Depending on whom you ask, this is either the final year of the last decade or the first year of a new decade. I swear we go through this same stupid controversy every 10 years, but whatever. At the very least, we can undoubtedly say we inhabit a world where quick news of questionable origin is the law of the land. And if it’s in list form, even better! To this end, here’s your annual rundown of 2020 Athens music scene highlights.
JANUARY: While enjoying a relaxing Christmas with his family, local beat-maker and rapper WesdaRuler vowed to himself once again that he would keep it real in the new year. Noticing that even the best-behaved children can still get outta hand sometimes, though, he also vowed to do it for the kids. Thus, his first album of children’s hip hop, titled Baby Boom Bap aka Wesley’s Rules, landed online by month’s end.
FEBRUARY: Seeking more inclusivity—and, by the same turn, less exclusivity—multiple Athens-area bands bonded together for the first ever “What’s Love Got to Do With It?” Valentine’s Day ball. If you were there, then you know who played. If you don’t know, then I guess it looks like someone got left-swiped, partner.
MARCH: Taking their cue from some list of side hustles they read on an influencer Instagram account, nearly every musician headed to SXSW listed their residence on Airbnb. While they spent most of the week dreaming of dancing $50 bills in their head, they were rudely awakened by the fact that literally no one heads to Athens for spring break.
APRIL: Early this month, during their weekly potluck dinner, the Athens punk scene hatched a plan for an anti-April compilation album. Everything was recorded in about a day, and the record slipped out completely unnoticed via Bandcamp before the second week of the month. But why? Well, as the liner notes, uh, noted, “The old saying goes, ‘April showers bring May flowers.’ But what do Mayflowers bring? Oppression!”
MAY: Like clockwork, a surprising number of music scene members, enthusiasts and hangers-on graduated from the University of Georgia, proving, yet again, that while Huntsville, AL, may have more PhDs per capita, Athens has the most over-educated assortment of doormen, bartenders, craft makers and beard owners. Just joshin’, y’all. We were all super proud of you!
JUNE: AthFest came and went, but 2020 was its transitional year. Seeking to raise more funds via tiered ticketing and premium alcohol sales, the most expensive admission consisted of an entire personal bottle of Grey Goose vodka and a half gallon of Tropicalia served in a private, single-occupancy closet inside The Rook & Pawn.
JULY: Seeking to honor some aspect of the United States without being all Toby Keith about it, local metal merchant and label Shadebeast Records released the comp Gloom of Night: A Tribute to the Men and Women of the United States Postal Service. The self-same service would like to remind you that it can’t do anything without your tracking number and hopes you saved your receipt.
AUGUST: Too Hot to Fish. Period.
SEPTEMBER: Untold numbers of supremely under-attended “Back to School” bashes were held. The only one of note was the sold-out rooftop show by DJ triplets Booty Boyz. Because, as we all know, nothing really connects with the new generation than three middle-aged guys who are, in real life, a scientist, an antiques dealer and a chef/BitCoin investor. Someone call Pedro Almodovar! I swear, the stories just write themselves sometimes.
OCTOBER: The Wild Rumpus, founded by King of Halloween Timi Conley, finally sold out and cashed in. Relinquishing his Grand Marshal baton, Conley counted fat stacks while watching the reborn Crest Cavity Creeps lead the gathered throng through a terrifying and exhilarating journey. Participants and onlookers were thrilled by Count Chocula’s sundae fountain and beside themselves with joy as they imbibed small-batch Monster Mash whiskey. And, just like every other Halloween-related thing, all of this was worth at least one-third less by sunset and basically free by midnight.
NOVEMBER: Ah, Thanksgiving month. Also known as “Hell, I’ve got three finals in two days, can you cover my shift, why not, come on?!” and “That weird month where everything feels like it’s slowing down, but somehow every band you know is playing at least three times.” Kidding aside, we were all very thankful for your band. I promise. Pinky swear.
DECEMBER: As a final act of protest against gentrification, insane rent increases, corporate buyouts and a complete lack of convenience, the music scene, along with key downtown merchants, restaurateurs and club owners, packed the flag and moved out. Seeking plentiful parking, reasonable rent and utilities, diversity and dependable operating hours, the New Downtown at Georgia Square Mall became a reality. The name came courtesy of longtime scene member Kathleen Falke, and honestly, it’s a concept so brilliant and completely obvious, it’s shocking it hadn’t occurred yet. Sure, before it all went down, you laughed. But you and I both knew that “Stranger Things” had happened. See ya in 2021!