Let’s see. Athens, Greece is known for its classic architecture and Athens, Ohio is known for its classic Halloween block parties at Ohio University. But neither compares to Athens, Georgia, with its vibrant music scene that has produced talent such as Danger Mouse and R.E.M.
Athens, Georgia, is also home to another music gem: Drive By Truckers. Band member Patterson Hood tells Ghettoblaster Magazine why his Athens is unique among the others.
What’s your town’s nickname?
The Classic City.
What’s your nickname for your town?
Chronic Town in tribute to the first R.E.M. EP.
Why do you live there?
Because it’s a great place to live. It has a great and thriving music scene and a progressive city government, even though it’s in one of the most Republican states in the Union. I have the 40 Watt, a bunch of close friends, an art cinema and several world class restaurants. My wants are simple and appeased.
Did you grow up there? If not, what brought you there?
No. I grew up in North Alabama and also lived in a couple of other towns. I wanted to live somewhere with a music scene and a progressive mindset. I spent one afternoon in Athens and it just felt like it should be home. I’ve been there for 17 years now.
What’s the weirdest thing that has ever happened to you there?
I found a really happy and stable life. How weird is that?
What is your favorite local attraction (monument, park, etc)?
All my favorite attractions are bars and clubs. We have a few really great ones. I like our art cinema, Ciné, a lot too. 5&10 is becoming a really world renowned restaurant.
What is your favorite local event or festival?
Once a year we have Athfest and about 100 local bands play during a three-day period. You just walk down the street and there is a band playing in every room. It’s truly amazing, the wealth of talent in that town.
What is the best time of year to be there?
Spring and fall are good if you want to be outside, but fall has all the football bullshit, which I can’t stand because the hills empty out and the idiots invade and destroy the town and keep us up all night partying on our street. Summer is hotter than hell, although most of the bars have good air conditioning. I guess spring is my favorite, although I wish those girls would wear more clothes outside because they might catch a cold.
Who is your favorite local celebrity?
That’s a good question.
Where is the best place to drink and what’s their specialty or happy hour?
Flicker Bar and The Manhattan are both stellar. The 40 Watt Club and Caledonia are great places to see great bands play.
Who has the best jukebox (and what’s in it)?
The Manhattan. A bunch of great old records.
Do you play music there? If so, where is your favorite place to play?
We have a long tradition of playing at the 40 Watt Club. Our annual Homecoming Weekend draws fans from all over.
Does where you live influence your music?
Absolutely. It has always been a scene based more on being different and original than trying to be mainstream or get a record deal and that rush of creativity in the air was very inspiring to me from the first moment I came here. We had a support network in place right at home that really enabled us to grow and push ourselves.
What is your favorite place to see live music and what was your favorite show there?
I’ve seen some legendary shows at the 40 Watt. Flaming Lips on Soft Bulletin Tour, Vic Chesnutt, Patti Smith, The Hold Steady. I’ve gotten to see R.E.M. play there a couple of times and that’s always cooler than shit.
What is your favorite local band?
I love David Barbe and The Quick Hooks; Bloodkin, Don Chambers and GOAT, Liz Durrett, R.E.M. and the Futurebirds. My all-time favorite album to come out of there was by a band called The Glands. Their self-titled second album is one of my favorite albums ever made by anyone.
What is your favorite diner or restaurant and what is their best dish?
Love 5 & 10, love The National and love The Grit. The Grit is the local legend-a vegetarian that I actually love (and I’m NOT a vegetarian). They have a Mondo Burrito that is great. I can’t believe that I’m actually talking about something called a Mondo Burrito. Damn!
What is your favorite record store and what was your best find there?
We have Wuxtry, which is the old classic favorite where Peter Buck and Michael Stipe supposedly met, we have Schoolkids where the guy from The Glands runs and Low Yo Yo just re-opened and they are excellent.
What is your favorite local publication (alternative weekly, zine, website or blog)?
Flagpole is our weekly and it is great. Home owned and often intelligent. It’s one of the best weeklies in the country and is still independently owned.
What is your favorite local shop?
Our downtown still has a lot of cool, locally owned shops of all kinds. I tend to be partial to the ones that sell records.
If you could live anywhere else, where would that be?
I’m awfully fond of New York City, Portland and Austin. I like Chicago too, but my wife couldn’t handle the winters so it’s not on the list.