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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

For the love of the Georgia Theatre

Up until last Thursday, I had never set foot in the Georgia Theatre. It's hard to believe, I know. See, I was still brand new to the Athens music scene in 2009, and my very first Athfest was on the horizon. There, on my schedule, were several events and shows slated to take place at the theatre, and I was practically bursting with excitement for them all. Then, just days before Athfest began, the people of Athens were shocked to see the theatre go up in flames, leaving just a darkened, hollowed out shell of what it had once been. Feeling like a bit of an outsider, I too mourned for the city's great loss as best I could, yet I couldn't help but wonder if, just like after the death of a celebrity, the great love expressed for the theatre was the result of its sudden and tragic notoriety. I mean, I knew the history was there. Even bands I'd already seen and loved back then like Venice is Sinking had special ties to the iconic venue. But did it really mean so much to the average hipster on the street?

Then, over two years since the first time I almost had the chance to experience the theatre for myself, I stepped up to the freshly built box office to buy my ticket for Thursday's Of Montreal show. Luck was indeed with me that day as I was one of just a few people who had arrived so early that the doormen decided to let us wait on the rooftop balcony so we could claim our places in front of the stage before the doors opened to the public. After a long ride in a wonderfully spacious elevator, I had my first view of the Athens town from up above. As it was near sunset, some of the views from the various angles atop the theatre were simply stunning. A short while later, it was time to descend the stairs to the main floor of the venue, and on the way down, I caught glimpses of the beautifully designed uppermost floors filled with seating that overlooked the stage.

Once we had finally made our way to the dance floor in front of the stage, I eagerly drank in the sights of the theatre around me. Everything was beautifully and stylistically designed, from the wings that led backstage to the mind-blowingly massive fans that spun overhead. But surrounding us was the darkened, exposed brick that held the history of what this place had been and what memories it still held for the countless people who had fallen in love with the theatre before me.

This love, this passion, that the citizens of Athens have for the Georgia Theatre is real and true and well-deserved. There is some abiding beauty and depth in this place that it maintains and reveals, even in its newest incarnation. I finally understand... and I can truly say now that I, too, love the Georgia Theatre.

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