A tribute to R.E.M.
On Sept. 21, 2011, R.E.M. announced their break up and a cloud of sorrow and disbelief shadowed the band’s native home town of Athens, Ga. R.E.M. spent most of their 31-year career putting out top-quality albums and playing inspiring live performances. Fortunately for fans, there was one last chance to see them.
On Nov.13, the Georgia Theatre, located at 215 North Lumpkin Street, hosted “Welcome to the Reconstruction,” a night of local Athens bands, including Clarke Central High School student based band 706, covering R.E.M. songs in remembrance.
Photos by Porter McLeod
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In conjunction with the concert, two other community events took place the following day including, “Back Where We Belong,” a CD release party of their Greatest Hits album at the 40 Watt Club and “Toast of Chronic Town,” a Dinner with food provided by some of Athens finest restaurants.
R.E.M. is known for their strong political views and bond to the Athens community. All the proceeds from concert went straight toward theCommunity Connection of Northeast Georgia and Whatever it Takes, a program dedicated to helping kids in Athens graduate both high school and college.
For only $15 I was able to see some of Athens best musicians, including David Barbe and the Quick Hooks, Futurebirds, John Keane and Nathan Sheppard, Kevn Kinney, Lera Lynn, Nanny Island, Thayer Sarrano and more.
Each band played about 2 songs. Every performance was remarkable, and no act was better than the other, but a couple of songs really stood out.
One of the best performances of the night was by Lera Lynn. Lynn performed one of the most emotional and heart wrenching covers of “Everybody Hurts.” Lynn’s powerful voice, along with the 400 people singing along filled the room with reminiscence of why R.E.M. was so important to Athens.
Another stand-out was John Keane, performing with his daughters, Rachel and Paige. Because he has produced and recorded many songs for R.E.M. in the past, including Automatic for the People, released in 1992,and has lived and played music in Athens for decades, it was not a surprise to see his name appear on the set list.
They performed one of the best covers of “Pretty Persuasion,” off of the album Reckoning,that I have ever heard. With a quartet of some of the best singers in Athens and one of the best guitarist in Athens, the band astounded the crowd with every note.
The final band, the Futurebirds, was another band native to Athens. The alternative-country band’s final song was the appropriately chosen, “Don’t Go Back to Rockville,” due to the simple drumbeat with loud fill-ins, a country-feel guitar riff and a three part chorus.
Halfway through the song, Mike Mills, R.E.M.’s bassist emerged onto stage. The band was stood wide-eyed for a moment until they regained their composure and finished the song with Mills onside.
Mills invited all the performers from the concert to the stage, and requested a final song. The crowd roared with agreement.
From R.E.M.’s first album, Chronic Town to the final, Collapse Into Now, they have traveled worldwide to play music for millions, but even after that R.E.M. still returns to Athens to play one final show for the ones who have been there in the beginning. Mills final words to the crowd that night were, “I am Superman and I can do anything.”
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