. Persistence is key when it comes to making connections. With so many bands in Athens, local venues, booking agents, labels, publications, etc. get lots of emails and phone calls every day, so don’t be afraid to follow up—most of the time, they admire the effort. The only way to make connections in Athens is to try. The only reason Flagpole hired me as an intern is because I emailed and called for about a year. The power of bugging people is within all of you. [JG]

Even though the Golden Rule still feels like a parental negotiation tactic, it rings true. The idea is that if people treat others with respect, they will be treated thusly. This applies—surprise!—to basically everything. If you’re trying to navigate a scene, befriend as many people as you can. Be kind and understanding. Discuss what you like (plants) and what you don’t like (spaghetti). Talk about your current favorite album to drive around to (Beerbongs & Bentleys) and the first song that made you cry (“Stolen” by Dashboard Confessional). Listen to others, and learn from them. Little connections can go a long way and, in turn, introduce you to a whole network of incredible people. [ML]