Monday night the Georgia Theatre re-opened for business, two years after a mystery fire hollowed the downtown institution. One of Athens' most beloved and lovingly bemoaned bands, The Glands, were the evening's headliners. Humble, reclusive, perhaps a little unwilling, The Glands are classic Athens rock stars whether they like it or not and over the course of the night proved it, once again. More gushing on them later, but first, the new Theatre!
The new Theatre is a triumph. A brand new music venue that retains the heart and soul of the old venue. The new Georgia Theater acknowledges its past and then builds on it, beginning with what little could be salvaged after the fire. The new design doesn't brag. It is considered, measured and well laid out. Visually, the interior tells a story. One that is less historical reenactment and more contemporary re-imagining. If the old theatre was this, the new theatre is this.
The new layout is fuller and offers more vantage points. The old balcony was the worst. You either found the least broken seat available and immediately sat down in it or you went back downstairs. The new balcony is comprised of a series of smaller asymmetrical balconies allowing for a variety of viewing perches, each with its own railing/drink shelf. And even though the new Theatre is more industrial strength, with its massive exposed I-beams, metal work and charred brick walls, there is still a warmth to the room, due in large part to the series of giant red velvet drapes which extend from ceiling to floor at the front of the house and around the stage.
There is now a rooftop bar and patio, and it is exactly what it sounds like: a huge single-level outdoor space where you can sit down, hang out and enjoy the weather. Another new area is a brightly-lit second floor art gallery space located directly behind the Theatre's red deco marquee letters. The gallery is currently showing framed photographs of the Theatre in various states of post-fire damage and reconstruction.
There are also new amenities to help save money and make clean up easier, such as waterless urinals for the dudes to ponder and floor drains for all your spilled beers to run into. The ceiling now sports three imposing but enormously cool and cooling big ass fans, just like the ones at the new Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in Alpharetta.
It's of particular note that even with bigger acts such as Gillian Welch, Bright Eyes, and Big Boi already lined-up, the owners chose to book two, lesser known, but universally loved (within the music scene), local acts. Very cool, new Georgia Theater. Very cool and very respectful.
So a big congratulations to Theatre owner Wilmont Green, who has not so much restored the theatre to a dated and forgotten glory but rebuilt and revitalized an important Athens landmark. Mr. Green, along with everyone else involved with in effort, should be extremely proud of a job well done.
The Glands are a band whose musical output, which is almost entirely great, suffers only from an infrequency of output.
Since 1998, they have released just two albums, Double Thriller and 2000's eponymous LP. Shows are sporadic. But try as they may to avoid the adoration, they can't. Monday night's show was sold out and the crowd appeared, for the most part, to be there to see this band.
Sonically, the mix was a kind of reflection of the band itself, with head singer/songwriter Ross Shapiro low, at times his guitar parts almost buried. But even as he switched through instruments and worked through songs, he remained watchful over the other members, nodding like a conductor, while the lead guitar, bass and drums all stabbed, bopped, and churned along at more reasonable levels.
This story of The Glands is constantly rehashed, because, at least from the outside, it appears to not move forward very much. They are a watched pot. But, really, whatever. The Glands move at their own speed, and if they want to release one classic album every ten years, fine. Great. Ross Shapiro, a Terrence Malick for Indie rock.
"You're a hard nut to crack," Ross sings on a new song. He could as easily be talking to himself as someone else.
Fellow Athenian stalwarts Madeline opened the show. Unfortunately, I missed them. Sorry.
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