Dispatches From Athfest: Day 2, Thursday

I was still a little in awe of the events from Wednesday night that I thought I had better start Thursday off nice and slow. I woke up around 11 a.m. and sat on the futon listening to the wonderful Athfest 2008 Compilation cd. I had won it back in May at the pre-release party and had given it a few spins not thinking much about it. Glad I picked it up again.

I know I’m hardly unbiased about this but Athens has such a great variety of good music. Sometimes you’ll hear something that draws you in, regardless of your previous musical tastes. For example, I’m not overly fond of country music but the most played track on my Athfest playlist is “Trailer Park Hall of Fame” by Caroline Monroe. A twangy Southern tune about a lonely girl that lets herself get swept away by a tornado…not the happiest thing but the storytelling is just wonderful.

I can appreciate little details such as the “wedding dress she never wore/hidden under the bed” and the fact that it the whole incident was “Just another tragedy”. Good stuff and definitely something I would’ve missed if I had stuck with my country avoidance streak.

Around 4, my friend Justin called up and asked if I wanted to hang out. Having nothing else to do before the annual Flagpole Athens Music Awards, I said sure. He picked me up and we went for a walkabout in the park. First destination: Murmur Trestle.

The story of the Trestle is a good one. It was featured on the cover of R.E.M.’s “Murmur” and became a landmark of Athens. After a few tussles with oblivion, a section of the trestle was saved for future generations of fans to enjoy…from afar. Well, hell if I’m not going to climb that thing.

Turns out that there’s a cool little path leading up to the trestle, making it easy to climb up on. The real fight is with yourself, trying to convince yourself that walking out on a weathered old trestle some 50 feet up over a creek is not a bad idea. It’s not encouraged but it was fun. I’m not insane enough to walk past the metal center but there was a little place to sit and look out into the park. Quiet, peaceful, and, unfortunately, really hot. There’s no tree coverage so we ended paying a sweat-debt for our little picnic on the trestle.

After that we went walking at the Botanical Gardens, a place I always want to go but always seem to not have enough time to get to. Just as it was getting to be 7:30, Justin dropped me off at the Morton Theatre for fun, awards, and music.

The announcers were pretty fun, especially local comic strip star Tofu Baby. Love her or hate her, it was cute. The Sprockets video awards were cool, especially when Kite to the Moon won audience favorite for their Junkman’s Daughter’s Brother video for “Tigerz”. Hip! A band I haven’t seen yet, The Buddy System, came on after an intermission and reminded me of some good ol’ art projects from years past. Kudos to the videographer. Of Montreal were their usual selves, dressed up and ready to get going with the award ceremony. By the end of the show, I was wondering if we should just rename the awards “The Jeff Tobias Side-Project” ceremony.

The Flagpole Awards have been going on a while now. Each year, Athens music lovers/Flagpole readers vote on pre-chosen categories and bands for the best of the best. Usually, this is a pretty easy thing to do. I know people whose method is just voting for the bands that they’ve heard of and letting it go. I try to listen to at least one song from each. Fortunately for us, Athens made it hard by having what seemed like every band worth their salt release a record.

The most ridiculous category to vote for was Best Album. Really, the competition was crazy. Vote for the thematically solid Drive By-Truckers, the quirky and danceable Elf Power, the energetic young Whigs, the amazing return of The B-52s, or the mind-blowing speed of R.E.M. Yeah.

Well, R.E.M. won. Now, this may not seem entirely unexpected but the award is pretty important for the band and the community. Accelerate is a great album after an abstract one (Up), a summer soundtrack (Reveal) and an “okay but not quite up to snuff” one (Around the Sun). Many had given up on getting an even remotely danceable album from the boys when out of nowhere they show up in Dublin with kick-ass new material.

This album/tour has shown that they have confidence in themselves again and, by voting them Best Album, it shows that Athens has confidence in them too. It’s always hardest to win over the home audience that’s known you back when you used to do bad covers in the basement. So good on R.E.M. Just sorry they couldn’t make the ceremony. Something about playing Madison Square that night…..

After the ceremony was the Spring Tigers vs. Twin Tigers performance. I should’ve stayed for it but I was tired of sitting after that point. Went back to the apt and dreamt of all the animal band names that have been circling Athens for a while now…..Tigers and Tigers and Bears and Sharks Oh MY!


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