MusicThreats & Promises

2016’s Athens Music News, Today

As we take our very first Baby New Year steps into 2016, let’s take some time to look over the upcoming year and wonder aloud about just what the hell we were thinking. By all reasonable forecasts, the year looked to be just another notch on the ‘ol belt of life, but we’re Athenians, dammit, and we certainly didn’t let it turn out that way.

JANUARY: After transferring the last of their holiday gift money into the corporate coffers of Miller Brewing and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco by blowing it out on New Year’s Eve, members of the Athens music scene spent the first month of January picking up extra shifts, half-heartedly following through on plans to replace drummers and—for the first time in their lives—being truly thankful for receiving that three-pack of flannel shirts and a dozen new pairs of tube socks. Several noted how cool it was to go a whole month without needing to do laundry.

FEBRUARY: Caught in the midst of the second gift-giving season in less than 90 days, the incapable-of-planning townie set breathed a sigh of relief when they realized Valentine’s Day was on a Sunday. Because, dude, this is Athens and, like, nothing happens on Sunday. I mean, everyone just went and hung at The World Famous like normal, so I literally can’t even with what your girlfriend/boyfriend/just-a-friend feels like complaining about. God.

MARCH: Turning heel on previously announced plans and furthering the involvement of the UGA student body, Slingshot Festival organizers re-routed the event to Panama City Beach, where they hosted the first ever Spring Sling Beach Jam. Referred to via the hashtag #SSSBBJ2K16 (Slingshot Spring Break Beach Jam 2016), the entire event was live-streamed so those stuck back in Athens wouldn’t have to go a week without snark fodder and shit-talking.

APRIL: For the first year, Flagpole was granted access to the press box at Sanford Stadium for the UGA G-Day football game. Seeking to maximize this positioning, the paper used the press box to moderate a debate between candidates for Clarke County school board from districts 2, 4, 6 and 8 seeking election in November. City Editor Blake Aued was particularly happy with this work/play scenario and took to shouting, “2-4-6-8! What do we appreciate? Schools! Dogs! Stuff!” to anyone who would listen. This was also the last time Flagpole was granted press box access at Sanford Stadium.

MAY: A train car full of crusty punks and street musicians was delivered to Athens from Portland, OR. There was postage due on the shipment, and the box had become damaged during transit, allowing a few of these wily parcels to drip out into the city, eventually pooling near the storm drain just in front of The Grill. Local crafters seized this opportunity to create an artisanal cardboard buy-back program whereby those in need were sold a low-cost piece of locally sourced paper corrugation upon which to make an authentic “travelin-n-broke” sign. After their fundraising campaigns ended, the signs were purchased by Athens-area art dealers and sold to well-heeled visitors as folk art. All in all, this was a win-win for late capitalism.

JUNE: The organization behind AthFest, the nonprofit AthFest Educates, continued to have a positive impact on the education and development of local youth. To this end, board members rejected a “reality/immersion” proposal that would have given students a tour of local musicians’ homes and practice spaces, and also included activities like “local-band-takes-a-kid-to-work-day” and a math experiment that included the problem, “If your bandmate has $41 on his/her EBT card, $12.75 in sofa change and owes you $45 from last month’s bills, how much ramen can he buy before he spends all night posting selfies on Instagram?” Reading the proposal, an anonymous board member was drawn to quoting Spinal Tap; when asked if such ideas kinda put things into perspective, she simply said, “Yeah, a bit too much fucking perspective.”

JULY: The heat didn’t so much sucker-punch the scene as make it punch suckers. Everyone followed the relaxation advice of local producer and DJ Lamar “Redklay” Jones and hung up a shingle that said, “Gone Fishin’.” This marked the first time ever that the Athens rock scene ever paid honest heed to a single thing anyone in the Athens hip hop scene had done. We each broke an arm patting ourselves on the back.

AUGUST: The Wildwood Revival—the only festival known to man that unironically requires VIP tickets for access to an on-site antebellum home to enjoy, among other top amenities, private restrooms—returned as a celebration of all things down-home, handmade and small-batched. Special this year was a boxed set of compositions from the event’s musical acts. The set included four Mason jars, and the liner notes told purchasers exactly how much water to put in each for whichever piece they wanted to hear. For playback, the jars were to be taken to the local pop-up dinner of one’s choice, where diners would run their fingers over the jars to produce the actual music. They were reasonably priced at $18.62, in recognition of the year the U.S. Department of Agriculture was founded.

SEPTEMBER: To my eternal shame, I lost the rights to the festival I founded, Athens Intensified, in a card game. Although I knew in my heart I should have never put down such stakes against the hardline-rockin’ homeboy T. Hardy Morris—why do ya think they call him “Hardy?”—it was super late, we’d not seen each other in a while and, well, you know. Extending his hand in gallantry, though, Morris gave me the remainder of his Feed the Beat gift card his band had gotten from Taco Bell, and I ate up every last penny of that $15. So, yeah, who’s the real winner here?

OCTOBER: Traditionally, this month is spent in anticipation of the Wild Rumpus parade, bands playing cover sets and general good-natured mayhem. But this year the Athens music scene really got its joie de vivre going and coordinated the entire city into staging a full-on tribute to Widespread Panic’s “Panic in the Streets” event from 1998. Upping his game significantly, local rabble-rouser Timi Conley took charge of coordinating the nearly 100,000-person crowd and production crew. Highlights of the event included a Dave Schools hologram, a one-block area of special “throwback” spring-’n’-crank parking meters and $1 canned Schlitz beer. The more things change…

NOVEMBER: The Athens Area Arts Council, having already invested in the acronym AAAC, changed its name to Athens Area Arts Counseling. The self-explanatory moniker opened the unit up to more effective areas of need in the arts community by allowing artists to submit their work for review before unleashing it. As part of the process, musicians who attended meetings with the board had to answer questions such as, “How does it feel to have done this?”

DECEMBER: Nuçi’s Space came up with yet another creative fundraiser to close the year out. This year, as the core component of its “The Name Blame” raffle, bands were called to match their group’s name with a task they would perform for the community if they received the highest bids. Mothers offered child care, The Powder Room raised its hand for bathroom cleaning services, Jock Gang brought bullying lessons to the table, Five Eight said they could guess someone’s height, and Patterson Hood offered to come back to town so there could be at least one last Drive-By near Wilkerson Street before total gentrification took hold.