R.E.M. was big when I was at Auburn University in the mid-1980s. Every cover band played R.E.M. songs, and the alt-rock band got plenty of air time on local radio stations. I liked the music but I wasn’t a huge follower of the band so when Sweetums and I visited the famous R.E.M. trestle in Athens, Ga., I was prepared to be unimpressed.
Instead we enjoyed taking photos of places the band played and the preserved relics that fans fought to save — and where they continue to make pilgrimages today. Band members Peter Buck and Michael Stipe met in this picturesque college town where they soon formed a band.
You can click here to read a list of various places fans can visit. We didn’t go to them all but take a look at the places we did see.
(I’ll post later on the double-barreled cannon, Tree That Owns Itself, and other sites to see in Athens, Ga.)
The R.E.M. Trestle
Known as the R.E.M. Murmur Trestle, this railroad bridge was pictured on the back of the group’s 1983 album “Murmur.” The remains of the trestle tower over Dudley Park in downtown Athens. The trestle was once part of a railway from Athens to Augusta that was chartered in 1833.
At one point, it was scheduled for demolition but R.E.M. fans and preservationists protested and it was saved and turned into a tourist attraction. However, the trestle seems to be in continual danger, as its fate has recently been in the news again.
This red-brick steeple was once part of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Athens and is all that remains of the historic building. The church was built in the late 19th century and later was turned into apartments, home to Michael Stipe and Peter Buck, members of R.E.M. The band, then called Twisted Kites, played its first gig at the church for a friend’s birthday party April 5, 1980.
Historic Georgia Theatre is now a live music venue where R.E.M. played numerous shows. The theater website says, “Home of the Athens YMCA from 1889 until 1919, the original building on this site became a music store, movie house, hotel, Masonic Temple, furniture company and Sears Roebuck store before being replaced by the Elite Theatre in 1935. Except for a brief period as a Methodist church, this theatre – later renamed the Georgia Theatre – has served as a significant performance venue for emerging and established musicians from Athens and beyond. Devastated by a fire on June 19th, 2009, this historic concert hall has been rebuilt as a labor of love with reverence for the creative spirit that Athens has long embraced.”
This doesn’t really have any connection to R.E.M. (although you gotta figure at least one band member had business there at some point), but I included this photo because I loved the way the 1904 building looked and the artwork on the lawn, called Spirit of Athens.