January 9, 2019

2019 in Review: Tomorrow's Athens Music News, Today

Threats & Promises

Photo Credit: Savannah Cole

The King of Halloween.

Welcome to 2019, y’all. For the sake of efficiency, I went ahead and got the whole year’s news together in advance. It’s just easier this way. So, take a look below, and remember it all before you get too busy to forget.

JANUARY: After struggling for weeks to schedule shows for New Year’s Eve—before realizing that the celebrated holiday fell on a Monday—Athens bands found themselves competing for bookings with those songs-in-the-round things, open mic shows and whatever else clubs traditionally do to get a Monday crowd. One agent told me, “Look, it’s still Monday, and as far as I can see, ain’t nothin’ goin’ on but the rent!”

FEBRUARY: Both fans and friends of fans were edified by popular local restaurants offering a “songs for your supper” special for Valentine’s Day. The way this worked was patrons showed up for dinner, then were serenaded by whatever musician happened to be waiting on them.* No actual food was harmed during these shenanigans, as it very clearly says the supper is songs. (*No substitutions.)

MARCH: The number of small, sort-of-boutique, regional festivals purporting to be a nice place to stop “on the way to SXSW” reached a breaking point. Unbeknownst to the music industry at large, it’s actually really frickin’ impossible for groups of four and five to take two whole weeks off of work to go travel around for “exposure.” That said, the sandwiches were cool, and we really appreciate the floor space. Here’s to making I-20 the corridor to the stars.

APRIL: Seeking to redress a grievance for which none of them could discern an actual point of origin, a small gaggle of train hoppers, crusty punks, wooks and full-on oogles wrote a bunch of signs on cardboard and stood in front of the downtown Starbucks. Loosely organized behind the theme of “April Showers is a microaggressive signifier of limpio-normativity!” or some such crap, most were cool with a couple of bucks for their folk-punk band, and if you dared, you could pet their dog.

MAY: Toward the end of this month, multiple shows were woefully under-attended, so everyone working them was forced to talk among themselves. “Whoa, is it finals week?” most asked. “I dunno, maybe?” came the reply. “Pretty sure it is. Lemme check.” Before anyone finished checking, it was decided that a round of howdys was in order, then everyone celebrated imagining students being out of town, and that’s really how everything went.

JUNE–AUGUST: A blur, a whirlwind, a three-month tour of never-ending heat and semi-mayhem… all these things are exactly what summer 2019 was not. It was hot, wet and more crowded than usual, and every band you thought was going to play AthFest actually did—but not on the night you went out. Athens Popfest waited until the very last minute to announce reunion shows from R.E.M., The Smiths, The Beatles, Herman’s Hermits and Vanilla Fudge. While several of these shows sold out quickly, attracting fans from around the world, most of the Athens scene was found later at Nowhere Bar, where they remarked, “Wait, that was tonight?”

SEPTEMBER: Although fall session at UGA had begun a few weeks earlier, we were all really proud of our friends who decided to go back to school this term. It’s hard enough going to college in the first place, and even more difficult once you’re past 30. That said, we still kinda resent them for not coming to our shows anymore, and for how they’ve really fallen off.

OCTOBER: After declaring himself King of Halloween a decade ago, Wild Rumpus founder Timi Conley successfully petitioned the ACC government to just let him go for it and take the whole month. While the actual parade only happened on one night, the boon to the costume-shop economy was noted and appreciated, while local “makers” talked a whole lot online about how Halloween has totally sold out and the devil never meant for it to get so corporate.

NOVEMBER: In the weeks leading up to the Athens music scene’s day of reflection, gluttony and—for more than a comfortable few—football, things started slowing down. During what is known colloquially as “sad acoustic time,” several new EPs were released documenting breakups, evictions, a questionable interest-rate environment and whatever else happened to be on our gentle artists’ mind during those hours when all their roommates insisted they be quiet. For the most part, they each received a solid B for effort.

DECEMBER: After years of speculation and opinion gathering, it was unanimously decided that the Downtown Parade of Lights was by far the best live event of the year. To this end, the city dispensed with the requisite permits for floats, and every local band just jumped on in. While the Flagpole float remained the exclusive domain of the powers that be, out there on the street the 1,000-person strong Elephant 6 Orchestra marched through the street with all its grandchildren, everyone agreed that this year’s theme of “Holland, 1945” was pretty A-OK, and the potluck dinner held outside City Hall had too many green bean casseroles. Overall, though, 2019 was another spectacular year in the Classic City!