I drove three hours from visiting my parents back to Athens for the Murmur 25th Anniversary Party at the 40 Watt. Beyond worth it.
For the last 10 albums, R.E.M. has thrown a release party that benefits Community Connection of Northeast Georgia & Family Connection/Communities in Schools. They’re always a lot of fun and it’s nice to be able to support something good by hanging out with other fans and listening to music.
Perfect Circle: Athens Bands Play R.E.M.’s Murmur was similar in style to the Finest Worksongs concert. Well, R.E.M. didn’t play this one but still!
I made sure to read this before I left for the 40 Watt. Very interesting to read how these artists react to Murmur 25 years on.
Jeff Montgomery started the night off with some 1983 footage of some nerds that played music…oh wait. That’s R.E.M.! Woah. I’ve seen most of the footage before thanks to remdave but that still doesn’t make it any less surprising to see a curly headed Stipe with a Buck that had been going the “lemon juice” route with his hair, a very goofy looking Mills and a feather headed Berry. Even more priceless was the look on Stipe’s face when these clips showed up, more on that later.
Nate Nelson led off followed by Packway Handle Band who played my favorite “Murmur” song, Catapult! I figured that they would. The harmonies that PHB do in their regular shows are perfect for such a happy little tune. I’m still amazed that they don’t poke each other’s eyes out when gathered around that condenser mic though.
Heavy Feather was next then Liz Durrett then Iron Hero. I wasn’t really impressed with Feather and Liz was pretty cool but Iron Hero absolutely blew me away. It’s one thing to play an R.E.M. song, it’s another to make the song yours. Their rendition of Radio Free Europe has probably surpassed my love of the original. The crowd had been pretty sedate up until that point, but no longer.
Spring Tigers came up, forgetting the words to Catapult for a bit but doing an okay job. I really just remember them yelling “Did we really miss anything?” a lot. Fun!
Don Chambers was the last act and I was looking forward to it all night. They pulled out the ladder and a megaphone and I started grinning like a fool. Chambers ripped into 9-9 and made you feel every tortured line. Shivers ran up and down my spine when he started Radio Free Europe for only the second time that night.
I was surprised at how popular Pilgrimage was with the bands but I was downright shocked that no one played “West of the Fields.” Talking to Jeff, he said that most of the bands had maybe two weeks to learn these songs and “Fields” just seemed to get dropped. Oh well.
I am so thankful that Sloan from southernshelter was there to record the whole night. Keep an eye on the site for more info about the possible mp3s from the night.
Also announced was a service day in honor of R.E.M. Sometime in April 2009, Georgians will sign up to feed the hungry, clean parks, build houses, and other charitable acts in the name of R.E.M. It’s a great way to show our gratitude to a band who’s given so much to Athens. Here’s hoping we can pick this up for the whole world. Think of it. Tons of R.E.M. fans all over the world, each helping out that one day, making the planet a better place. Cool.
So R.E.M. did not play. But Bertis Downs was running around, hugging and shaking hands, having a good ol’ time while Michael Stipe hung around back near the sound board. The highlight of my night was standing next to him when a younger version of himself appeared on screen. He looked up from his phone, and, with a bit of a blush, smiled. I carried on a short conversation with him and watched him leave later, just as quietly as he came. Didn’t see Mills or Berry but I wasn’t on the lookout.
Anyway, tried to buy the Murmur disc but it was sold out. Completely. Darnit. Bought the special shirt. Every time there’s a release party, they have someone design a limited edition shirt that benefits the charity. This one makes three. Front and Back modeled by my lovely assistant Mr. Office Chair.
Always, MAJOR thanks to Jeff Montgomery at athensmusic.net for throwing an amazing event. He puts so much effort into these events and we definitely appreciate it. Thanks dude. Now for a “Reckoning” party next year! I’ve already started practicing Time After Time.
Just wanted to say thanks for the report on this celebration of Murmur. I’ve been a fan of this band since my college radio days when Chronic Town first came out. Am totally envious that you were there but grateful that you shared it here. 🙂