When you think of Athens, Georgia, two things come to mind: one, of course, being the University of Georgia, and the other the diverse and vibrant music scene the city has to offer with famous venues that have housed acts like REM, Widespread Panic, John Mayer, B-52s, The Zac Brown Band, Kenny Chesney, etc. This list of bands of all sizes from all genres that have graced the stages at venues like the 40-Watt and Georgia Theatre could go on and on, but there is not enough room on this blog to name them all. Needless to say, if you live in Athens, a good show is always easy to find. The Georgia Theatre was always a great place to go see a concert when I was in school at UGA, and my friends and I went often. I was heartbroken when I heard about the fire at The Georgia Theatre in June. All of the memories came back from all of the times I’d been there, and I thought how sad it was that new students and other newcomers would never be able to experience what I had. My brother and his friends jumped immediately into my head because they started UGA this August.
What made The Georgia Theatre so special was the ambiance. It was an intimate place to see a good band. Everything was open so no matter where you were, you could most likely see the band, and if nothing else hear it. Even when you were upstairs forever waiting in line for the bathroom, you could still hear the music. Every time I went to the theatre it was packed with people singing, dancing, and enjoying themselves. Did the Georgia Theatre have the nicest amenities? No, but that’s what made it The Georgia Theatre. It had the sense of an often used and loved place; not sterile in anyway whatsoever. It has been a part of the downtown streetscape of Athens for so long that the history was palpable when you walked in the doors, or saw the Art Deco marquee and ticket window as you walked down Lumpkin Street.
Because of this, I applaud Wilmot Greene’s plan for rebuilding The Georgia Theatre. Many of the historic elements will be retained, and the feel of the place won’t change. Bringing the theatre up to code will mean physical changes for sure, and it will be impossible to build it back to the exact way it was. But, that’s ok too because what can be saved is going to be saved or re-used in new way, like the pine beams that will be used as bar tops. The museum is also a great idea to give people a sense of what The Georgia Theatre was like before the fire. This theatre needs to be its own entity because it will never be exactly what the other was, but, at the same time, be a reminder of and incorporate the history of the place for future generations. That’s the plan, and I’m happy that this is how Mr. Greene will go forward.
There is a concert at the Fox in Atlanta Friday Oct. 30th to benefit The Georgia Theatre. The Zac Brown Band is headlining, and rumor has it other bands will be there as well. I have to work unfortunately or I’d be there. I know I’m not the only one who feels this way about The Georgia Theatre, so everyone who can should come out to the show Friday night and support the cause.