Despite a fire that nearly demolished the historic music venue, the renovated Georgia Theatre remains the hot spot for Athens residents to mingle, and for new and well-known music talent to come perform.
By ELLE NAUTA
ATHENS, Ga. — The Georgia Theatre serves as a live music and event space for anyone to come and enjoy.
The building was built in 1935 as a movie theatre and opened as a music venue in 1978, serving the community in various ways since then.
People from all over the country come visit the Georgia Theatre to see artists perform their music. The facility, located in the center of downtown Athens, has a capacity of just over 1,000 people, which makes for a more intimate setting.
When the building is not being used for showcasing incredible talent, the theatre also serves as a hangout spot and eatery with drink specials, food and live music on the rooftop.
University of Georgia fans utilize the theatre to watch the Georgia Bulldogs on large projection screens on game day, and the restaurant and bar on the roof is also open for the public from 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
Country Artist Megan Moroney
A young musician and University of Georgia student Megan Moroney often utilized the theatre as a fun spot to hang out with her friends. Moroney has also been to several shows at the theatre.
“One of my favorite things is that you can go to any random show and most likely enjoy it, Moroney said. “The talent that the Georgia Theatre brings in is unmatched. The ticket prices are rarely expensive so it’s always easy and affordable to make a show.”
However, the theatre became much more to her the first time she performed there as an opener for country artist Chase Rice.
“I had just been in the crowd a few weeks before and, when I found out I was playing there, I almost didn’t believe it,” said Moroney. “The Georgia Theatre is the biggest venue I have played so far and Chase sold the place out. It was a night that we will never forget.”
Countless thousands of acts have performed on its stage, and many bands would not be where they are today were it not for the Theatre.
Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, the Dave Matthews Band, Luke Bryan, and John Mayer are just a few of the many popular artists who have performed at the theatre.
Several influential music videos have been filmed at the Athens venue as well, including R.E.M.’s “Shiny Happy People” and John Mayer’s “No Such Thing.”
Music enthusiast Hannah Bagley has grown up going to shows at the theatre. She was raised in Buford, Ga., and often made trips to see shows in Athens with her family.
“My favorite shows I’ve seen at the Georgia Theatre are Umphrey’s McGee, Dave Matthews Band, and Portugal. The Man,” Bagley said.
“What I love about the theatre is that it’s a pretty big venue compared to places like the Masquerade,” she said, referring to an Atlanta venue. “But it still has a very intimate vibe, which makes seeing shows there so awesome.”
The theatre was rebuilt in 2009 after a fire devastated the historic concert hall. The people of Athens came together and worked diligently to restore the theatre by 2011 and contributed to making it what it is today.
“When the theatre burned down in 2009 I remember it being a really big story because it’s such an icon for rock n roll,” said Bagley. “Zac Brown Band threw a benefit concert at The Fox to help raise money to cover the cost of damages from the fire. But I love that the history behind it is still there. I really feel like it’s a landmark for rock music because it helped launch the careers of a lot of bands that started in Athens like R.E.M. and the B-52s.”
The venue is newly renovated with a state-of-the-art sound system, exceptional acoustics, two balconies, and a popular open-air roof area with a full bar and patio seating to seat more guests.
“They kept the charred brick walls that almost stand as a symbol of battle scars that the venue endured, and they kept the renovation as close to the original structure as possible by reusing whatever they could salvage,” said Bagley. “It’s renovated to look a lot like the original structure.”
Visitors of the Georgia Theatre must be 18 and up to attend a show at the theatre, and 21 and up to watch a Georgia game inside. Some events are free, but tickets for shows range anywhere from $5 to $30. Tickets, ticket prices, and the theatre’s show schedule and events can be accessed at https://www.georgiatheatre.com/.