A gallery of bystanders gathered behind the yellow police tape on Lumpkin Street Friday in Athens, either paying their respects to the burning Georgia Theatre or watching firefighters smolder the flames.
In case you missed it — and I doubt you did — fire gutted the well-known Athens music venue June 19.
I spent much of my early-to-mid 20s at the Georgia Theatre, so seeing it ablaze saddened the part of me that still yearns for the good times.
I’ll miss the place.
The sentiment of the other onlookers was surely the same. There goes another part of our past, we thought.
All the Athens musical landmarks seem destined for destruction.
Tyrone’s O.C. (where several noted 1980s bands from Athens played their first shows) burned in 1982. The abandoned church in which R.E.M. played its debut was razed in 1990. Now this.
When I think back on the Georgia Theatre, I flash back to late nights, cover bands and a sticky floor varnished with a spilt-beer finish.
That’s not to say I liked every sound resonating from the old stage. The Georgia Theatre offered up as much bad music as it did good.
That’s especially true if you don’t like jazz-rock jam bands, many of which filled the Georgia Theatre marquee. A friend and I joked that you could walk by on any night at 1 a.m. and hear the same endless guitar solo drifting into the Athens evening ethos.
But the old building was more about memories than the music, anyway.
Many a summer night was wasted away there. Many couples either met or broke up there. Many guys settled disputes with fists on the Georgia Theatre floor.
I remember one guy getting decked right in front of me while waiting in line for the bathroom – just laid-out on that disgusting floor tile.
But they did manage to play a lot of music in between the blood, the mud and the beer.
The theatre drew struggling local acts and big pop names alike. My girlfriend is a huge Jason Mraz fan, and she still proudly displays a photo of her and Mraz taken at the Georgia Theatre.
Personally, I caught an eclectic mix of acts — everything from Mel and the Party Hats (an 80s cover band) to country music outlaw David Allen Coe to rappers Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock (remember, “It takes two to make a thing go right?”).
The Georgia Theatre was also a popular place to view a Georgia football game if you didn’t have tickets, although I compiled a less than spectacular record (5-4) at the venue. My biggest Georgia Theatre-witnessed Bulldog win was Georgia’s 31-24 triumph over Florida in 2004, a victory which prompted me to go ring the chapel bell.
But at the end of the day, I was all about the rock show.
The zenith of my Georgia Theatre experience came in February of 2004, when Athens’ own Drive-By Truckers played a homecoming concert.
The Truckers were in rare form, and people were hanging from the rafters that night.
A banner draped over the balcony read, “The boys are back in town.”
Certainly, this was home to many.
A lot of memories burned with the Georgia Theatre .
Ben Munro is a reporter for The Madison County Journal.