February 26, 1997

Athens almost single-handedly propelled college rock from a static-ridden sliver on the low end of the radio dial to a worldwide commercial monster. Popular bands such as R.E.M. and The B-52s started in Athens, stealing the golden egg of southern rock from fellow Georgians, the Allman Brothers, and hatching a whole new bird. The Method Actors, Pylon, Love Tractor and Guadalcanal Diary helped the Athens music scene soar in the 1980s.

R.E.M. played some of its earliest shows in an abandoned church on Oconee Street, and later performed regularly at the 40 Watt Club. The club's star has risen along with that of the introspective quartet; The 40 Watt now occupies a sprawling venue on West Washington Avenue, with its cutting-edge, smoke-filled charm no worse for wear.

Locals such as Vic Chesnutt, Magnapop and Buzz Hungry (featuring Sugar bassist David Barbe) continue the Athens rock tradition, with loyal followings well beyond the borders of this small college town.

For another take on Athens music, check out the High Hat Blues Club, which serves up an eclectic mix of rock, jazz and bluegrass, six nights a week.

Outdoor Athens

Historic Athens

Athens Chow