WELCOME: Seeing as how we’re a friendly bunch here in Athens, I don’t think any of you would mind if I sent out a welcome to all new and returning UGA students, right? Good. Now, students—especially those of you who are just getting your feet wet in our town—here’s to you enjoying your time here and contributing to making Athens as great as it can be. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to eat at the same places your hometown has, shop at the same stores and hang out with the same people from your high school. And a good chunk of you will do just that, so vaya con dios. But for the rest of you—musicians, writers, artists and the all-around curious and interested—Athens has more than enough going on to fill your calendar and inspire you, plus room enough for you to do your own thing while you figure it all out. Go see a show, visit a museum, volunteer, etc. Each of us was once a total newbie here. Hopefully, by the time your schooling is finished, you’ll understand why we stayed. Now, let’s get into the news…
STUCK IN THE MIDDLE: Athens-via-Royston indie-pop band band Gumlog has been gigging around town for a while, but released the new Gumlog and Friends album late last month. At first blush, it was way too twee for my tastes, so I set it aside and came back to it later. The second time around was much better. After opening with the sincere and tuneful “Wood Panels,” it slides into 40 seconds of legit psychedelia on “Purvis Pudding.” By the third track, the pretty but not terribly gentle “Scarecrow’s Lament,” I’m pretty dug in. But then, wait! These dudes buried the lede so well I almost missed it. The hit here is the krautrock/soft-shoegaze tune “A Cherished Bell.” It’s so good I basically forgot the rest of the record, but can tell you the album is earnest, carefully rendered—especially the gorgeous “Slow Hidden Drive” and “Lullaby”—and totally fine. But give me a semi-motorik beat, and I’m just gonna get stuck on that. Shift your own gears at gumlogtheband.bandcamp.com.
UPDATE: The Athens-Clarke Heritage Foundation, founded in 1967, has changed its name to Historic Athens. It pains me to say that longtime Athens promoter, performer, activist, former commission candidate and executive director of the valued organization, Tommy Valentine, totally missed his chance at calling it OG Athens. At any rate, to celebrate this new era, Historic Athens will host the Historic Athens Porchfest Sunday, Oct. 6 from 1–7 p.m. The concept is one that has spread across the country over the past decade, where several folks in a neighborhood volunteer their front porches as performance spaces. Kind of like a moveable feast, but with music. Four neighborhoods have been chosen for this inaugural event: Pulaski Heights, Newtown, Boulevard and Buena Vista. If you’d like to volunteer or assist in any way, including by performing, see historicathens.com/porchfest. For all other business, see historicathens.com and facebook.com/historicathens. In all seriousness, this is a tremendous organization that has done an amazing amount of work on behalf of our beloved Classic City. Nothing but respect for all involved.
SELL YOUR HOUSE AND GO TO A SHOW ALREADY: Tickets are on sale now for the 2019–2020 season of UGA Presents, which is curated and coordinated by the UGA Performing Arts Center. As I mentioned several weeks ago, the lineup this year is, by any standard, world-class. Featured performances include Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder, Patti LuPone, the Zurich Chamber Orchestra, Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis and tons more. The season opener is Sept. 6 with jazz pianist Aaron Diehl with his Aaron Diehl Trio. For tickets and information, see pac.uga.edu or call 706-542-4400. Or just drop on by the box office (230 River Road) Monday through Friday from 10 a.m.–5 p.m.
KEEP GOING: Drew Kirby is back again with a new record—or mixtape, or whatever—by Civils. It’s ostensibly named Narcin On Heavens Door, but it might be named SSPILLS'S Narcin On Heavens Door. Either way, there’s a whole bunch of album notes you can read, so I’ll leave interpretation to you. I can say, though, this is about my favorite Civils record ever—or at least so far. It’s got lots of self-destructing power pop and other sweet gems. For example, dig the fuzz of “I Saw the Lite,” the heartbeat creep of “Scott Foster Played Tonight” and the overdriven and subsequently painful “Beatin on the Creeps.” Oddly enough, the “bonus” track, “Nervewrecker (2017 mix),” is probably the most immediately accessible thing here, but don’t cheat yourself by skipping over everything else. Do the work. Start digging in at marchingbanana.bandcamp.com.