Athfest 09: Tips and Tricks

This time next week, I’ll be gearing up for my favorite event of the year: ATHFEST. With friends from and some readers of this here blog coming for the Fest, I’ve been bombarded with questions about how to make the most of time spent here in Chronic Town. The following is stuff we wished we had known last time. See ya there!

1) Have a buddy. As magical and otherworldly as Athens can be, it’s still not safe for you to wander about at 2 a.m. by your lonesome. A buddy can act as a designated driver or just a safety precaution. Better yet, travel in packs of four. That way, when some sour puss wants to leave the venue, you can throw someone else to the wolves and still enjoy a rockin’ evening.

2) Pre-plan your meals. If you’re not a native Athenian or don’t have a continental breakfast at your hotel/couch/sleeping bag, take along some powdered donuts or Poptarts for breakfast. This will save you some money that you can later use for merch.

Lunch is typically the cheapest meal. Try to schedule your lunch breaks during the hottest part of the day (noon-3) so you can get some cool air and good food at the same time. The GRIT, longtime staple of Athens, is cheap and extremely good for vegetarians and meat-eaters alike. Closer to the stages is Clocked (next to the 40 Watt), The Grill (downtown near the arch), and tons of food vendors outside near the main stage.

For dinner, if you’ve got the budget, you might want to try the National (next to Cine). Other options include the previously stated along with the Varsity, Five Guys, and Mellow Mushroom. If you’re a little short on cash because you decided to buy the vinyl instead of the cd, then you may just want to pop into Trapeze for a small bite or head over to Farm 255 for some homegrown cooking.

3) Befriend a local. Local people in Athens tend to be nice with a few exceptions. If you have no idea how to get to the Georgia Theatre from College Avenue, ask someone. Athfest volunteers usually have a t-shirt on that screams “ATHFEST STAFF” or something like that. They’ll point you in the right direction. Other helpful people can be found behind the counters at Wuxtry Records and Schoolkids Records. They’ll probably even be willing to talk about some of the acts playing that day. Some have been known to act as tour guides…

4) Meeting the band. Most bands are insanely nice. They like fans. You’re a fan. Therefor, they like you. If you really want to meet one of the members, be warned. Some performers need alone time before and after a show to get out of SHOWMODE. Unintentional grumpiness may ensue. I carry around a small sharpie marker on my keyring at all times. While I use it for marking cds and stuff, it’s helpful when you run into, say, one of The Whigs. I also used to carry around just the inserts from my favorite albums that I’d like signed. Last Athfest, I got them all. I saved myself a trip back to the room to fetch them and didn’t have to carry around a ton of discs.

Also, just an FYI for out of towners, if you do happen to see a “famous person” walking around, please remember that he/she is a person too. You wouldn’t want to be interrupted during dinner by some random stranger wanting you to sign something right? Common sense will go a long way here. Be nice, be yourself, be calm and all will be cool.

5) BREAKS, BREAKS, and more BREAKS. No lie, Athens gets hot in the summer. Most people know that. But if you’ve never been here, then you don’t know about the humidity factor. Dry heat is one thing. Moist, damp, suffocating heat is another. Current forecasts are calling for small amounts of rain during Athfest week. That equals pure misery for the unprepared. Bring tons of water. I’d recommend a little fan. Sunscreen is a must if you’re attending the outdoor shows. I’d recommend t-shirts and shorts but wear actual shoes. Some idiots seem to like breaking beer bottles on the ground and leaving them. Get in the shade, get in the pub, get out of the heat when you can. Might I recommend a good music store?

6) Take the Merch and Run. Buy before the show. Here’s a little secret. Over 60 percent of the bands you will see during Athfest have been on tour a good part of the year and have limited merchandise for you to buy. If you know you like the band, get the shirt/cd/hat before. If you’re the type to wait and see, then try to get to the merch area during the last song(usually in the back or lit by X-mas lights). For general Athfest stuff like special event shirts and anything you find in the artist market, weigh your options. Either buy in the morning and leave it in the room or buy it later and risk it not being there. Buying in the middle of the day = hot, sweaty you carrying bags of stuff.

7) Choose Shows Wisely. If you’ve seen a band 8 times and they’re playing the same time as a band you want to see, that’s not really a difficult decision. More than likely, you’re looking at four bands that you have no clue about. This is where some pre-planning might come in handy. Or hell, be spontaneous. Go where the music leads you.

8) Remember Every Moment. Just have fun. You’ll see some great sights, eat some good food, and make new and interesting friends. Take pictures and video. Buy the shirt. And if you’d like to share your story, email us at Hope to see ya there!


  1. I'd like to give an alternative perspective on the 'buy merch' note… (full disclosure, I co-own it) will have our annual AthFest booth out in full force with pretty much everything we have in stock from Athens bands on the site at the Main Stage area.

    So if you want to get stuff you saw the night before as you didn't want to carry it around, we'll likely have it.

    Or if you want to use plastic, many bands can't take credit cards either.

    By all means, buy from the bands direct if you want, but there are some options for buying merch as well. In fairness, there's local record stores Wuxtry or SchoolKids too (although we carry more local stuff).

    You can even buy stuff online pre-AthFest and pick it up at our AthFest booth if you want.

    Enough of the sales pitch. Good tips abound in this article, although I might point out to try some local Athens food establishments first such as The Grill (mentioned earlier) or Clocked for a burger in lieu of Five Guys (a VA chain, although it's good enough) and Transmetropolitan for pizza in lieu of Mellow Mushroom (an ATL chain, now without the same laid back vibe it had in its old locations here).

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